Friday, November 28, 2008

After-thoughts of the Bombay terror attack

Finally, with God's grace and thanks to our brave soldiers and armymen/NSG, the battle with the terrorists is over and the commandos have taken complete control of the Taj hotel - the last bastion that the coward terrorists were holding fort. 

Now, a detailed recee and analysis would begin and details behind their operation and break-in would emerge. Some of my after-thoughts are as follows: 

Kudos and my salute to our brave officers, armymen and NSG officials for fighting and later overpowering the terrorists. Despite being poorly paid as compared to government employees and private sector yuppies, these people put our lives before their lives and bravely fought from the front. They have done a professional job. May the souls of the departed brave ones rest in peace and God give their loved ones the strength to cope with the loss. Their sacrifice will always be remembered. And may the injured soldiers get well soon. 

Kudos to also the brave hotel staff of the Taj and Oberoi for putting their patrons and guests' lives before theirs and even laying down their own lives in the process. Please read these stories (click the links above) to believe how brave and caring these hotel staff are. For instance, the Taj hotel staff arranged food for around 300 people even as they were all hiding. Even in such times, they did not forget their service standards and still insisted on looking aftr their guests. My heart goes out to all of them. They, alongwith our soldiers, are the kindest souls. May the souls of the departed brave ones rest in peace and God give their loved ones the strength to cope with the loss. 

The media was all over the place, but I watched Times Now. Very good coverage and great commentary especially from its chief anchor, Arnab Goswami. Its ground reporters Ms Mahrukh, Rahul Shivsankar and the other two whose names I do not remember, were also impressive. I switched on my otherwise favourite news channel, CNN-IBN for a moment, but as usual I found a panel discussion going on - I find a lot of those on IBN - with a local politician, I immediately got bored and switched back. Besides, I think I can take a break from Rajdeep Sardesai. If he screams on a regular day, how would he be in this situation.  

Having said that, I think the media ought to have been kept at arm's length from the sites. Every strategic movement of the commandos was beamed Live. When you give out such sensitive information during a hostage crisis and beamed Live all throughout the globe, not to mention Pakistan and neighbouring countries where the terrorist's coward masters would be hiding and most probably would be informing the terrorists about their positions, it could be disastrous. Freedom of speech and the right to information is one thing. But this should not come at the expense of national security.

Another mistake, I feel they committed, was to make public the number of terrorists who survived and was caught alive alongwith his name, on national TV. The authorities must never give out such sensitive information. In future, terrorists could put innocent lives in danger/take hostage to get this arrested terrorist, freed. The Indian authorities should have learnt a lesson from Kandahar highjack of Indian Airlines where we had to let go of three dreaded terrorists in return of the plane passengers. We cannot afford to let go of any of these terrorists that were / are caught.   

Home Minister, Shivraj Patil, must resign. Not only is he inept and inefficient, he also makes huge blunders. To disclose on national television, right in the middle of a deadly terrorist attack and hostage crisis, about more NSG commandos leaving for Bombay and the exact time of departure from Delhi, was absolutely foolish. What was he thinking? His wardrobe?

Our local politicians like Bal Thakerey and Raj Thakerey would do well to know that the NSG/army soldiers who saved Bombay from terrorists and put our lives before theirs and were more than willing to lay down their lives - some of them actually did - just so that we, the Thakereys and their cronies could sleep well in the night, were from all parts of India, including north India. One doesn't even know how many marathi manoos were amongst them, and frankly my dear, nobody cares. They are Indians and so are we all. They saved our lives and we are forever grateful to them. Lesson we hope the unruly elements would learn: People you disrepect and unnecessarily shun today, may come to your rescue tomorrow. Learn to be humble.  

And speaking of politicians, it was disgusting to see Narendra Modi, Gopinath Munde and others of their ilk coming to the blast sites (Oberoi and Nariman Bhavan, respectively) amidst tight security that we taxpayers pay for at the expense of the common man and giving speeches. Politicians have already destroyed our beautiful Bombay and India, we do not want them near the affected sites seeking political mileage when loved ones of affected people are tensed, grieving and going through a gut-wrenching wait. Their presence was completely unwarranted and in very bad taste.

The government should upgrade our security staff. It was painful to see (courtesy TV footage)  the ATS chief wearing, what looked like, a hastily and rag-type bullet proof vest and get ready in minutes to face the terrorists. Unfortunately, he lost his life and so did two of his colleagues. The armymen have to be adequately geared to protect themselves against sophisticated ammunition. Their salaries should also be made competitive. We can change our jobs to go to those that pay us higher. The armymen do not have any alternative employment source if they decide to leave for want of better pay. But still, they risk their lives so that we can sleep peacefully. Hence, its important for us to look after them well. 

Why our borders so unprotected? It's common known that infiltration from our immediate neighbouring countries is a reality. And our seas, so directly accessible from Pakistan, are most insecure. If terrorists could land up on Bombay shores straight from Pakistan, what were our coast guards doing? Despite explosives used in the Bombay serial blasts of March 1993 being brought in at Gujarat/Maharashtra shores so freely, the authorities sat tight and did nothing to increase border/coastline security.  

As heartening it was to see the general public to see on streets around the Nariman Bhavan personally congratulating the armymen/NSG personnel, such areas are better cordoned off from both the general public and the media. There was a sea of people there and it was totally choatic, much before the operation was officially called off. Infact bullets were fired and people were asked to move back, much later. 

And these final points.
One wonders how peaceful and united our country was before the Babri mosque demolition. And how the Indian social fabric has been cut to pieces, beyond repair, thereafter. Nobody knew what was Babri mosque and where was it. India would have been better-off without the knowledge of what and where it was. What do you get by degrading someone else's religion? What has come out of all this? Is this what our Indian culture is? The time has come for some serious introspection.

That we are proud of our Taj and Oberoi. That even through all this, our Taj and Oberoi towers will -and continue to -stand tall. That they will soon bounce back to normal as if nothing happened.  

I cannot, though, say the same thing about Bombay. It's spirit is shattered and contrary to what we always say 'the great Bombay spirit', this time the wound runs deep. It's eerie in a way to think that after 2-3 days, trains will run jam-packed, traffic will return, people will report back to offices and life will get back to normal. But this time, can we afford to move ahead as if nothing has happened? Should our lives get back to normal? Can we forget? Can we do something about it? 

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