By now, three days after attacks were reported in Mumbai, India; most people have probably heard of the terrorist shootings and bombings there. The organization claiming responsibility was the “Deccan Mujahideen”. There were several places targeted, all in the rich areas of Mumbai especially popular with tourists.
There are three things about this attack that make me incredibly mad. The first is just that the attacks ever occurred in the first place. I cannot even describe how I feel about the people who did this. The “Deccan Mujahideen” (“Fighters of Deccan”), as they call themselves, have connections to Lashkar-e-Toiba (“Army of the Righteous”), a radical Muslim group with presence all over Asia. I did a bit of research on Lashkar-e-Toiba, and they were the people behind the 7/11 attacks in Mumbai two years ago, among many other attacks. They allegedly have strong ties to al-Qaeda and are based in Pakistan (though, of course, the Pakistani government denies these allegations). These are despicable people. They resort to terror and fear-mongering to further their agenda. I do not even know how they can hold ideology above life, but apparently, it is possible.
The second thing is the damage to the historic buildings that were targeted. The Taj Mahal hotel is 105 years old and a piece of magnificent architecture. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station, formerly Victoria Terminus, was named for Queen Victoria and was built in the 1880s by the British. Besides their obvious symbolism of the West, they are icons of India herself. The Taj was on fire for many hours, and smoke was seen billowing out of the building. These buildings survived so much. They survived the British Raj, the fight to Independence, the Partition: one hundred years’ worth of troubles, and yet they are probably irreparably damaged by some idiots with explosives and AK’s.
The third thing is that they targeted the Cama hospital. According to the coverage of Indian news channel CNN-IBN, the Cama hospital is a women’s and children’s hospital. The police was able to isolate the patients into one locked ward, but somehow there was a hostage situation there. I can see the anti-West aspect of the other attacks, but this one seems particularly strange. Why would they attack a hospital? Just because it happened to be in the same area as the other targets? I do not understand. Whatever the motive, however, it still riles me up that the hospital was made a target.
Another interesting point that came to my attention is that the chief of the Anti-Terrorist Squad, Hemant Karkare, who died in the events of Wednesday, was heading an investigation into “Hindu terrorist groups” which may be responsible for bombing targeted at Muslims two years ago. It turns out that this refers to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (“All-India Students’ Council”) and their inspiration, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (“National Volunteers’ Organization”), or the people suspected to be responsible for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. It seemed almost oxymoronic to me, to think about a “Hindu terror network”. One thing that has been ingrained into me for many years is that Hinduism is a religion of tolerance, that Hindus are peaceful people, that Hindus are not violent to Muslims in the way the Muslims are to Hindus.
Of course, the idea is actually paradoxical: there is no real contradiction in the term “Hindu terrorist group”. While Hinduism is the religion of Gandhi and ahimsa, it is also apparently the religion of the RSS and ABVP, of the murderers of Gandhi. Apparently Muslim radicals are not the only ones to put ideology above life.
There can be no denying that these attacks are based on religion. Muslim extremists attacked Jews and specifically sought out members of two predominantly Christian nations; all of this took place in the financial center of India, the only Hindu country in the world. Whatever Lashkar-e-Toiba’s political motives (they appear to want India-Pakistan relations to deteriorate, as has already begun to occur), their ultimate goal is always to achieve worldwide Islam. From the South Asia Terrorism Portal:
The Lashkar-e-Toiba does not believe in democracy and nationalism. According to its ideology, it is the duty of every ‘Momin’ to protect and defend the interests of Muslims all over the world where Muslims are under the rule of non-Muslim in the democratic system. It has, thus chosen the path of Jihad as the suited means to achieve its goal.
This is one of the reasons that I cannot believe that religion is an overall force of good in the world. No matter how peaceful, tolerant, and nonviolent a religion claims to be, there are always those violent, perhaps radical, members who insist on taking lives. The good works with which religions shield themselves could, in reality, be achieved by any secular or non-secular organization. But there are few issues so divisive as to cause the deaths of thousands, especially in such a manner.
My mom tells me that these Hindu extremists, the RSS and the ABVP, are simply retaliating to the Muslims, who have been causing strife in India for as long as anyone can remember. I cannot see how this is any excuse. I am an Indian too, in a sense, and I cannot see how the RSS and ABVP are any better for India than al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Toiba and their ilk.
My dad just said something that struck me. We were discussing how some of the attackers had managed to gain employ in the Taj. He said, “This is what you get when you secularize society. They should have never hired those Pakistani Muslims [insert rant here].” I am of the exact opposite opinion. This is what you get when you desecularize society. Rather, when you never secularize to begin with. In a secular society, religious beliefs are (ideally) a private and personal thing, nothing to be forced upon others. What I see in India is a profoundly religious and perhaps, in a sense, backward society. No matter how the issue is skirted by the news media or the politicians, it seems undeniable that this is a religious issue.
Hopefully, this will be a wake-up call for India. We can only pray hope for some change.