More than an iconic symbol of India… the Taj Mahal hotel, Mumbai.

Today, I can’t help but recall New Yorkers’ sentiments after the attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center, on 9/11. I just read Mr. Ratan Tata’s condemnation of last night’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai, targeting landmark buildings, including the flagship hotel of his Tata-run Indian Hotels – The Taj Mahal:

The terrible wanton attacks last night on innocent people and the destruction of prominent landmarks in India deserve to be universally condemned. My sympathies and condolences go out to all those who have suffered, been injured, and those who have lost their loved ones in this terrible act of hatred and destruction. We must stand together, shoulder to shoulder as citizens of India, and rebuild what has been destroyed. We must show that we cannot be disabled or destroyed, but that such heinous act will only make us stronger. We need to overcome these forces as one strong unified nation.

Distinct from Tata’s (of Nano fame) statement, consider this headline from Press Trust of India: “A city, which never sleeps, brought down to its knees.” They’re referring to Mumbai, India’s version of New York City. Aren’t the words somewhat jarring? Underlying these words is a tone which seems to be secretly pleased by the turn of events on 26th November that struck Mumbai’s public. Such headlines reek of subliminal anti-nationalistic sentiments and are bound to stoke adverse public reactions.

All the stories are rife with speculation that the terrorists specifically sought out and picked Canadian, American and British nationals as their targets. Well, around Cama Hosptal, G.T. hospital, Crawford Market, at CST or VT railway station, near Metro Cinema (multiplex), (well past 9 p.m.) it seems rather unlikely that “foreign” nationals would be hanging around here, sipping on sodas or gulping down beer, in these “mostly middle-class” neighborhoods! To me this “targeting foreign nationals” theory does not seem to be their prime motive.

The foreign nationals at the swanky Taj or Trident Oberoi hotels may have been held hostage primarily to draw world attention to the jihadi cause, of the thus-far-little-known terrorist group. To be able to do so, yes, the multistar, multistoreyed hotels seem to be the most obvious and likely spots with maximum and concentrated presence of affluent foreign nationals. In contrast to these, numerous foreign nationals on a shoe-string budget put up for a few days in any of the numerous “seedy” joints in Bombay/Mumbai, scattered around Colaba Causeway; all part of their “exotic India” experience rolled in a single, multifaceted, dynamic city: Mumbai. Boarding aside, such foreign nationals may find it hard to afford even a single meal at any of the several restaurants in the opulent ambiance of The Taj, or at the chic Oberoi’s! With the exception of relatively low-end-but popular-with-tourists Leopold Cafe, none of the numerous budget hotels were targeted. Considered that? Perhaps many more foreigners are presently staying in those budget hotels. It seems to me that the attacks were also aimed at affluent Indians, if only to draw media attention, and of course government attention to their cause.

If 100 people in Mumbai, living within the filthy slums of Dharavi, had died in a fire explosion, or had even been victims of these terrorists, is it likely that you and I may be blogging or blog-surfing about the poor souls’ plight? More importantly, it is unlikely that the Indian government would have paid heed to the catastrophe or to the terrorists’ demands, or sent out an army in their defense. (God bless the slum-dwellers; I wouldn’t wish such lethal attacks on them, just as I do not condone the attacks on the elite – foreign or Indian.)

The crux of the matter is that 9/11 was a statement made by Osama Bin Laden to draw attention to his cause, to enable him draw world attention to Al Qaeda, little-known by the general public back then in 2001! To them it did not matter who was killed and how many other lives were destroyed forever as a consequence of their orchestrated attacks. Their focus was their cause. Similarly, the well-coordinated multiple attacks in Mumbai yesterday, are attention-seeking in their purpose. In a single stroke this terrorist group has brought to light Mujahideen Deccan. Who are they? What do they want? We need to scrape the surface; see what is lurking beneath what seems obvious… but may not be!


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