I am semi-freewriting this, so please bear with me.
38+hours and the battle rages on. One cannot step back from the situation easily, as hostages remain and the casualties keep mounting. Yet, it is essential. Mumbai is quiet. That is almost unprecedented in a city of 18 million people. Bombay is fuckin quiet. There is movement on the streets, but muted. The trains are running, but there is a haunting statistic- they are running at half-capacity or less. In a city whose trains normally contain crowds that exceed the legal limit for cattle, this speaks volumes. The city is hurt. The country is hurt. And for once, because of the foreign nationals involved, the world is hurt.
This is no simple cross-border conspiracy. This is not just a solitary Mujahideen group wishing to make a name for themselves with terrorist theatre. This is not some two-bit force of frenzied fundamentalists fighting in the name of God and Jihad. This is more. These are soldiers, assassins driven by a complex system of beliefs that allows them to commit massacre with equanimity. This is an intricate syndicate that is well-funded, highly trained and intelligent, and displays an intimate understanding of symbolism and how the international media works.
A local train blows up, and people pray for the souls lost and go about their business. International news condemns the attack but most of the world’s powers are not sucked into the vortex of fear and bedlam that Mumbaikars faced. So, change the game. “Quality, not quantity” said my advisor when I was preparing to write university essays. “Quality, not quantity“, say the masterminds of this attack. So they target the symbols of Bombay’s status as a global city, and by extension the symbols of India, India the nouveau superpower. They arrive through the Gateway of India. They hit the Taj the Oberoi and the Trident, innkeepers to the Goras, the fashion models, the cricketers, the czars of commerce. They hit the CST (formerly VT), the most recognisable symbol of Colonial Bombay. They hit Nariman House, headquarters of India’s Hasidic Jews. They specifically ask for Europeans and Americans and honor them with hostage status.What happens? The international media is forced to pay attention to this crisis, as theirs are being targetted, theirs are in danger. Thanksgiving turkeys are trounced, terrorism takes over the telecast. The masterminds rejoice. This attack makes the headlines, this attack generates images, grief, shock, concern, anger, agitation, fear, terror. This attack is a success. This attack is beautiful.
I hope people understand what we are up against: daring, political and strategic acumen, huge funding, no dearth of desperate volunteers and above all, the will to do what India as a democratic nation cannot. The only way to counter them is to make the entire world a hostile zone for terrorists. You CANNOT point fingers at one nation (initial reports indicate that some of the terrorists were Pakistani and that the attack may have been masterminded there). You CANNOT single out a particular religion. Please watch this excellent video with Deepak Chopra (Doctor, author and spiritual guru) explaining the problems of alienation and perpetuation. Thanks to Danial Jameel for letting me know about it.
Instead, religious groups and governments must rally together to ensure that the entire world becomes a ‘hostile zone’ for terrorists. Don’t spout vitriol such as Islam=terror, or this/that nation is responsible. One must understand that the masterminds of these attacks are brand wizards; it is in their interest for Muslims to feel humiliated and condemned as it creates a state of desperation, and brings recruits to their doors. I am not a Muslim, but I know that their religion, along with others must be respected because in many nations (especially in the Middle East and Indian subcontinent), religion is a cornerstone of identity. Consider the numbers. There are 1.5bn+ Muslims in the world, and deriding them as a whole is bound to cause alienation, distrust, and eventually hostility. India itself has 200mn + Muslims. If they collectively decide that their country has turned its backs on them, and each one picks up a knife, the entire security force of the country is in no position to counter them.
This is not an idealistic viewpoint. This writer recognizes that the history of aggression between India and Pakistan and the masterminds’ careful brand stewardship make finger-pointing inevitable. Yet it is my hope and belief that countries can come together at this tragic time and commit to creating an atmosphere of possibility. Co-operation, intelligence sharing, and a united mindset will leave the terrorists hard-pressed to breathe. And you can’t bomb if you can’t breathe.
In prayer for the victims and their families and in hope of international solidarity on this tragedy,