Bomb blasts in Mumbai again - a time to rethink our approach?

August 26, 2003

46 dead in the latest two bomb blasts. 132 injured. Those are the statistics of the Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazaar taxi bombs.

Whether you are a disgruntled Muslim or a Sainik, the priority should be a way to figure out how to end this and reclaim our city. 

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The Shiv Sena and Thackeray have reacted with relative restraint. The Muslims of Mohammed Ali road, wiser to the needs of the right perception, have called a bandh. So far so good.

It is perfectly understandable for the bravehearts of Shiv Sena to want to teach the perpetrators a lesson. Senior Thackeray declared that "our boys are prepared to teach them a lesson, but then the government should not hunt us down." Now that is precisely what we do not need.

Who will the Sainiks teach a lesson? The Sainiks definitely are no intelligence bureau, and therefore incapable of locating the terrorist cells. The options before them is to call another bandh, demonstrate on the streets, or start another mini-riot, also called punishing the guilty, doing the job of the police, expressing our sentiments or proving that Hindus have those little dangling things, also called balls (copyright: some reporter in a newspaper)

That is not going to help at all. 

If teaching the 'average fundamentalist Pakistani' Muslim a lesson is what the reaction should be, I suggest they do it properly. As every attack on Muslims can lead to many Bin Ladens being born, the only option to kill their evil millions altogether. I would like Sena to think carefully on that. Even murdering a few thousand - which the Sena has never done is not going to solve anything. You have to terminate the entire foul lot. And probably across India too, so they have to create a proper strategy by teaming up with the VHP in places where Sena does not have a presence, striking strategic alliances with different elements who have a problem with Muslims in different part of the country. Also, you will have to deal with international pressure, Pakistan attacking India, civil war within the country etc if this is implemented. As well as leaving any Muslims alive is not realistic threat neutralization under this option, sections of Hindu society itself may revolt and create further problems. Foreseeing a future threat to the Christian community in India, certain powerful Christian countries could also decide to take pre-emptive action. With all due respect, I do not think the Sena has the required intelligence to pull such a mammoth exercise off successfully. 

Now that option 1 is out of the picture, let us examine if there is anything left. 

I content that the Sena brought this upon Mumbai. That is too harsh a statement to make? Let's think again. 

There have always been problems between a few Hindus and a few Muslims. Nothing new in that. In the Bombay riots, the Sena taught the Muslims a lesson. More or less. Looking back, we now know that the lesson was ineffective, in so far as blasts and terror by other means still continue. The only result of the riots was to polarize the communities. The Hindus do not trust Muslims anymore, and Muslims do not trust Hindus, the police or the government. Brilliant lesson it was not.

Perhaps for the sake of pragmatism, then the only option left is for the Sena to enter into a formal working relationship with the Muslims. The relationship should be formal, public and long-term. The Sena or some Hindus may not trust the Muslims. No matter. If all Muslims are unworthy of even such a relationship, I suggest the Sena plan for option I.

How will such a relationship help? Assuming that all Muslims are not taxi-bombers, (Sena themselves keep saying so) it makes sense to remove the fear from the patriotic, semi-patriotic, fence-sitting, semi-terrorist Muslims and isolate the real bomb-carrying terrorists. Muslims know that secular Hindus are not their enemies. Making friends with secular Hindus is not a solution for them. Unless the Sena guarantees their safety, there is no point. Secular Hindus, government or police guaranteeing their safety is only as good as Srinagar taxi union guaranteeing that Indian army will be safe in their city. No sir, Thackeray himself will have to guarantee their safety. 

What happens then? Assuming this happens, immediate reaction would, I guess, be a few bomb blasts. Any initiative such as this will immediately be met with such a dramatic statement. The only available option is to grit your teeth and go on. Declare that Sena understands that the average Muslim has no sympathy for those who dig up the pavement with TNT, and continue working with the Muslims. 

This, over a long period, will help to ensure that no new Bin Ladens will be born. Will the attacks on the city end there? Unlikely, but it will be few and far less frequent.

It will not end because Mumbai (Bombay for me) is still the financial capital of India. That is a fact that cannot be changed. Terrorists like a visible arena, and Mumbai is one. So it will remain a target.

The second fact can be changed, the perception that this is where Hindus taught Muslims a lesson, and Muslims are in a battleground here. This makes it a tempting target indeed to demonstrate gelatin sticks, TNT and detonators. It is the Sena which pretended that Mumbai is the big battleground it is for them to change the perception. Others can do nothing.

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