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Mainstream Vol XLVI, No 51

Mumbai Terror Attack: Thus Far and No More

Friday 12 December 2008, by Bharti Chhibber

India is a great country. India is a vibrant and resilient democracy. We can be resilient in the face of international economic recession, slowdown in our economy, we can be resilient in the face of economic sanctions imposed on us as we became nuclear for our country’s security, we can be resilient in the face of environmental disasters, we are resilient when politicians, political parties do not let a government last the full term of five years and make sure that a government falls by one vote and force another election on the country, we are resilient when politicians show their face just once in five years at the time of the fresh election, then forget about their constituencies.

But how long do we have to be resilient before our government awakes to the realities of a commoner who has to earn his livelihood and yet be a sitting duck for terrorists who may appear from anywhere and anytime? When a person leaves home it is not sure whether he/she will be back that evening or will be taken hostage by terrorists, and succumb to terrorist bullets or get killed in a bomb blast.

The people of Mumbai are not even allowed to show their catharsis on the streets. How long have we to be stoic in the face of innocent people dying just because our country has not nipped terrorism in the bud? It is ironic that India, that is facing the problem of terrorism for decades now, is still not able to effectively challenge it. In fact incidents of such terrorist attacks are increasing and becoming more and more sophisticated and fatal by the day.

On the other hand, whatever may be the criticism that America is facing on Iraq and Afghanistan issues, the fact remains that it values the life of every American citizen. You touch an American citizen and the country retaliates. Remarkable, it did not face any terrorist attack after the 9/11 holocaust. The same is the case with the UK. Israel, a small developed country in the Middle East surrounded by Arab states, is strong enough and well equipped to deal with the incidence of terrorism. It has a no-negotiation approach towards terrorism and a well-developed anti-terrorist infrastructure is in place. Contrast this with the Indian approach where there is still adhocism. Every time an Indian State or city faces terrorist strikes, politicians play vote-bank politics, the blame-game starts between political parties, the Centre and the States, the government and the Opposition. Action is promised against the perpetrators, the call for reform is made, for some time there is some serious vigil and checking but after a while the promises are forgotten, changes go down the drain, vigil is lowered only to be jolted by the next terrorist strike.

It has become a very sad state of affairs. Things have come to such a pass in the country that some remorseless 20 terrorists or so can take our commercial capital Mumbai to ransom for more than 60 hours. It is indeed overwhelming to see live telecast of encounter coverage, the sight of dead bodies, grief stricken family members of hostages as well as our bravehearts of the anti-terrorist squad, marine commandos, Army, NSG who risked their lives for us and many died in the line of duty. So many people called up total strangers and gave them the much needed information. It is noteworthy that at this time the media has been vigilant and very vocal.

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But it is saddening to see politicians being given a long rope. Let’s not let politicians take mileage out of such a tragedy, we don’t need bandhs and rallies. It is high time India rises to the occasion. Let this be a watershed—thus far and no more. Let this result in a change as to how we are going to deal with terrorism in future. That will be the true spirit of united India, for the political parties to stop whining, ranting and harping on frivolous and superficial matters.

We don’t need indefinite conclusions. Now we require some substantive, forthright, pro-active and conspicuously progressive measures for tackling the serious problem. As citizens, it is our duty to be alert as to what is going on and be cooperative with strict checking procedures. But we cannot absolve the government from the responsibility of protecting its citizens, maintaining law and order and providing security to one and all. We are in a democratic country, we elect representatives, and we expect them to deliver on the score of citizens’ safety and security.

To deal with the kind of sophistication and meticulous planning that we saw in the long drawn out Mumbai terrorist strikes, now it is time for a two-pronged approach, external and internal. It calls for a strong political will. Internally we need to have a permanent anti-terrorist strategy. It calls for better coordination between intelligence, police and anti-terrorist squads and better cooperation between the Centre and the State investigation agencies. There ought to be a federal intelligence agency as well as intelligence agencies in the states with a view to pre-empt and counter terrorism through the crises management infrastructure.

Externally, how long has India to offer itself as a soft target? And how long are we going to give evidence of Pakistan’s involvement in terrorist activities against India to the USA, the UK, European Union and the world at large to help eliminate the terrorist training camps in Pakistan? Pakistan’s contention that it has no control on such outfits doesn’t hold good.

At a time of international economic recession, India’s tourism industry and foreign investments are hit due to the terrorist strikes in Mumbai. Already Australia has issued an advisory to its citizens against visiting India, Britain has asked its people to be cautious. We need to tell the world that India can strike back, that India can take care of its citizens and the tourism industry.

The world order is changing since 9/11. The phenomenon of terrorist strikes has assumed a global dimension. The scourge calls for international cooperation. With globalisation, technological and communication revolution it has become much easier to transfer money and provide logistic support to terrorists in any part of the world. As such the world has to come together to root out the menace of terrorism whichever part of the world it strikes.

In India the Mumbai happening should not prove divisive. Instead it should unite India as never before. We as a united country have to declare a war on terror now and proceed.

It has been carnage in Mumbai. This is extremely outrageous. This is time for no hatred, irrational thinking or petty political considerations. Instead some concrete steps have to be taken to root out terrorism once and for all. That will be a true salute to the personnel who laid down their lives at the altar of the country’s security.

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