Vinod Mubayi


The recent terrorist attack in Mumbai has affected people of all strata. The killers not only attacked the Taj hotel but also the main railway station and Cama hospital, which is frequented by the poor of Mumbai.  The death of Karkare, who was investigating the role of Sangh Parivar in terrorism was a grave loss.    The assault must be condemned in the strongest terms not only because of its utterly brutal nature but even more so because of its possible repercussions in the country’s polity.


The utterly brazen attacks by desperados in south and central Bombay on the night of November 26 have not only resulted in over a hundred deaths of innocent people, and hundreds more gravely injured, but has resulted in a traumatization of India’s largest city.  It is not only the rich, upper class frequenting the Taj and Oberoi hotels that have suffered.  What is utterly despicable is that the killers targeted VT railway station, frequented by the non-rich, and the Cama hospital, where the poorest Mumbai dwellers go for free treatment.  The identity of these killers is being speculated on at present but it is very likely from their modus operandi that they are offshoots of the deadly disease known as al-Qaida, whether it comes in the form of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba or Jaish-e-Mohamed or other such manifestation.  This supposition is strengthened by the fact that according to news reports the terrorists asked for persons with US or British passports indicating whom they thought their true enemies were.  Such happenings, which are a lamentable consequence of the misnamed “war on terror,” are now a worldwide phenomenon of which India is a particular victim.  The killing of Maharashtra’s anti-terror squad leader, Hemant Karkare, in this episode is especially unfortunate as Mr. Karkare had been courageously leading the investigation of the home grown, Sangh Parivar variety of terrorists implicated in the Malegaon and other bomb blasts.


The assault must be condemned in the strongest terms not only because of its utterly brutal nature but even more so because of its possible repercussions in the country’s polity.  Clearly, the police authorities should thoroughly probe and reveal not only the foot soldiers but also the architects of this ghastly affair and the sternest possible punishment allowed by law must be awarded.  But strenuous effort must be made to guard against demonizing an entire community because of the criminal acts of a few individuals spurred on by their ideological masters’ dark agenda.  The calls for further repression and passage of more black laws like POTA are self-defeating. They help to foster a climate that creates more embittered individuals who feel they have nothing to lose by becoming cannon fodder for a “cause” leading to a downward spiral where increasing state violence is matched by more audacious terrorist acts. 


It should be obvious that terrorist acts attributed to Muslims, and either inspired by, or actually planned and executed by, the Nizam-e-Mustafa of the moment, have their own reprehensible backlash in India.  They bring closer the possibility of a fascist rule under RSS tutelage whether it is formally designated a Hindu Rashtra or not. In this dispensation, the minorities of course will be the worst sufferers. It is possible that in their own demonic logic, the al-Qaida inspired killers may want this to happen to justify their own fantasies of indulging in progressively more violent acts.  However, the secular character of the state must be reaffirmed unambiguously and all secular parties must join to prevent the Hindutva forces, led by BJP, from profiting by this situation.  The Left parties, in particular, have a very important role to play in this regard and cannot afford to shirk their historic responsibility of uniting secular forces to oppose fascist takeover. 


While the facts are being probed, two observations can be made regarding the aftermath of this incident. For the first time ever, Pakistan has offered to cooperate with India in probing the incident. It has offered to send high officials of the ISI to India to open a joint investigation. Pakistan, of course, is equally a victim of terrorist acts, which have killed hundreds of its citizens.  If the tit-for-tat, zero-sum blame game between the agencies of the two countries can be ended, it will be a very useful step forward in uncovering and reducing terrorist plots that threaten innocent lives in both nations.  Second, there have been increasing calls, including from liberal and left groups, for “more security” in cities like Mumbai to prevent or stop terrorist acts.  While this may sound commonsensical or commonplace, its implications for people’s lives in places like Mumbai, a huge multi-ethnic, multi-religious metropolis, could be very negative, creating a more fearful, divided, and polarized populace. Fascist thugs of the Shiv Sena in Mumbai have recently fostered and feasted on one type of violent polarization setting poor Maharashtrians against poor north Indians from U.P and Bihar who come to Mumbai in search of employment. Another result of this chimerical search for security could be a shrinking of the extremely scarce public space in Mumbai, like the Gateway of India, that faces the sea on one side and the Taj Hotel, where the attacks occurred, on the other, and where less well-off Mumbaikars throng in the evening to enjoy the open air space and the sea breeze.  If this space is restricted to those staying in the Taj Mahal hotel, if entry to Sassoon dock and other piers where the fisherfolk community congregate is banned, the damage to the psyche of the poor and working class of Mumbai will far outweigh any gains to the sense of security among the well-off. No amount of security can help stop terror attacks until its root causes are addressed.

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