Friday, November 28, 2008
World Reacts in Horror as Terror Strikes Mumbai
Sounds of gunshots and explosions accompanied chaotic scenes in Mumbai as the world media focused their attention on the tragic results of the terrorist attacks. While the scope and scale of the Mumbai attacks has taken India's internal security and intelligence establishment by surprise, there are conflicting reports about the numbers and identity of the attackers and how they were able to paralyze normal life in a major world metropolis. Hundreds are reportedly being held hostage. The terrible carnage has claimed more than one hundred lives, including Americans and Israelis, and several hundred have been injured. There are many who believe that such an attack wouldn't be possible without a strong homegrown element participating in the attacks.
While such acts of murder are completely unjustified, it is important to understand that the seeds for such support for terror can be found in the anger at America's "global war on terror". This "war" has provided a convenient cover to the Hindutva groups and to fiercely anti-Muslim elements within the Indian government apparatus to launch a concerted campaign of terror against Muslims. As expected, however, the finger of blame in India is being pointed at neighboring Pakistan. Pakistan, which has itself been at the receiving end of terror, has strongly condemned the attacks and offered to cooperate with the Indian government to track down the perpetrators of Mumbai.
The apparently slow and seemingly disorganized response to Mumbai attacks by the Indian authorities has come under criticism by British and Israeli officials, according to the British newspaper Telegraph. The paper quotes a senior British official as saying he was "surprised" by the Indian failure to regain control of the commercial capital almost two days after the attacks began. Israeli officials told the Jerusalem Post that India's refusal of its offer to send commandos had put the lives of a rabbi and his family in danger.
Here are some of the early world media reactions to the events in Mumbai:
Aryn Baker writes in Time Magazine: The disembodied voice was chilling in its rage. A gunman, holed up in Mumbai's Oberoi Trident hotel where some 40 people had been taken hostage, told an Indian news channel that the attacks were revenge for the persecution of Muslims in India. "We love this as our country but when our mothers and sisters were being killed, where was everybody?" he asked via telephone. No answer came. But then he probably wasn't expecting one.
The Wall Street Journal reports on the "insidious" nature of the attacks as follows: The scale and sophistication of the Mumbai attacks, as well as the choice of targets, however, appeared to point to a more insidious threat that the Indian government has been reluctant to acknowledge so far -- the potential involvement of extremists within the country's own Muslim community, which, at 150 million, is the world's third-largest after Indonesia and Pakistan. It is also one of India's most economically and politically disadvantaged minorities.
In addition to being disproportionately targeted in outbreaks of religious violence, they (Muslims) are severely underrepresented in the country's government bureaucracy, universities and security services. On literacy scores, young Indian Muslims now lag behind even the country's historically most disadvantaged group, the Dalits, or Hinduism's "untouchables."
Pakistani columnist and blogger Ahmed Quraishi says: As a Pakistani, I too find it intriguing that only days ago, for the first time, the reach and influence of indigenous Indian terror groups was being registered for the first time, with the arrest of two serving senior Indian army officers with links to Hindu terror groups involved in major terrorism acts; acts that were blamed on Muslims. And now suddenly we have a spectacular incident, too sophisticated for any foreigner to execute without massive facilitation and support base, where allegedly Muslim terrorists have left behind an ID card and a cell phone with a SIM card originating in a 'neighboring' country. How convenient. They should have checked better since they could have also found an ISI staff card on one of the dead terrorists. There are close to 100 groups in India, of all shades, fighting the Indian state and people, including Hindu terrorist groups. India should get its own house in order before blaming 'neighbors'. This coming from a country where close to 600 Christians were killed just a couple of months back by Hindu groups, and 2500 Indian Muslims were burned alive in the 21st century's first incident of genocide, in 2002 and where Kashmiri, Dalit, and other minority women are raped everyday as part of Hindu religious oppression.
Here's what Dr. Deepak Chopra told CNN: What we have seen in Mumbai has been brewing for a long time, and the war on terrorism and the attack on Iraq compounded the situation. What we call "collateral damage" and going after the wrong people actually turns moderates into extremists, and that inflammation then gets organized and appears as this disaster in Bombay. Now the worst thing that could happen is there's a backlash on the Muslims from the fundamental Hindus in India, which then will perpetuate the problem. Inflammation will create more inflammation.
Here's an excerpt from Tariq Ali's Counterpunch piece on Mumbai attacks: The Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, has insisted that the terrorists were based outside the country. The Indian media has echoed this line of argument with Pakistan (via the Lashkar-e-Taiba) and al-Qaeda listed as the usual suspects. But this is a meditated edifice of official India’s political imagination. Its function is to deny that the terrorists could be a homegrown variety, a product of the radicalization of young Indian Muslims who have finally given up on the indigenous political system. To accept this view would imply that the country’s political physicians need to heal themselves.
There is widespread and appropriately strong condemnation of the terrorists responsible for murder and mayhem in Mumbai. In Pakistan, US, Britain, Israel and the rest of the world, there is powerful outpouring of sympathy for the innocent victims. There is also a lot of speculation as to the causes and culprits of the expanding scope and scale of terror the world is witnessing. Such speculation will likely continue as the governments of the world grapple with the rising threat to civilians everywhere in the world. It's clear, though, that the use of military power alone as seen in America's "war on terror" will not succeed. There is an urgent need for all to acknowledge the failure of the current "global war on terror" to come up with a better strategy that relies on a broader set of tools and options to overcome the growing menace.