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The Mumbai Attacks

November 28th, 2008 · No Comments

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The Mumbai Attacks
http://killingtrain.com/node/664
Justin Podur
November 28, 2008

The scale of the attacks is incredible: the Taj, the Oberoi Trident, a
major train station (CST), a major hospital (Cama), a cafe that’s
favoured by tourists (Cafe Leopold), the Jewish centre, all in
different parts of the city. Some attackers came by sea, others set
off bombs, others just entered buildings or public areas and started
shooting. The people of India’s cities, like Pakistan’s and many
others, have suffered many bombings in recent months and years. There
have also been major raids against targets in India, like the December
2001 attack on the Indian parliament in New Delhi. But so many
simultaneous attacks on so many different parts of the city, with
gunmen taking hostages in some places, setting off bombs in others,
settling in to fight commandos for days in others, is something new,
and terrifying. The death toll is already well over 100, and will
probably be much higher before the end.

The military sophistication of this horrific massacre is matched by
its political incomprehensibility. Very little that is credible is
known about who the attackers are and what their motivations could be.
This will continue to be the case for some time, and it is still the
case for many of the attacks and bombings of civilians that have
occurred in India in recent years. But if the “Deccan Mujahadeen”
whose emails have been released to the public are a real group and are
responsible, they will not win themselves any political points with
India’s Muslims, who are moving in the opposite direction. Delhi-based
commentator (and friend of mine) Badri Raina earlier this week
contrasted the changes happening in the Indian Muslim community with
the posture of India’s Hindu chauvinists in the Sangh Parivar :

“A remarkable dynamic counter to the re-centralizing, purity-oriented
turmoil within the Sangh Parivar is currently at work among India’s
Muslims. A dynamic that I venture bears the promise of defeating the
renewed fascistic call of the Parivar more conclusively than anything
else in view.”

That dynamic, Raina says, has two parts. On the one hand, a
questioning of “social practices supposedly ordained by one clerical
authority or the other”, a “condemning the killing of innocents
especially as un-Islamic”, and on the other, the participation of
Muslims “increasingly and in great numbers” in “civil rights
activities that seek… to reinforce the non-discriminatory exercise
of the rule of law.”

While India’s Muslims may be trying to move in one direction, the
attackers obviously want to move them in another, and what follows
this attack could be dangerous for them. After the February 2002
Gujarat pogroms and Godhra massacre, Arundhati Roy wrote about what
could happen to India’s Muslims :

“Under this relentless pressure, what will most likely happen is that
the majority of the Muslim community will resign itself to living in
ghettos as second-class citizens, in constant fear, with no civil
rights and no recourse to justice. What will daily life be like for
them? Any little thing, an altercation in a cinema queue or a fracas
at a traffic light, could turn lethal. So they will learn to keep very
quiet, to accept their lot, to creep around the edges of the society
in which they live. Their fear will transmit itself to other
minorities. Many, particularly the young, will probably turn to
militancy. They will do terrible things. Civil society will be called
upon to condemn them.”

During those Gujarat massacres of 2002, people resisted the police and
the mobs that were doing the killing. In 2004, the BJP were out of
power nationally because people did not vote on chauvinist lines. Some
citizens of Mumbai have already said that they will stay together and
not allow these attacks to destroy their community. The political
forces that will seek to benefit from this are those who want violence
between India and Pakistan and between Hindus and Muslims in India.
The trap these forces have set will fail if these attacks fail to
derail the positive movement in South Asia for detente between India
and Pakistan, and fail to strengthen communalism in India. That
Pakistan is publicly cooperating with India will help, as will the
fact that the BJP is not in power today.

Justin Podur is a Toronto-based writer of Indian origin. He can be
reached at justin@killingtrain.com.

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