Mumbai: Why This Time is Different

As one watches the aftermath of the terror attacks in Mumbai, there is a sense that this is a tipping point in how Indians think about and respond to both terror and our politicians.  This time around, there is no going back to ‘business as usual’ for a number of reasons:

The Location where it happened: South Mumbai (which is also where I live) has long been seen as above everything – be it floods or terror strikes. There was a sense of “but nothing can happen to us” in people here. This illusion has now been shattered. It is like some people came into our home and did lots of damage in front of our own eyes.  The brazenness of the attack and the audacity of the terrorists has finally hit us.

The People who died: This time around, it is not just the unknown innocent bystanders who got killed, but people whom we knew. Talk to people and they all have their stories of someone who was either there at the Taj, Trident or Oberoi on Wednesday evening, and miraculously escaped or wasn’t so lucky. So, the pain is more personal, and has impacted people who have a Voice rather than just a Vote.  Harsh though it may sound, not all lives (or deaths) are equal – some are more important than others.  This time, for the first time, the People Who Matter couldn’t but help think that it could have been them in there.

The Way it happened: It was not a few bombs going off and us watching just the aftermath of the rescue operations. This time around, it was, as a friend put it, ‘a reality show unfolding live on TV.’ For three days, there is little else we could talk and think about. Every step the terrorists and the commandos made was played out in front of our own eyes – against the backdrop of institutions we knew.

The Backdrop of the Elections: Suddenly, national security has become issue number 1. Even as elections are happening in some states, there is a national generation election due within the next six months. After a day of show of unity when the top politicians travelled together from Delhi to Mumbai, those in power have realised that this is an issue (even more than the Economy) which can result in them being voted out. The campaign for Elections 2009 has already begun.

Enough is Enough: With more than a dozen terror attacks in the past few years across India, there is a yearning for the tranquil that the US has experienced after 9/11. Yes, we will all have to give up a little bit of something. But that is a small price to ensure the safety of our near and dear ones. If the US can do it (ensure safety for its citizens), why can’t we?

The Obama Effect: Even as the US is set to usher in a government under Obama with an incredibly smart set of people, we in India are increasingly frustrated by the incompetence and brainlessness of an increasingly large number of our politicians. Obama has made us a yearn for Change – Dramatic Change – in our own country. He has shown us not if we the masses rise, we can bring about Change.

Put it all together, and there is a palpable sense of outrage and fear in people – outrage because of the failure of the politicians and bureaucrats to prevent such attacks, and fear because there is no guarantee that this will not happen again somewhere else in India in the next few months (or weeks). There is also a tremendous sense of Pride at the armed forces – whom we saw in live action through the days. Put it all together, and these mixed feelings create a restlessness within. That’s why it is not like previous times. This time, it is different. And if out of this, we finally get a government of the people, for the people, and by the people, then those 195 deaths will not have been in vain.

13 thoughts on “Mumbai: Why This Time is Different

  1. It’s assinine to put in another dhimmi in charge of the national security. Maybe, he can speak better English but then look at the mess he has created in the financial markets.
    I think, Obama is over rated for his “change policies” since he seems determined in his actions to pursue the policies set forth by his predecessors. As for the national security, all we need is a strong political will and not shrill media rhetoric that “blames”the government of the day when it smashes the terrorist cells.
    Where are your areas breast beating secular idiots fuming and frothing at their mouths about the “injustice” against the Hindus? Shabana, Teesta or their ilk? These windbags have nothing concrete to offer barring except throwing up at the “minority exploitation”.
    There is a strong message to the people of India to vote for a strong rightist party to bring about some semblance of order and security. Start off by hanging Afzal who is being treated as a state guest of honour despite attacking Indian Parliament.

  2. I wish it becomes a tipping point. But I suspect if government would more than rhetoric. They would send few billions import some equipment, make lots of money in the process and then forget until the next incident.

    What is required is a comprehensive approach.

    The only difference would be to five star hotels which could become fortresses of sort.

  3. Rajesh – I agree. This time it’s been completely in your face. Worse still one can easily see it happening again and again with little or no security.

    It also goes to show that the ‘Spirit of Mumbai’ has for long been over-stated….it being more a function of ‘I have to get to work the next day to bring home food..”

  4. Rajesh, completely agree with you. However the change cannot come from the existing political class or people be it the Congress, BJP or other splintered parties. We need a different set of people..courageous and who are capable of driving the change within the system.

  5. Hi,

    Superb points! we are hit where it hurts! but please we all have to understand that ultimately we need a political system and this time we can make sure we put checks and create REAL accountability in our system.

    I see people sending sms’s that we should have a non cooperation movement against the politicians I think that’s non-sense in-fact it should be the opposite, go out and let them know HOW YOU FEEL and the CHANGES you want.

    As for the argument what you don’t want the BJP or the CONGRESS well its asking for too much too soon I’m sure both parties have good and bad in them CHOOSE one make sure you talk more about it understand it and get the message across that your being watched.

    In the process you will see new people YOUNG people surely come rather the parties themselves will be actively looking to get young blood who we can understand better rather than the old crop who’s frequencies are tuned someplace else.

    Lastly surely there will be BLOOD! maybe indirectly not a formal war but it will happen! Also no matter how sinister it sounds I’m happy these terrorists have not got their LAST RIGHT.

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  7. WOW I’m seeing a cleansing process of the political parties (BJP + Congress) in the next 3 months I think both parties would land up firing at least 25+% of the people in it!!! I LOVE IT!! we would have a far more potent government coming soon.

  8. All the points raised here are valid, except that of Obama. Mr. Obama is really highly overrated as the US of A. The roots of all the problems that we face here in India arise out of the US policy of protecting and most often using Pakistan for their own nefarious purposes.
    It is time, I think, of letting the USA know that ‘enough is enough’. Either they have to take some genuinely real steps against the ‘cradle of terror’ that Pakistan is, or else….!
    As far as our politicians go, the less said the better. Their real-selves are now standing naked-faced in the form of Mr. Achytanandans blatant insult of the family that has sacrificed a son for the security of the people of our Nation.
    To end on a brighter note, we the people of India have now come to realise that we cannot depend on our Governments (whichsoever political party). It is we, ourselves, who shall have to do something, and the first thing we have to do is :

  9. I am encouraged to note that over the past few days, the Home Minister of India and the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra have resigned, and that the Chief Minister has also tendered his resignation. It’s not the solution to the problem, but it’s a step in the right direction…

    I am also encouraged to note that some of this is happening precisely because “this time was different”!

    It is not a matter of pride for me, a resident of Mumbai, to know that there is a huge segment of our city’s population (the so-called “townies”) that often find themselves insulated from all the major problems that plague this metropolis. Whether it’s potholed roads or power cuts, there are those who regard ‘Bombay’ as merely extending from Colaba to Kemps Corner, who often have no idea of the realities that Mumbai’s suburban population has to face, from time to time. So, this time, I’m glad that the destruction caused by the terrorists was not at Ghatkopar railway station or a bus-stop in Mulund, but in the relatively-secure and hi-profile quarters of the city.

    In fact, if that weren’t so, I’m sure the Home Minister and the Deputy CM would still be enjoying their cushy jobs!!!

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