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India's 9/11: What next?

December 23, 2008

Prem Mehta, chairman, Northpoint Centre of Learning, and former chairman and managing director, Lintas India, wrote this column as a concerned citizen of India.

The last few weeks have been terrible, particularly if you are a Mumbai resident. Innocent people we have known closely have died in the most gruesome manner, so needlessly. Others managed to escape but with experiences that will haunt them forever. Unable to explain so much to ourselves, reactions have evolved from shock to indignation to extreme anger and resignation in some cases and frustration in others.

But, as human beings, we need to deal with these strong emotions within ourselves.

In the aftermath of the massacre, two 'enemies' have emerged quite clearly.

The first are the terrorists. If the public could lay their hands on them, they can only expect the most barbaric lynching befitting the inhuman acts committed by them. But this is not possible. So, the civilised alternative is the demand for hasty trial and quick punishment.

As proud citizens of a large and 'powerful' nation, it is difficult for us to accept that a bunch of boys could have held us to ransom and matched the might of our armed forces for three days and nights.

They could walk into a busy restaurant with AK-47s, have a hearty meal and walk out to shower bullets back at fellow diners. They could land into the heart of a fishing village (which thrives today thanks to the passionate intervention of a famous actress who not long ago threatened to end her life if the village was demolished. Of course, she lives in faraway Juhu herself) opposite Badhwar Park, and walk the streets of Mumbai with impunity, killing people at will. They had the audacity to take charge of the two biggest hotels that have been the symbols of commercial success, and destroy some of the senior-most members of Mumbai's elite and their valued foreign guests.

Though the numbers of victims may have been less this time compared to other terror attacks in the last 15 years, it is inevitable that the outcry would be louder. The media, which has since evolved, found a once-in-a-life-time 'story' and gave it their all to cover the 'drama' live as it unfolded, each channel vying to outdo the other.

So, it is only natural that we must seek out a more powerful enemy to blame, a nation or atleast some hoodlums who are known to have been sponsoring terrorism. The world has known about it all along. But overriding political and commercial considerations have made it inconvenient for powerful nations to do anything serious about it.

Do not let anyone convince you that this had anything to do with lethargy or impotence.

Image: The decked up Taj hotel cocks a snook at the terrorists. Photograph: Rajesh Karkera

Also read: Tarun J Tejpal: Death of a salesman and other elite ironies
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