Friday, November 27, 2009

26/11 -- a year (and a day) later...

The channels and the newspapers are naturally full of reminders of the terrorist attacks on 26 November last year, in Mumbai. Is there anything more to say than what has already been said many times over. The soul searching, the recriminations about poor intelligence continue, hand-wringing over actions not taken to prevent another such attack. The ubiquitous candle lights vigils have taken place. (I don't want to be cynical about such matters but what purpose does a vigil like this serve? Does it make us feel good, to just stand there with a candle in our hands? This is such a mechanical import from the West, I don't recall ever seeing these kinds of vigils in the past; surely we can have something more tangible to show our concern and our feelings. Gandhiji would probably have held a prayer meeting - for the secular liberal elite, that would be a no-no but can there not be something more meaningful, more eloquent than holding a candle?)

I have been wondering what it is about that day that has stayed in my mind. I can remember two events that made an impact (other than, of course, the sheer gruesome nature of the event). One positive, one negative. The story of Tukaram Ombale who pushed a mobile barricade into the street to stop the Skoda carrying Kasab and one other terrorist and taking them on with only his service pistol (I no longer remember if he was even armed). Ombale paid for it with his life but it snared for us the one surviving terrorist who has given us all the proof we need (if indeed it was needed) about Pakistani involvement (state or 'non state') in the plot.

The other news I remember is one of our 'captains' of industry Ratan Tata coming on TV looking exceedingly sour, whinging about poor infrastructure, poor intelligence, poor response, poor governance that led to this carnage. No word for the poorly armed Mumbai police doing the best they can under such circumstances, no word for the NSG. He commiserates with his guests, but spares nary a thought for all those who died at CST, who remain forgotten to this day. Three days later, as an afterthought he says his words should not be taken as a 'lack of appreciation for the various agencies that fought the terrorists'.

I have written about this earlier, but these thoughts come back to me -- how differently each of us reacts in a crisis.


Sourendu said...

Tukaram Ombale was not armed.

There was an all-faith prayer meeting at Gateway where only VIPs and their guests were allowed.

The number of deaths in CST station outnumbered those elsewhere.

Most of the dead were muslim migrant workers from Bihar. I wonder whether their murder would have been as unremarked if their ethnic and religious identities were different.

Rahul Basu said...

While not wishing to sound like Arundhati Roy, I think in this case the interest in the dead was probably more based on their economic status than on their religion. But I could be wrong.