The Bombay situation is shocking, horrifying. I normally don’t write about current events on this blog – self-absorbed as I am – but even I cannot let this pass without comment.
It’s unbelievable, completely surreal. You watch it on TV and you feel like it must be a badly-made Hollywood film. One hundred people killed! Taj Bombay burning! Hostages in three separate buildings. One of the TV channels had a conversation with a guest staying at Taj Mumbai in the new wing. They don’t have TV there any more, because the terrorists were using it to monitor the security agencies outside. Can you imagine being in this lovely, classy five-star hotel in – perhaps? – a strange city, hearing terrorists outside from yesterday evening till today afternoon, bomb blasts, firing, hostages… holed up in your comfortable and luxurious room, not able to step outside for fear of being shot or taken hostage? Apparently, they were getting information and instructions from the hotel staff, but can no longer get any response on the internal phone because the lines are busy. Maybe the terrorists shot the telephone operator? No, I haven’t heard anyone say that, but I’m just saying, holed up in your hotel room, with no TV and no contact with any of the other guests or staff, what would you make of it?
Meanwhile, the Taj is on fire, smoke billowing out of the top floor. It’s so sad. Yet how can you mourn for a mere building, however beautiful, when a hundred people are dead?
It seems like, ever since the Bangalore blasts – was it July? August? – there has been an unending, inexorable, ugly spate of terror attacks across India. Our country never used to be like this. We’ve had our problems, but terrorists belonged to only a few pockets here and there, mostly in J&K. Delhi was always a little dangerous, being the capital, but not these other cities. We’ve had communal tensions, but not such brazen, blatant, bloody terror attacks. Why, only a few months ago, we used to talk of “the” Bombay blasts of – was it 96? As though there weren’t any other blasts to speak of. And now there’s a whole series of them and they are only getting worse.
I would have been the first to say that we Indians would not be unduly cowed down by bombs and such like, but I can’t say that any more. If you can have terrorists walking into Victoria Terminus and shooting at random quite early on a weekday evening… then no place is safe, no one is safe. Which city, which shopping mall or hotel, which bus stand or train station, which day of week, month or year will it be next? Who’s next?
The terrorists want to create an atmosphere of terror, suspicion, fear, distrust – and they are well on their way already. It’s tragic, it’s terrible, and it is ruthlessly effective.