Friday, November 28, 2008


Terror has struck again, but using different means and modus operandi. In the 2006 peak-hour serial blasts in the suburban trains (the lifeline of Mumbai), the terrorists hid explosives in the first-class compartments, and were, presumably, absent when the blasts took so many lives. Which is why the subsequent investigations could never really satisfactorily discover who were the masterminds and who were the follower-hands who carried out the plans of ‘maximum destruction with the minimum means’.

But this time it is different. Here the fidayeen (which word has a truly spiritual meaning twisted horribly – as terrorism inevitably destroys whatever it touches) have faces which are being flashed on our TV screens. Snarling baby-faced youths roaming the streets and storming crowded places with guns and grenades, disguising their deadly purpose under jeans-tees-haversacks, the ordinary uniform of young people.

Unmasked and unafraid, after causing carnage in CST (the terminal raiway station) and Leopold Café and Cama Hospital, some of them are dead, and some of them are holed up in two hotels and a highrise, armed with guns and low-intensity explosives, taking hostages and opening fire. This is war – there is no escape but certain death. The only victory for the terrorists will be the number of lives they take and the extent of property they damage.

We might feel that the earlier modus operandi (of placing explosives on the sly) is a dastardly one, where the face of terror remains masked in anonymity. But this is not cowardly, this kind of out-in-the-open attacks exhibit a degree of desperation and dementedness which is so scary because there are no boundaries anymore. The crazy courage of this handful of terrorists is testing the efforts of the best of our security forces – the police, the army, the elite commandos of the NSG. And we are all watching, fascinated, as the forces of order try to fight out the insane insurgents.

Mumbai has been in a state of suspension for the past 40 or so hours. I have a cousin who stays in Colaba, the battlefield of terror, and she has told me of the continuous gunfire, the noise of explosions and of the helicopters flying low.

Her vulnerability is symptomatic of India’s defencelessness under the onslaught of repeated terror attacks. In the USA, 9/11 remains a one-off, here, every year there are various repetitions of the terror-trauma, changing venues, changing faces, changing ways and means and methods, but all succeeding in bleeding the nation and destroying so so many innocent lives, every single time.

The terrorist (who may reside next-door, or who may come across the sea) and the terrorized (always caught unawares) – that seems to be the great divide in India today.


Lazyani said...

Having spent a sizeable part of my working life in Upper Assam during the mid nineties, I can jolly well empathize with your feelings.

It's not only the religion but the interpretation of it by some vested and twisted interests which has created this massive dividing factor in the country.

We do live in dangerous times and it does appear that it is just the start to a rather l o n g night.

Paul Bernard said...

In the UK, this story is being reported that the terrorists were seeking out Westerners, targeting them for murder or hostage taking.
Your article was good, but I'm not sure I understand the last paragraph completely. Surely today's terrorised is tomorrow's terrorist; just as today's terrorist was yesterday's terrorised.

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Hi Lazyani,

I agree wholeheartedly. Terrorism is indeed hydra-headed, raising up anywhere, anytime.

Hi Paul,

The reports are true. The terrorists did specifically hunt out the tourists from US and UK.

But do you think all the terrorised are tomorrow's terrorists? I feel that a particular line of sanity needs to be crossed before one can become a fidayeen or a suicide bomber. Maybe early experience of being a victim (real or imagined) is a step towards that, but a lot of indoctrination and brainwashing has to be undertaken before a human being metamorphoses into a terrorist.

Nancy said...

Good for you, Sucharita, for using the word courage so often in your post, and for standing up to Mr. Bernard's moral relativism. Your previous post on rock-n-roll religion proved strangely prescient. I'm guessing these indoctrinated and passionate warriors didn't do a lot of dancing in Sunday school.

June Saville said...

It does worry me that the senior members of these extremist groups are able to persuade ignorant youths to follow their bidding. Brainwashing and similar must be involved.
I do wonder if racist attitudes so often found in the west (and elswhere)provide these despots with a rationalisation (and thus a foot in the door) for their ill works.
It is extremely sad that so many innocent bystanders are caught up in the mayhem.

June Saville said...

I should perhaps add 'religious bigotry' alongside racism as a likely catalyst for these horrors.
June in Oz

Jaquanda Rae said...

Sincerely very sorry to hear about what's happening. I need to pay closer attention to the news, man.

We have some activities that could be considered terrorist activities out here too. Yet, somehow some of us still think that nothing bad will happen to us or our loved ones...only to other people.

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Hi June and Nancy,

Courage is needed, but is not enough in the face of demented death-dealers. The courage shows more often in bearing the aftermath or in helping others, rather than in saving oneself.

And it is also true that the persecution-complex (again real/imagined/grossly exagerrated) and the desire to avenge that supposed injustice are the ideological core of terrorism.