Counterterrorism expert Bruce Hoffman describes the November, 2008 attacks on downtown Mumbai, India as “more like a military operation than a terrorist attack,” and examines what implications the incident may have for the ongoing fight against global terrorism.
If you were watching television you may not have heard that ordinary people too died in Mumbai. They were mowed down in a busy railway station and a public hospital. The terrorists did not distinguish between poor and rich. They killed both with equal cold-bloodedness. The Indian media, however, was transfixed by the rising tide of horror that breached the glittering barricades of India Shining and spread its stench in the marbled lobbies and crystal ballrooms of two incredibly luxurious hotels and a small Jewish centre.
We’re told one of these hotels is an icon of the city of Mumbai. That’s absolutely true. It’s an icon of the easy, obscene injustice that ordinary Indians endure every day. On a day when the newspapers were full of moving obituaries by beautiful people about the hotel rooms they had stayed in, the gourmet restaurants they loved (ironically one was called Kandahar), and the staff who served them, a small box on the top left-hand corner in the inner pages of a national newspaper (sponsored by a pizza company I think) said “Hungry, kya?” (Hungry eh?). It then, with the best of intentions I’m sure, informed its readers that on the international hunger index, India ranked below Sudan and Somalia. But of course this isn’t that war. That one’s still being fought in the Dalit bastis of our villages, on the banks of the Narmada and the Koel Karo rivers; in the rubber estate in Chengara; in the villages of Nandigram, Singur, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Lalgarh in West Bengal and the slums and shantytowns of our gigantic cities.
That war isn’t on TV. Yet. So maybe, like everyone else, we should deal with the one that is.
Canadians concerned about relatives/loved ones in Mumbai can call the Department of Foreign Affairs at 1-613-996-8885 from inside Canada or 1-800-387-3124 from other countries. US citizens contact special State Department call center phone number set up for the crisis: 1-888-407-4747. UPDATEFor Australians:1300 555 135 or +61 2 6261 3305 (DFAT) UK: 0207 008 0000 (Foreign Office) (h/t Brandy Betz)
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