Terrorist Attack on Mumbai - What Should Be Done

Asghar Ali Engineer

Posted Dec 3, 2008      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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by Asghar Ali Engineer

I was in Singapore for a seminar on secularism when horrible terrorist attack took place in Mumbai on the evening of 26th November. I came to know about it through BBC television report. From there I had to go to Istanmbul for another seminar on religion and democracy and returned to Mumbai on 1st December when all was over and hence could not react to these barbaric events in time.

Many questions are troubling our minds – who were these terrorists and why did they carry out such horrific operation resulting in death of nearly 200 innocent people (nine of them terrorists themselves who cannot be called innocents). The Government of India and security authorities say they belonged to Lakhkar-e-Tayyiba of Pakistan and they were given rigorous training for more than six months to carry out this operation. They say there have concrete evidence. It appears to be true as one terrorist who has been arrested has given details and other things seized from those dead also provide some indications.

However, other theories which might appear rather fantastic are also circulating on internet. One Mr. Ameresh Mishra writes that it was a joint operation by RSS and MOSSAD of Israel to avenge arrest of Hindutvawadi Sadhvi, the self-proclaimed Sankracharya Pande, Lt. Col. Prohit and others. And the ATS Chief Hemant Karkare and his team were eliminated in one go. One Marathi News paper Maharashtra Times has reported that two terrorists at Cama Hospital were speaking with someone they suspected to be security guard in fluent Marathi and so question arises how Pakistanis could speak in Marathi. Also, one who was shooting down at CST railway station was fair skinned and appeared to be a foreigner.

Also, it has been pointed out that before this operation certain Jewish religious personalities had come from Israel to meet sadhus and religious personalities who are known to be supporters of Sangh Parivar and probably this operation was planned then. Mr. Mishra also claims that Hemant Karkare was “inches away from arresting Pravin Togadia” and some other high profile Hindutva personalities and hence Hemant Karkare had to be got rid of and he was got rid of through this operation.

But to be frank all this does not appear to be quite convincing. Hemant Karkare, if at all that was the objective, could have been eliminated without such a massive barbaric operation. Also, though it may be true that Israel and its intelligence agency MOSSAD is sympathetic to RSS or entire Sangh Parivar, why should it undertake such massive barbaric operation in Mumbai? RSS and MOSSAD would not target Tajmahal and Oberoi Trident Hotels in any case and a Jewish Centre in between.

Also, on the other hand, how 10 terrorists whatever amount of ammunitions, AK-47s and other explosives with them could hold massive Hotels like Taj and Oberoi to ransom without being overpowered in addition to shooting at Jewish centre, CST (railway station) and Cama Hospital simultaneously? At different times different numbers were given, 15-17 or more but finally authorities have confirmed they were no more than 10. It hardly stands to reason how so few terrorists could kill on such a scale and hold on for 72 hours. It appears to be incredible.

In my opinion we have to be very patient until the whole truth comes out. Not only that we should not spread rumors and also refrain from spreading fantastic theories about the incident. Whole world is watching and several countries are sending their ace sleuths to help India establish the truth. This terrorist attack has shaken the world by sheer scale of its operation. The criminals responsible for it may not go unpunished.

It is also very important that peace in the subcontinent be maintained at any cost. If we think of war with Pakistan as some people like Simi Agarwal and others are saying, it would really playing in the hands of terrorists and their organizations. They are out to provoke war between two countries. Also, Pakistan has entered democratic era after a long spell of military rule, we should not do anything to push people of Pakistan again into dark era of military rule. Perhaps that could be one of the objectives of this barbaric attack, if Lashkar-e-Tayyiba is involved. Military is getting increasingly pushed away from political arena and this may not go down well with hawkish military officers of Pakistan.

Peace with Pakistan is indeed very important for entire subcontinent and particularly for peoples of two countries. Chauvinistic nationalism only leads to war and sober elements in both countries should try their best to maintain peace between these two neighbors. Also, we should rise above narrow religious feelings, as religious chauvinism is as ugly as national chauvinism. Central teaching of all religions, besides truth and justice, is tolerance. Mutual tolerance would ensure stability of our culture and civilization.

There should be zero tolerance for terrorism in a democracy but then terrorism flourishes for number of reasons, not in a vacuum or only because of religious fanaticism. It is true certain religious discourse is used to arouse sentiments and mobilize people but role of religion stops at that. It is gross injustices, nationally and internationally which arouses anger of people and ready them for revenge and only then religious discourse is used to provoke youth to wreak revenge.

Terrorism cannot disappear simply through military or security operations. We must address the root causes while simultaneously exhorting our youth to imbibe highest values of our religion, culture and traditions. Mere moral discourses would be as ineffective as security operations. All three things go together – namely addressing root causes, moral exhortation and security operation to address this complex problem.

Often a misconstrued example is given of USA successfully preventing any further attacks after 9/11. Such people demand strict security measures and monstrous laws adopted by US government to prevent any further incidents. They do not know how these laws destroyed the fines values of American political traditions and how hundreds of innocent citizens were tortured inhumanly on slightest suspicion without having any legal redress.

The example of USA is not comparable with that of Pakistan and India. The dynamics of terrorism in India and Pakistan is derived from internal situation of two countries and also of mutual antagonistic relations due to certain factors. Terrorist attack on USA on 9/11 had entirely different dynamics and was on account of US foreign policy as far as Middle East countries are concerned.

There were no internal problems as in India which fuel terrorism or antagonistic relations with any neighboring country to breed terrorism. Also, Al-Qaeda was a small group based in a foreign country like Afghanistan without any backing from powerful military force of any government. How such a group could pose great danger to USA beyond a point. Afghanistan is a weakling depending on military forces of so many countries for its own survival and security. 9/11 itself exhausted all the resources of al-Qaeda and it is also not known whether Osama bin Laden is alive or dead. It was thus easy for USA to prevent further attacks.

Let us not forget that people of USA were quite resentful of monstrous laws and wars USA waged and it was for this reason that they rejected Bush and his aggressive policies and elected Obama who displayed wisdom and maturity and assured US people of peace and stability.

Thus while strongly condemning barbaric attack on Mumbai we must maintain our cool and create atmosphere for transparent, unbiased and truthful inquiry. We should also press for an efficient intelligence and that our security forces should take note of intelligence inputs more seriously than they do today. We should also do everything to create a just society, a society which takes care of basic needs of all its citizens and ensures complete security for all its citizens without religious, caste or linguistic discriminations. It is only then that all terrorist designs will be defeated.

Our real tribute to those killed in terrorist attacks would be to make determined efforts to create such a society, not mere chauvinistic slogans of revenge bomb for bomb or life for life or attacking neighboring country, carpet bombing and so on. That will only help forces of terror and violence. Peace efforts with Pakistan should not be interrupted and only then terrorists will be isolated.

We should also do everything possible to strengthen democratic and peace loving forces in Pakistan and it is peace loving people of Pakistan who can help us fight terrorism than mere monstrous laws demanded by rightwing forces in our own country. Let us fight terrorism with concrete social and political action rather than mere slogans. A multi-pronged approach is needed to fight a complex problem.


Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai