Earlier today, Mumbai was struck by three explosions designed for maximum impact; homemade bombs erupted during rush hour, a time when the blasts were guaranteed to injure and murder as many innocents as possible.
The people of Mumbai reacted with bravery and heroic self-sacrifice:
Hitesh Soni said that people offered their private tempos, scooters and motorcycles to rush the victims to hospitals. “Ambulances and the police arrived later. It was local businessmen who came to the rescue and saved lives.” Businessman Manoj Jain added that those from the nearby textile (kapda) bazaar also came to the rescue of the victims.
Many of those involved in rescue operations were local residents. “We do not know about our families but are helping in the rescue operations . Once this work is over, we will check the whereabouts of our family,” said one of them, oblivious of his blood-soaked clothes.
On Twitter, a non-desi follower with far too much faith in my abilities asked, “Why does this keep happening to Mumbai?” I am definitely no expert; I’m not even Indian by anything other than heart, genotype and phenotype. I could only tell her the truth, that I had no answers, just the same whispered words that every erstwhile Catholic schoolgirl knows.
According to the BBC’s Soutik Biswas, the answer to “Why Mumbai?” is complex:
The most commonly peddled narrative is that by attacking its much touted financial and entertainment capital, you deal a body blow to India and get global media attention. But that is only a small part of the story. Many residents will tell you that Mumbai began going downhill in early 1993 when it convulsed in religious rioting and murder for two weeks following the demolition of the Babri mosque by Hindu fanatics in December 1992. At least 900 people died, mostly Muslims. Two months after the riots, the underworld set off series of bombs to avenge the riots, killing more than 250 people. Many of them were Muslims too.
The answer to “Who did it?” is complicated too, according to the Grey Lady:
A senior American law enforcement official said that early indications pointed to India-based militants, not to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant group in Pakistan. But the official cautioned that the investigation was still in its very early stages and that it was premature to make any firm conclusions about what group carried out the bombings. The police described the bombs as improvised explosive devices.
I feel compelled to share a “highlighted” comment from that NYT article, from a Mumbaikar named Sen:
I live in Mumbai, my hometown, to which I returned after 17 years of living abroad.
I am also the father of two teenaged kids, both of whom were out and about when the bombs exploded. I had some tense moments, since the older one regularly spends time at the location of one of the explosions. Both are at home now.
I want to make a few points:
1) There was no communal problem in 2008 and there will be none this time around. I live in a building with a dozen Muslim families and I had a lot of offers from my neighbors to go out and get my kids home.No, we know who is behind this and its not the Indian Muslim. Its never been the Indian Muslim.
2)To those who keep harping on India not being able to defend itself, or not able to retaliate or not able to teach a lesson to Pakistan; PLEASE UNDERSTAND that that is EXACTLY what the terrorists, and those who back and train them, wish to see. A full fledged war between the 2 nations. We cannot and will not play into their hands.
3) We have seen the results of the reaction of the USA to 9/11. The USA, very neatly, played into Osama’s hands ,and has spent close to 10 years in 2(3 ?) wars which have bankrupted the USA, killed thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Muslims and have given many more recruits to the Al Queda and the Taliban. we cannot afford to make the same mistake.
4) Now that the USA and the west have come to their senses with regard to the reality of Pakistan, now that the USA will not pour more and more billions into Pakistan, now that the USA will no longer cover Pakistan’s back at the United Nations, now there is hope that slowly but surely the world, and India, can take action against Pakistan without having to worry about the reaction of the USA, the great protector of Pakistan for the last 50 years and more. The pusher to Pakistan the addict.
5) Please remember that India has more than 140 million Muslims. For a Muslim population of that size, India is remarkably free of terrorist attacks
You know what else is remarkable?
Technology enthusiasts decided to do their bit. Nitin Sagar (@nitinsgr) Product Manager at Map My India (GPS and mapping company in India) created a public Google Spreadsheet to collate helpline numbers. Twitter users added their details to help the affected. As he states, he started the spreadsheet with 5 phone numbers, through Twitter and Facebook there were more than 200 contact numbers within a few hours. [ZDNet]
Beyond Twitter and Facebook, there is a blog called Mumbai Help; its tagline is “Surviving Mumbai– Information for Emergencies in the Bombay Area”. While locals in Bombay used social networks to compile information for those immediately affected, Sepia Mutiny readers used them to express frustration, anguish and concern. SM commenter Coffee Face shared two reasons why she was upset on my Facebook wall:
How about the lack of coverage by primetime news channels in the States?
NBC did one story (by Richard Engel) on the Nightly News, I’m pretty sure that story was about 4 minutes longer than any other network covered it…I don’t like the general American reaction of ‘Why is this a big deal? Doesn’t this shit happen ‘over there’ all the time?’ #gettingoffsoapbox
“Home is where we have to gather grace” (Nissim Ezekiel – “Enterprise”) We have woken up today to submerged streets and a sense of cold sadness, but this is an island city and it knows how to rise above.
Five years ago almost to the day, I blogged about the train blasts in Mumbai that claimed 188 lives. Now it is 2011 and once again, I am praying, perhaps fruitlessly for a city on the other side of the globe. It occurs to me that if prayers were all it took to safeguard a nation, India would be the safest place in the world.
About the title, for those of you who don’t get the ‘kast ref. Please keep the comments so fresh and so clean; that will help them remain open.
Thank you to Phillygirl, who contributed links and other assistance to this post.