Friday, 28 November 2008

Mumbai Terror Attacks: Rage, Retaliation and Restraint

As images of the Mumbai attacks flooded into my living room yesterday evening, I kept talking aloud over the commentator’s voice.

‘I used to live in a flat just behind Café Leopold.’

‘I’ve walked through the corridors of the Taj Hotel so many times.’

‘I used to work in a building opposite the Oberoi.’

‘Yeah, that’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.’

I was raging inside as I said all that. My rage had me walking up and down the living room in an effort to dissipate energy. I would sit down in front on my PC and surf the internet for news, call up friends, watch some more TV and then go back to the PC.

My rage made me want to retaliate. Retaliate against someone. Anyone. Anything.

I actually managed to doze off for a few hours at around three in the morning. As I took my place among the commuters today morning, I kept thinking, how do we retaliate?

I don’t for a moment buy the argument that this was an attack against Americans and Brits alone. This was an attack against India. Against the best city in India. Against the people of India. Why else would they attack CST, entry point to the common man’s conduit? I’m sure the attackers don’t like Westerners. May be it is easier to attack Westerners in a place like Mumbai where it is impossible to have tight security. The attacks on foreigners were meant to hurt India’s economy as much as the Westerners themselves.

How do we retaliate?

How can three top police officials get killed just like that? Where they targeted or did they just jump into the fight instead of staying in a safe location and coordinating efforts?

The attackers are supposed to have arrived in boats and landed near the Gateway of India and then gone on their rampage. They are supposed to be young men, in all probably very committed to their cause, totally brainwashed and willing to die. Heck, they must have known that they would in all probability not survive their assault. I read a couple of reports describing them as suicide bombers, though they ought to be called suicide attackers.

How do we retaliate?

How could there be such a massive intelligence failure?

Let’s assume it is later proved that the attackers have links to the Al Qaeda, what do we do? Will the Americans let us bomb the North-West Frontier Province? I doubt it. Even if the Americans give us the go-ahead, can we do so? Pakistan has the bomb, remember.

Last week, Pakistan’s new President offered to agree with India that neither country will be the first to use nuclear weapons. In the beginning of October, Zardari described militants in Kashmir as terrorists. Should we do anything to undermine Zardari who appears to be a friend, especially when the Pakistani government has so little control over the militants based in Pakistan?

Manmohan Singh has promised retaliation against the perpetrators, but hey! the perpetrator will be either killed or captured in a day or so. Did he mean retaliation against those who fund and organise such attacks? Did he mean retaliation against moneyed patrons based in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia or elsewhere?

I am reminded of the movie Munich, which has an Israeli team hunting down the perpetrators of the Munich Olympics massacre. Should we try and find out who’s responsible for organising and funding this brazen attack and hunt them down? If we do that there is bound to be retaliation against our own intelligence men. Is that a price we are willing to pay? Do we want to escalate this war to such a level? India has more to lose since it has achieved greater economic progress. But maybe it’s time to stop taking such attacks lying down, time to stop going back to work the next day as if its business as usual, time to stop calculating the cost of retaliation and worrying whether escalation will lead to our own ruin.

Even if all the attackers were foreigners (they might not be), they are bound to have had local support. Support from Indians who have lived in Bombay. What on earth can motivate an Indian to support such plans? I don’t think any past grievance or injustice can justify such actions. How do we retaliate against such people? How do we make sure we don’t retaliate against the wrong people and make things worse?

Some of the best times of my life were spent in Mumbai.

Why are our troops and National Security Guards in such a rush to storm the Oberoi and the Taj where the attackers are holed up? Once the attackers are surrounded, should we try and wait for them to weaken before taking them out or should they be taken out before they have time to fortify themselves?

Will the Kandahar restaurant inside the Oberoi ever be the same again?

I wish I had at least half as many answers as questions.

But how do we retaliate?

1 comment:

mg said...

Wanted to attack someone too.