Five years ago, on this day, I travelled from Delhi to Mumbai. The terrorists from Pakistan had already launched their heinous attack the previous night and Mumbai was in a tight grip of uncertain fear. The shrill anchors of the TV channels were milking the situation for whatever they could in their search for TRPs. The politicians were hogging channel time to pronounce their inane and insensitive comments, while the police had no clue about the number or firepower of the terrorists. But for a few unarmed constables, who displayed the most amazing courage and sense of duty, and laid their lives down in the defence of the city, Mumbai would have lost many more civilian lives. These heroes have been all but forgotten.
The central government continues to pursue its hazy goal of peace with an enemy who is not even on the same page. The PM and the External Affairs Minister continue to mislead the nation with their placebo comments about the Pakistani Prime Minister and the civilian establishment in that country, completely ignoring the evidence on the ground. Hafiz Saeed continues to mock India in the full glare of international media and with the full backing of Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistani Military. Yet, we keep repeating our demand for Pakistani action against the masterminds of the attack on Mumbai. Does anyone seriously believe that Pakistan will actual bring them to trial, let alone hand them over to India? Today I recall what I had written that afternoon while commuting in a taxi from the Mumbai Airport.
Thoughts on 26/11
Sitting in the back seat of a yellow-black cab in Mumbai;
Hearing the raucous cough of its immigrant driver,
Driven from the ravaged heart of this land
By hunger, exploitation, deprivation:
I follow the triumphal wake of the Mercs, the Hondas,
And the Beamers; their occupants
Oblivious of the insignificant scarab
Burning the asphalt with its bald tyres.
Wondering why their gleaming,
Glittering sight brings not joy,
But Despair – a Despair so profound
That the beaming and angelic smiles
On the faces of Bollywood stars
Endorsing products from Fairness Creams
To Hair Oils; Hair conditioners
To Air Conditioners, Biscuits to
Baby Food – fails to dispel.
Large Hoardings of larger-than-life Leaders;
The rapaciousness in their eyes the artist unable
To hide. One Moses claiming to lead his people,
Into the Promised Future where every taxi cab,
And every auto-rickshaw would be driven
By sons of the soil; where every slum would be
Cleared of the immigrant, and replaced by the native;
Where all roadside vendors of peanuts and pizzas;
Maids in the high-rise buildings; watchmen
Of luxurious towers; drivers
Of the Mercs, the Hondas and the Beamers
Would belong to the noble lineage
Of that great warrior Prince who once
Made the great Moghul look stupid
By escaping in a sweetmeat basket.
Honour restored, his Sena would rise once more to rule
The roads, the footpaths, and the shanty towns.
While Mumbai was burning, brought to its knees
By a small band of neighbourhood terrorists,
Largely unchallenged; purveying Death and Destruction,
These leaders and their Senas,
Safely ensconced in their barracks, behind sandbags,
Plotting their next attack on the Unarmed and the
The real enemy is not the terrorist from beyond
The borders; but the native who divides.
Religion, caste, creed, language, all are tools for him
In pursuit of Power, Pelf, and false Prestige.
Five years on nothing has changed. The same politicians, the same bureaucrats, the same TV anchors. The same inane debates on prime time television with the same experts from India and Pakistan, repeating the same nonsense that we heard five years ago. Even the police force continues to be the same. No effort to modernise this force is visible on the ground. They still wield the lathi with which they will be asked to fight an opponent armed with the most sophisticated and lethal modern weaponry. The election rhetoric too remains fossilised in the past and the morally bankrupt Congress party continues to beguile the people with false promises hoping that they will once more be lulled into a false sense of security and will return them to power.
Wasn’t 26/11/2008 enough to wake us up from the torpor into which our fake and lopsided economic growth had plunged us? How many more lives have we to lose before we understand that our present political system has completely failed to deliver equality and justice? How much longer will we withstand the “slings and arrows” of this “outrageous” system? When will we rise to “oppose them” and “end them all?”
By Vijaya Dar