Thursday, 14 July 2011

Mumbai's Yesterday, Once Again

The evening of 13th July 2011 brought back a strong sense of deja vu for the people of Mumbai and for most of us in India as the news channels beamed gory visuals of three blasts which took place at diamond district Zaveri Bazaar, Dadar and Opera House. The shocking blasts once again bring us to the fundamental question, "Are we really safe after 26/11?"

The morning after the blasts, news channels showcased the cliched and famed resolve of the residents of Mumbai who do not dwell on tragedies and their will to continue with their lives in spite of the adversities, to commute, work, party, shop etc. It is not really the resilience that works all the time. The residents of Mumbai are resilient by force and not by choice. As I write this on a rainy Thursday morning, the city is agonizingly limping back to normal. A city trying to find feet on the ground. The resilience has not died down but is under massive duress. The city of Mumbai cannot afford to shut down and the recent blasts are enough to shatter the confidence in the system.

For an ordinary layman, terror and its consequences of heightened security and a sense of fear come on top of daily horrors that they have internalized as a way of life. Violence being one of them apart from having to claw their way into overcrowded commuter trains, to steel themselves against wading through filthy, flooded roads, to drink contaminated water and to live with squalor and stench.

I have never been in a war zone or in the scene of a terror attack. The whole idea of a terror attack takes me back to a scene in Mani Ratnam's Tamil film "Bombay" where the main protagonists Arvind Swamy and Manisha Koirala frantically search for their twin boys as the city burns in the wake of the 1992-1993 communal riots. The hypnotic background music by AR Rahman silences their helpless voices.

The failure to detect movements of suspected terrorists as well as terrorist organizations before their diseased minds could execute their dangerous designs is the greatest tragedy. It essentially points out to the failure of basic policing and to the utter destruction to the network of informers. The Mumbai Police lost their strong network of informers' after the 1992-1993 communal riots and did not bother to build it again.

On a rational note, we need to be realistic and make our proposed sea links less ambitious and make high-speed as well as elevated rail corridors a dream that best remains on paper. Instead, we should concentrate on paying attention on paying more attention to our policemen by giving them more facilities and a better pay package so as to make the job lucrative. At the same time, we must also try and fill up the existing vacancies and improve their self-esteem. In this critical juncture, we do not really need high-speed rail corridors but a shared sense of purpose.

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