Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Brutal Assault III

Three more days have passed since the paramilitary forces such as the National Security Guards (NSG) finally took control of one structure after the other after a struggle that lasted for nearly 60 hours. The Oberoi and Trident Hotels are not as damaged as the Taj, which took the maximum damage; Nariman Building, which, it turns out, was the command center of the terrorists and the place from where their leader watched TV news and guided his "men" on how to move and where to attack, is almost completely damaged and in danger of falling.

At the end of all this, and the investigations that are going on, the National Home Minister (similar to the Minister of Home Security in the U.S.) has resigned; so has the state-home minister. The state's chief minister has also resigned on the 3rd of December evening. People, however, believe that resignations are nothing but political ploys to defuse the peoples' anger, and as such, serve only as "palliative changes" and not as real change.

News culled from various sources have thrown out many shocking details of the terror attack: the technology used by the terrorists was state of the art, their shooting skills, superb, their strategising, totally geared to cause maximum damage, and their planning, very, very detailed. They had even created their own escape routes, should they succeed in hoodwinking the security forces. They were to return to Karachi in Pakistan - once again, by sea. Their use of advanced AK 47 machine guns, satellite phones, grenade launchers, credit and debit cards from Indian banks, Indian SIM mobile phone cards, motorised rafts, false maritime licences, etc. point to an amazing level of planning, and correspondlingly, an amazing lack of intelligence by Indian authorities. It has become evident that their boat was challenged in the Mumbai waters by the Coast Guard, but they were let off once they showed the licences, which were forged = professionally.

On the eve of the 3rd of December, more than a lakh people, angered at the lack of proper security and the insensitiveness of the politician-class, lit candles and gathered en masse at the Gateway of India, just adjacent to the cordoned-off Taj Mahal Palace and Tower. Some of the men and women were celebrities, and had come to the spot because they felt passionately about the issue, but the vast majority were common Mumbaikars who were there to show the victims' families that they were with them at this hour of personal grief and tragedy; they wanted to display that they were Indians first; they wanted to tell off the politicians and bureaucrats who had failed the nation; and finally, they wanted to unite with each other and rise above the parochialism of caste and class. I was there, too, and felt a sense of terrible loss but also a sense of unity and pride in the spirit of Mumbaikars, who had finally had enough and wanted firm and decisive corrective action by the government.

As I write this on the eve of the fourth, I wish to say that two more bombs have been found, containing the lethal RDX, at two different locations visited by the terrorists on the night of the 26th, on two different days - yesterday and today. These bombs remained unexploded, probably due to some error, or else, they would have caused still more deaths and tragedy.

More than 180 dead ... and the nation continues to mourn. Mumbai is back to normal, but it is not the normal normal that I have seen earlier. People are subdued, they are morose, not joking or enjoying life as usual. The wounds of the dastardly attacks will take a long time to heal, and the scars may never fade from the memory of the present generation of Mumbaikars. Questions still remain to be answered, but that is another story.

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