Last week, on 26th November 2008, there was a crazy terrorist attack in Mumbai. When the news first started coming in on the evening of the 25th, it seemed to that the terrorists had gone on a crazy shooting spree at Colaba, a touristy area of south Mumbai, and I thought it would end there. Little did I imagine it would continue horrifically for three days. On 26th we woke to the shocking news that not only had they randomly sprayed bullets at Cafe Leopold and VT station, but they were now firmly entrenched in two of Mumbai’s best hotels, the Taj and the Oberoi, and they had killed many and taken many hostage.
Each night one went to sleep hoping that this horror would end, and each morning one just woke up to more depressing news. Now they are shooting people, now some police officer dies, now a grenade has just gone off in the Taj, now they are moving the hostages at the Oberoi on the terrace, now they have let off some gas. As if this was not enough the terrorists also took control of a Jewish centre nearby. God knows what atrocities were committed there. There are stories that the hostages were horrible tortured before they were killed. Most of them were having their dinner when the shooting started. At Cafe Leopold the terrorists had a meal, paid their bill, and then opened fire. At VT station (one of Mumbai’s largest and most crowed), they shot a mother who dared to scream among many others. They even shot some stray dogs that dared to bark at them. This is human nature at its worst.
The Taj, an iconic heritage hotel of India, has been ruined from within. Jamshetji Tata, the founder of the Tata Company, and the Steel Man of India, built this stately building over a hundred years ago. Legend has it that he was with a British friend and was denied entrance at another hotel of Mumbai, because he was Indian. He vowed he would build a hotel where Indians could feel at home. And so was born the Taj. It’s situated opposite the Gateway of India and is as fine a monument as the Gateway itself. Jamsetji Tata traveled through Europe to buy equipment for the kitchens, the lifts, and the interiors. This was a gift to Mumbai and it would have nothing less than the best. The Taj was the first public building of Mumbai to be lit with electric lights. Later on, he had the foresight to also keep a twenty-four doctor on call for the guests. This was after his pregnant French daughter-in-law, the mother of JRD Tata, missed a step in the Taj and was critically ill.
I have been to the Taj twice or thrice during my six years in Mumbai, and it is definitely a hotel not like any other. It has, or had character. Inside the four feet thick stonewalls, there is another world. It had an amazing cafe called the Sea Lounge, whose large glass windows overlooked the boats and the Gateway. I was always in awe when I entered the place. It’s unbearable to think about corpses lying within its charred rooms. The general manager’s wife and three children were burnt in their room during these attacks. Later the manager himself was slain. Innumerable staff lost their lives trying to save guests or themselves. People who came out alive applaud the bravery and dedication of the Taj staff, who helped hide and protect many guests even at the cost of their own lives.
At the Oberoi a similar story unfolded, but the hotel is not as badly ripped apart as the Taj. As for the people shot down at VT and Leopold, they are going to be just another figure on a list of nameless deaths. But what is coming out of all this, and strongly, are the glaring discrepancies in Indian government, and the disgusting level of corruption of the politicians. For the first time, people are really angry, and have realized who they should be angry at. The people have just been pawns in the hands of the government, who want to create rifts amongst different religious groups so that they can play them against each other as suits their convenience. First it was the British who practiced the divide and rule policy in India, and now it is our own rulers who do the same.
They use taxpayer’s money for high-class security to move around in, while police officers have outdated and useless protective gear and weapons. Worse than that, they make insensitive comments about officers who died fighting, or offer their families money. India had 5000 miles of coastline and a ridiculously small number of coast guards. Police officers are paid pathetic salaries, not enough to support their families. The common man is the last thing on the politician’s mind. He lives, he dies, and the politician doesn’t care, as long as he gets the vote. In other countries the common citizen is the most important person, his safety, security, quality of life. Here, our government is least concerned over these issues. All they are worried about is fattening their Swiss Bank accounts and what colour their BMW is.
The politicians of India are the cancer of this country. We need another quit India movement, a non-violent non-co-operation to get them out. The politicians are bigger criminals than the terrorists. Since 1974 there have been 4100 terror attacks on India. And we still haven’t woken up. We need a revolution. If this doesn’t shake up the nation, nothing else as will. Apathy is the worst epidemic we have.