Another night, another nightmare.
Mumbai seems to be a favorite hunting ground for all sorts of 2-bit criminals. Starting from the Madh-Island smugglers back in the 70s, through the D-company in the 90s and now the Hindu-Islamic Fanatics. We were jolted by an sms at 4AM this morning asking us if our families were well after the terror attacks in Bombay. I sleepily thought the sender must be hallucinating; there was no news till 9PM and who do terrorists attack at midnight anyway? The answer, of course, was once again straight out of JK Rowling's imagination.
Just like the Death Eaters who attack anyone anywhere, this time we were subjected to random shootings at crowded public places. Foreign and Indian guests having dinner at two of India's best hotels were interrupted with grenade and machine-gun fire. Images show blood and abandoned luggage at railway stations, gunmen firing inside hospitals and hostage situations in India's top hotels that would make McClane cringe. TV grabs show kids no more than 16-19 year old, wielding automatic weapons and a glazed expression. Clueless about ideology their only mission is to kill. Like any good supari killer in Bombay, they did not fail. This attack seems to have less to do with religion and more to do with law-and-order. The body count is 100 and counting, while the siege in hotels continues as I write this...
I completely admire the Bombay police and believe that only they have the strategy and gumption to control a situation as grave as this. I salute the brave Hemant Karkare and Vijay Salaskar, who were the Dark Knights of Bombay's streets. For them to be killed at point-blank range by cowardly assassins is truly tragic. I pray the commandos fighting to save the 40-50 guests still trapped in the Taj and Oberoi hotels succeed without grave casualties.
At the same time, it makes me wonder about our so-called security. A story that got overshadowed by the Bombay firing was the siege at Bangkok airport. Although this was non-violent (so far), protesters managed to go all the way up to control tower at Suvarnabhumi airport and bring the operations to a complete halt.
I have been subjected to increasingly moronic security measures like removing my belt for scanning, getting my keys beeped separately and having the coin section of my wallet examined. Whether airports, hotels or malls, we bear long and hot queues while squeezing through uncomfortably narrow metal detectors and open all bags for inspection. In most cases, the people being subjected to these checks have no evil intentions in mind. The times that someone really wants to screw the system, they seem to have no trouble barging in. These measures then seem as effective as holding up a blade of grass to thwart a rape attempt. Begs the question, are these security measures no more than eyewash? A comforting illusion, like the 75 year old watchman guarding my building gate?
The detectors at Taj and Oberoi could not stop armed gunmen from entering. The security at Bangkok airport couldn't prevent the airport itself from being attacked. How did they plan to ever secure the skies? I am not an advocate of guns for the masses (like in US) or giving up on security measures. However, considering the amount of money and time we spend "cooperating" with security agencies, don't you agree the recent attacks call their bluff? Their mantra of "more inconvenience = more security" proves to be no good when it comes to REAL defense. Why then should we waste public money on fancy impotent gizmos and offer ourselves for scrutiny?
In the aftermath of this attack, they will "step up" security in Bangalore and Delhi. In other words, they will frisk you more on the way to a movie. Will that help if I am planning to riddle you with my AK-47? Will I really be standing in a queue waiting to get beeped?
It is time the security industry wakes up to become more accountable, to come up with genuine strategies instead of paranoia to make their buck. It is also, perhaps, time that we began to think of terror and suspicion in a larger context. Unlike what Bush says, terror is not war and you cannot fight it the same way. The only way to manage terror is by addressing the real, social issues that breed malcontent youth. The way to end terror is by not launching another attack in retaliation, by not using torture on captured youth (whether hindu or muslim) and by allowing justice rather than mob-rule to prevail.
It is time, indeed, that we started to trust and love our neighbor-- even at the risk of betrayal-- rather than create a world of suspicion and paranoia for our children.
Meanwhile, I hope and pray the affected people at Bombay and Bangkok emerge safe and sound from this madness, quickly.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Another night, another nightmare.