Mumbai Carnage, Wish It Was The Last Horror!

Mumbai Terrorist AttacksThe coordinated attacks on the Taj Mahal Hotel and nine other sites in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) have claimed about 190 innocent lives, with hundreds more injured. Distressed Indians and concerned people all over the world are looking for answers.

Quick preconceived answers demand immediate retaliation. To mollify the public, authorities arrest and torture a few easy targets and extract confessions. Over the years there have been dozens of well documented incidences of police summarily executing helpless people in what are euphemistically called encounters (fake gun battles). It only validates the terrorist propaganda.

Comprehensive answers take time. I hope the government of India will diligently take up the slow and painful task of investigation and prosecution of those involved, within India and with international help, those hiding in other countries.

With the globalization of commerce, unfortunately terrorism has also become globalized. The terrorist networks have become an international scourge. In the 1960s and 70s the Baader Meinhof Gang and the Red Army collaborated with disparate terrorists, such as the Irish Republican Army, the Shining Path Guerillas in Latin America and the Abu Nidal in the Middle-east. With greater sophistication and richer resources, Al Qaida is even more effective, mostly, but not exclusively in Muslim countries.

Initial reports based on the interrogation of the only surviving Mumbai attacker indicate that at least some of the terrorists were from Pakistan. Pakistan and India have a sad history of wars and animosity. But no nation has suffered the ravages of Islamist extremist terrorism more than Pakistan. Bombings in major cities of Pakistan are pervasive. The Marriott Hotel in Islamabad was bombed only a few months ago. From the statements of the President Zardari, it seems that the newly elected fledgling government of Pakistan realizes that the extremist ideology sown by the Zia regime in the1980s has come back as an evil whirl-wind to destroy the country.

There are segments of society in India and Pakistan with legitimate grievances.
Extremists exploit these grievances through carnage to achieve a greater polarization. Unfortunately many governments have done the same through their intelligence agencies to destabilize weaker countries. It behooves Pakistan and India to unshackle themselves from the sordid history of hatred and join forces to eradicate this scourge for mutual benefit.

After every major carnage, organizations, leaders and pretend leaders in India and around the world customarily condemn the outrage, and then go about their business as usual. Equating this carnage to 9/11 is spurious. Such outrages have been happening in India, Pakistan and many other countries with the regularity of tides. Unfortunately the Mumbai carnage is greater only in magnitude and daring, therefore more newsworthy. Such reprehensible carnage is lamentably not surprising. A series of bomb blasts tore through the busy markets in Delhi on the 13th of September, preceded by more than a dozen gory blasts in major cities in the last three years, including an earlier blast in Delhi and a train bombing in Mumbai in July 2006, claiming hundreds of lives. Today, merely four days after the Mumbai carnage, three people were killed in Assam (Eastern India) in yet another train bombing.

In the past few decades, thousands of innocent lives have been lost in sectarian violence all over India. Kashmir, where more than 80,000 people, mostly civilians have died in the last twenty years. It is a major source of recent terrorism. Preliminary reports indicate that the Mumbai terrorists were connected to the Lashkar Taiba movement that was spawned in Kashmir with the help of the Zia regime in 1980s.

Imagine; one of our loved ones among the dead, and the tragedy hits home. Many loved ones regularly fall to endemic terrorism. In a wider sense they were us, mindless tits for the multiple tats and on it goes. Governments with impunity suppress and even kill weaker minorities to mollify the majority population, in the name of nationalism, in blatant violation of humane laws.

Some, otherwise ordinary people after years of victimization, blinded by anger take refuge and find justification in terrorism. Unable to penetrate the bastion of oppression, they attack easy defenseless targets. Terrorists become so callous in their anger multiplied by hate-filled ideologies that they lose all sense of decency, distinction and humanity, visiting carnage in distant lands on innocent people.

Growing up in India, only a few of my friends were Muslims, most were Hindus. We celebrate our friendship on my visits to India. Some of these friends are quite involved in helping down-trodden and forgotten masses. They hold no animosity towards Muslims. But the virulence of decades of violence and propaganda has polarized a few of them, especially their children. With polarization, fewer Hindus and Muslims know each other personally. They tend to stereotype each-other as caricatures based on propaganda.

With each episode of sectarian riot the divide grows. The attack and demolition of a 16th century Mosque and ensuing loss of thousands of lives in December 1992, and the pogrom in Gujarat in February 2002, where 2,000 Muslims were killed and more than hundred thousand driven from their homes, have created a deep fissure. More recently the bomb blasts in markets, trains and now the Mumbai carnage are part of the downward spiral. The chasm is widening in spite of tireless work being done by enlightened and thoughtful people from all communities, especially Hindus. Unfortunately the sectarian propaganda is more powerful than thoughtful analysis.

A few weeks ago an educated Brahmin Gujarati friend wrote to me that he is supporting Mr. Modi’s Hindu (fascistic) party in the upcoming elections in Gujarat, because he wants a strong government that supports economic development. The sad part is that at least tacitly he had condemned the pogrom against Muslims by Mr. Modi in 2002, the worst crime a government can commit against its citizens. I reminded him, but he did not address my question.

People, honest in personal dealings; good neighbors, who would help the needy and feed the hungry, are taken in by the propaganda, driven by the partisans from the opposing sides, turning lies into truth and making enemies out of friends. Good people end up supporting horrible policies and even pray for the success of their leaders who spread misery in their name.

We will be at least morally culpable, if it happened in our neighborhoods and we closed our eyes. In this globalised information age, there is no place too far. Ignoring the plight of people we only see on television screens, is tacitly supporting the oppressor. It becomes our collective guilt.

An instructive example is Mr. Bush’s statement in the wake of 9/11, “Now they will taste the American justice”. The whole world supported our sentiment. Sadly, what they got was blind vengeance and indiscriminate incarceration of about 700 people at Guantanamo Bay, including many 12 to 14 year old minors, without trial for more than six years in violation of the Geneva Convention. It brought shame to America. In spite of strenuous objections of the Bush administration, some Americans petitioned the courts. Slowly the courts intervened. How we wish, it was the American justice that they faced.

Terrorism is a scourge. It should be eradicated through the implementation of humane civil laws. The vocabulary of war, such as “war on terrorism” sounds good but denigrates the civil society to lawlessness of war. It predisposes us to forsake our humanity and fall for the militaristic propaganda, where trigger happy excesses, bombings, and civilian deaths are justified as “collateral damage”, as if a neighbor’s wall was damaged by mistake, and will be made whole.

The first reaction to terrorism is to suppress it by brute force, such as in case of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. Brute force spirals into tit for tat. The situation only worsens. There are ways to defeat it, as in Northern Ireland in the1970s and 80s. The brute British force only exacerbated it, until the British government reached an equitable political settlement.

It is time for universal cooperation. The United Nations was created to be the instrument of the collective will of the world. It has worked very well in helping the poor and feeding the hungry. It has failed in implementation of the international law to protect the rights of the down-trodden minorities from the state terrorism in sovereign countries, and keeping stronger nations from attacking weaker nations. But the five permanent members of the Security Council have hindered its purpose.

The only effective way to remove the cancer of terrorism is to leave the hubris of the 20th century behind, ushering a new peaceful and just millennium by adhering to the International Charter of Human Rights and strengthening the United Nations. This requires the modification of the Security Council so that no country, irrespective of its size, wealth or power is above the international law.

Photo: Boston Globe

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Mirza Akhtar Beg

A geologist for more than forty years. He believes that the composite multi-discipline approach of geology towards understanding nature through the 4.6 billion years of Earth history broadens one's view of history, our place in the scheme of things and deepens the respect of the enormous forces of nature. He is a firm believer in human rights, irrespective one's race, creed or religion or ethnicity. Besides writing about geology, for the last fifteen years he has written extensively on national and international political, religious and social issues. His articles have been published at various places including Indian Express, Al Jazeera, Daily News and Media Monitors.

12 thoughts on “Mumbai Carnage, Wish It Was The Last Horror!”

  1. It is just impossible for India to tolerate the Jihadi neighbourhood any more. They will never change. War is the only answer.

  2. The answer to what is happening lies in what Indira Gandhi use to call a “foreign hand”.

    The training camps across the border need to be flattened. With Obama coming in, things will be much better for us. Either our neighbor behaves, or faces the consequences. At least, this tragedy has brought all Indians on one platform.

  3. We must brace ourselves for more attacks, I hear reports in the papers that next is Delhi or Kolkata, attacks could come from air, and so on.

    These idiots who attack us don’t realize the ability of the Indian nation to unite. This is the land of Netaji, Gandhi, Patel and Azad. We must use these attacks as occasions for deep introspection and action so that our country may emerge stronger.

  4. As the mood these days is : ENOUGH is ENOUGH.

    Enough of thousands of analysis, thousands of speaches , thousands of conspiracy theroies, thousands of deliberation. We know one thing for sure- There are elements and there always have been elements in Pakistan who want to harm India. Just take down those elements in pakistan. Go stealth. Take them down. Target Dawood and LeT chiefs. Collborate with Mossad , CIA , whatever it takes.

    How do you deal with a country whose prime minister says that they have “non-state” elements who they can not handle!! If they cant hadnle them, let other handle them.

  5. A very well-written article.
    It kinda summarizes what’s been goin thru my(and possibly many other people’s) mind these past days – this HATRED, this PURE HATRED that is spreading, has become really intolerable…. and the collective guilt you talked about, hit the nail directly on the head. Earlier we could have afforded to stay silent, but not anymore. Its imperative that we ALL become accountable, responsible. We’ll HAVE to become an active part of the governance mechanism.
    Also, the growing divide and sense of isolation between the communities – growing up, for me,it was never even an issue, but we all can now see the times change, the perceptions being distorted, predujices being formed, paranoia taking over. Sorry, don’t mean to sound too preachy but just want to be aware that the burden, to a large part, lies on our shoulders too, not just the government’s.
    A permanent solution to the terrorist menace may take a lot of time, but in the meanwhile all of us can atleast collectively solve the predujice problem – if you don’t have negative bias towards the other religion, great. But also help other people who might be having it, to get rid of the predujice.

  6. good post mirza akhtar beg, i wish more people saw sense instead of jumping to either defend the terrorist actions or adopting the other extreme by fighting terror with terror and refuse to see underlying causes and grievances behind these attacks of blind hatred. it’s sad but we are all terrorists in one way or another by looking the other way while someone we back for our own interests wreaks havoc on other people. we have to stop discrimination reaching the extend that people become terrorists. we need to hear their voices before they reach that extreme. who knows – one day or in another time in our own suffering may increase to the point where we lose our humanity and turn to blind violence. may God or whatever source of humane values we believe in protect us from that course. after all, the terrorist must have been a humane person once upon a time before he/she slaughtered his/her own conscience in slaughtering other people. we need to stop things from developing to such a desperate extreme and do justice by people before they become monsters.

  7. The most heartening thing is that in the face of this calamity, India has stood up together as a nation. For the first time, therefore, have we seen so much world opinion in favor of India.

    If we can maintain this stand, we will make positive gains in the fight against terror. A better atmosphere at the national level will ensure that terror does not breed internally.

  8. Zahra (and others):

    We definitely need to get rid of our issues such as periodic violence during riots and otherwise, discrimination in every walk of life, from jobs to getting houses/apartments for rent and so on. But these need to be done because they are the right things to do and because they are what our constitution, the spirit of our freedom struggle and our culture mandate. We need to uphold universal human rights because that is what we claim to stand for and because we are signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    We should not however link acts of terrorism, such as the one in Mumbai to these real and perceived issues and problems. There are no root causes for acts of terror such as this, just as there are no root causes for the carnage we saw in Gujarat in 2002 or in Delhi in 1984. Let’s not adopt the action-reaction theories that people like Narendra Modi proposed in 2002 (“every action has an equal reaction”) or Rajiv Gandhi proposed in 1984 (“when a big tree falls, the earth shakes”). By talking of “root causes of terrorism”, you are no different in your logic (or rather lack thereof) from Modi. Do you really want to be in the same camp as Modi? I would think not.

    There is absolutely no justification for the killing of innocents – not discrimination and not alienation. By talking of root causes, we are only tacitly supporting the acts of terror, even if we do not subscribe to them ourselves. Let us refrain from doing so.

  9. Further, by all accounts these terrorists came from Pakistan. They have probably never even had any contact with any Indian, much less been the target of their discrimination. By Zahra’s theories, they should have had no reason to come and kill hundreds of innocents. Yet, the fact is that they did. There was no root cause in their case.

  10. Terrorism and religion have no link. For those who organize it, it is a commerce. As for those who carry it out, they are just losers who want to create an impact, albeit negative, before they die.

    No need to psychoanalyze terrorists. Try them fast and execute them. No media, no fuss. Only action.

  11. Giresh – i really don’t think we should hide our head in the sand and say that these acts have no root causes. if we took an attitude like that, the world would make no progress. the truth is that crime is not completely disconnected with poverty, revolutionary movements are not disconnected with societal problems, war is not disconnected with geopolitical strategics, decolonisation movements are not disconnected with colonial injustices and secessionist movements are not disconnected with perceptions of marginalization. terrorism is not a special kind of crime or political action that has descended on the earth from another planet. it is an action of the real world, albeit a terribly cruel and heartless action, and as such an action, it has root causes. to ignore the root causes of these moves is no great revenge against the perpetrators, it also hurts us and it hurts our future generations by ensuring that they suffer from the same problems since societal structure does not change and more people keep becoming terrorists however strong action we take against the terrorists.

    i appreciate your thought, it is a beautiful thought. but the fact is – the real world is not a beautiful place. it is all very well to say we should not negotiate with the terrorists, that we should not. but at the same time, we can look at the root causes that may have motivated these terrorists, so that we can avoid the same situation in other contexts or promise a reward of just dealings if terrorists pursue proper constitutional channels and future (and also fulfill our promises so that the terrorists or potential terrorists don’t automatically assume that we will never listen to us in any case so they should just try to harm us and not even make any hopeless demands in such arbitrary and inhumane terrorism as we have recently seen.) as far as your point about the last attackers coming from pakistan and their having nothing to do with discrimination within india is concerned, well let’s assume for a moment that many of these guys were definitely from pakistan. u don’t think that crazy as they may be, they may be very angry about the treatment of the kashmiris (especially in the recent violence where some peaceful protestors have been shot dead by indian army) who they consider should technically be pakistani citizens and therefore their brothers. imagine if any fellow indians were being mistreated in another country, especially a neighbouring country, won’t some groups within india be motivated to do stupid things in percieved support and revenge against the people of that country. this kashmir headache unless resolved justly will come to haunt both indians and pakistanis again and again. this terrorist action is disgusting and one should not negotiate with terrorists but i think it is empty rhetoric to say that terrorism has no root causes. it is not some random mindless phenomenon that strikes any random area or people – there are always patterns and motivations to actions undertaken taken by groups of individuals who are not isolated serial killers. that is something which may be worth our while to realise, despite our terrible grief.

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