Remembering 26/11

One year.

It is easy to be cynical on the first anniversary of Mumbai terror attacks. UPA government was voted back to power in elections where 26/11 wasn’t even a major issue. The non-performing Congress-NCP alliance won Maharashtra third time in a row. Vilas Rao Deshmukh – then chief minister of Maharashtra – is back as a Union minister. RR Patil – that “small incident” guy – is back as the home minister of the state. Sainiks – though nowhere in sight during the 60 hour ordeal – are often on streets terrorizing fellow citizens. As if Shiv Sena was not bad enough we have MNS to contend with now.

Two of the three accused on trial for the attacks were in police custody before the attacks and intelligence agencies had some prior information about the impending attacks. However there was a communication breakdown between various agencies and even though it is hard to say if the attacks could have avoided – certainly some lives could have been saved. The Headley-Rana connection wasn’t probed even after the attacks until the duo was arrested by American authorities. We don’t know if things are run any differently now.

9/11 led to a high-powered bipartisan commission that assiduously probed the circumstances surrounding the attacks. 26/11 led to the Ram Pradhan committee report just to investigate the “police response”. The report became a political punching bag and its contents are still unknown. The top brass of Mumbai police is busy fighting among themselves publicly. So are our MPs. And the truth – it seems – will never come out on 26/11.

Meanwhile South Mumbai didn’t come out to vote this time either. In  related news, it rained again in Mumbai during monsoons and the roads got clogged.

And our media still hyperventilates.

But then there are reasons to be hopeful too.

India didn’t forget. 26/11 was not reduced to just another terror attack in the country. The main objectives of the attacks – to sow communal discord among Indians – failed. To force India or Israel to re-evaluate their relationship by killing Jewish hostages failed too. Last I checked Shashi Tharoor was at Nariman House for an international commemoration of the event.

The response of the Indian government was resolute and for the first time Pakistan was forced to recognize the identities of the terrorists and the fact that the attacks were planned from its territory. Yesterday the Pakistani government indicted Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi and 6 others for the attacks. Ajmal Kasab is being tried in an Indian court and his arrest along with decayed bodies of his 9 accomplices – without promised bodily scents or halo – would serve a grim reminder to youths looking for a shortcut to heaven.

National Investigation Agency has been formed and P Chidambaram has replaced the ineffectual Shivraj Patil as the home minister. By keeping up the diplomatic pressure on Pakistan India has successfully managed to prevent any major attack for a year. This allowed the Indian government to focus its efforts on tackling the Maoist terrorism in vast swathes of the countryside. In 2008 alone over 900 people were killed by Maoist terrorists.

Steps have been taken to better respond to such attacks. Force 1 has been constituted in Mumbai whose teams can deploy anywhere in the city within 20 minutes. NSG has now deployed its Special Response Units in the major cities of India. Sophisticated arms and equipments are being procured and better monitoring capabilities incorporated. There seems to be a certain realization within the establishment that we can’t fight a 21st century menace with 20th century mindset.

The relationship between India and United States has grown stronger with the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, being invited as the first state guest of the Obama administration. The joint statement released during the visit has terrorism as it major plank and calls the Indo-US partnership “indispensable for global peace and security”. India has finally managed to get rid of the hyphenation between itself and Pakistan. The new coinage – AfPak – obviously didn’t needed one. The words of condemnation from the international community for terrorism in India are no longer accompanied with calls to resolve disputes with Pakistan.

***

A government is as good and as responsible as its citizens. MJ Akbar recently wrote, “The politician will only be as resolute as the citizen, and our sensitivities have been dulled by a culture of complacence.” If we want a more secure India – we have to be a part of it. Our response to terrorism can’t be piecemeal. We need to fix the system. If we uncover some unsavory truths along the way – let it be. But never again.

Recommended

Sir Syed Day – A Retrospection

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan - Founder of Aligarh Muslim University
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan - Founder of Aligarh Muslim University

I FEEL sad to say that my first attendance at ‘Sir Syed Day’ (in UAE) after leaving AMU was an utter disappointment. For me it’s a day to remember the great soul and find ways to fulfill his dream of Muslim upliftment.

I absolutely adore Azharuddin for what he achieved on the cricket pitch, but where is the need to invite celebrities when there are some very senior and highly influential Aligs already working in UAE.

We desperately need to change this image of ‘Sir Syed Day’ as a ‘Sir Syed Dinner.’ Also, where is the need to host dinner in a 5 star hotel! I think the whole purpose is killed by this dinner.

If my voice can reach anywhere I’ve the following humble suggestions-

  1. Sir Syed Day should have a Q&A with a senior working representative from AMU on the ways to improve the working of the university.
  2. There should be a small form for the people attending where they should give their suggestions and the ways they can contribute to the university.
  3. The representative should share important figures like the number of campus selections and the students making it to the civil services.
  4. The platform should also serve as a means to help our brothers and sisters looking for a job or accomodation. I know some people may laugh but it’s a serious issue for an expat anywhere.
  5. I know the event is very well organised and covered by the press in Saudi Arabia but it isn’t in UAE. There should be a press release. At least those who are unable to make it know what all they missed. Indirectly it would serve to build the AMU brand which has been hit hard.
  6. People should be felicitated on the basis of their contributions (beyond money, although money is important too) to the alma mater. Those providing books to the library or supporting poor students deserve equally.
  7. Every year there should be a mention of some prominent Aligs who made the university proud with their achievements. A brief about their life and if possible a video message from them. This should be the common factor in all the different chapters of the event across the globe.
  8. There are better fillers than the archaic jokes cracked during the recent event in UAE.

That’s all I can think as of now. The bottom line is, it has to be a serious business if we want to restore the high standards of this great university.

I love my university and feel sad when I see the current state of affairs.