Angry Mumbai

July 20, 2011

By Sachu Jacob

Mumbai is India’s commercial and entertainment hub. It is also one of the most densely populated cities in the world. So any terrorist attack on it could have maximum collateral damage. Terrorists knew it all along, and perhaps that’s why they have struck the city as often as they could.

Mumbai has a long and bloody history of terror attacks starting with the 1993 which saw coordinated bomb attacks at 13 places. With a number of smaller attacks interspersed, the next major assault occurred in 2003 at the Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazaar. This was followed by the 2006 blasts in which seven bombs went off in the local trains teeming with people. The next attack in November 2008 literally held the whole city under siege for three days, causing severe loss to lives and property. While the 2008 attack was still fresh in memory, came another attack on 13 July 2011, with three coordinated bomb blasts in the most populous areas of Zaveri Bazaar, Dadar (W) station and Opera house.

The immediate reaction of most Mumbaiites has been that of anger. I have spoken to a number of common people – including my colleagues in office, co-travellers in city buses and local trains, and my neighbours. While arguments differ, there seems to be a consensus. The system – inclusive of the political class, police and security agencies who are supposed to protect people by taking the utmost preventive action — is complacent and just bides time till the next attack happens. Then a cleanup would be launched which would often stoop to petty rivalry between various government arms vying with each other to pass the buck.

The public anger is natural and somewhat justified. Many people point to the fact that Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist captured alive during the 2008 attacks, is yet to be punished. The trial is going on and on. It is easy to blame everything on systemic delays, but one wonders why terrorists like Kasab who have committed such horrendous crimes against humanity are not tried fast enough.

I salute Mumbaiites for their resilience and adaptability. In this busy metro — the city that never sleeps — the circle of life revolves and reaches full circle. In any other city, people wouldn’t have the time or mind to look at what’s happening; they would be more interested in saving their own skin. But not in Mumbai. Here, all citizens in the vicinity reportedly chipped in to help each other and the victims, especially in those vital moments and hours immediately after the blast. This shows that innate goodness exists inside each and every one of us.

A week after the 13 July attack, Mumbai is back to life. The city is slowly and peacefully grinding its well-oiled wheels. But is the city prepared to face for another black day? That’s one question weighing heavily on the minds of the average Mumbaiite.

The writer lives, and works, in Mumbai.

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