Under Attack Again

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Mumbai has once again become a target of terrorism. Three bombs went off at three different busy spots in the city, killing at least 10 and injuring hundreds. The toll according to sources in the city is likely to rise still further. It does seem terrorism is here to stay in India, and the country needs to do something quickly to contain the situation. The fact that the attack has come again in Mumbai, the financial and commercial heart of the country is significant, for it does confirm the intent is beyond creation of mere immediate mayhem and panic. There can be no argument these attacks are meant to destabilize the country and to shake up its growing confidence and respect amongst the comity of world nations. But as much as the country needs to react adequately and proportionately to the crimes committed against the nation, it must exercise caution in executing its vengeance. Indeed it is an unenviable situation India is in. It walks a tight rope, and even the slightest over-reaction can cause more damage than good, embittering sections of its population, to be precise its Muslim citizens, upon which the needle of suspicion of the public and officials is already pointing even before the full details of the blasts have emerged. A wheel of violence marked by vengeance and counter-vengeance could be set in motion, just as communal riots after communal riots that targeted the Muslim community have done in the past.
But this violence is not only mindless but also its perpetrators frustratingly invisible. It is a war fought by people who do not come out in the open and declare war. It is even not a full-fledged war, or for that matter a bush-war fought by guerrillas, hitting and scooting to asymmetrically augment their smaller stock of war hardware as well as personnel resources. On the other hand, this is a war with a stratagem of, to use a familiar parlance in conflict writing, inflicting a thousand cuts to bleed the victim white. It does not matter if these methods do not live up to any standard of valour or chivalry that wars through the ages, even the most bitter ones, have seldom abandoned altogether, and when they have been, at least suffered the indignation of the world. Here too there would be indignation from the conscientious world, but the difference in the situation is, the invisible perpetrators of the dirty war would not care. For them, the end is all and the means to the end is inconsequential. Who otherwise would plant bombs stealthily in crowded areas, knowing full well those who end up killed or injured would be perfectly innocent people? It is extremely sinister to think that these criminals would use their ability, and indeed lack of scruples to kill and injure helpless and defenceless ordinary people, as their blackmail weapon.
This war is not only terrifying, but also changing the notion of valour and war itself. It perpetrators would probably be hoping the reaction of the Indian state goes overboard and alienate more people. In fact, it would have planned its attacks in such a way as to bring the situation to such a pass. In an infinite number of ways, even the revolutionary wars and insurgencies of the Northeast are far more tangible, and in the classical sense of the term, honourable. At least the enemies are known to each other and before the lumpen takeover in recent times, care taken not to hurt the ordinary citizenry. The fight in this circumstance is generally restricted to combatants alone. Because this is so, even those insurgencies in the Northeast which all of us who have been observers of their development thought were intractable, now seem much more open to democratic solutions. We would very much like the insurgencies in our land to achieve honourable ends where nobody is left with a sense of defeat but all end up as winners. But even if such a happy future is destined to remain elusive, we hope that none of the insurgencies and revolutions degenerates into the kind of mindless terrorism that Mumbai is witnessing, unmindful anymore of the profile of victims created. There have been tendencies of such a scenario emerging here too, fortunately, good senses seem to be have prevailed on this count, and those activities are on the wane, we hope permanently. In the meantime, in these times of uncertainty, we hope the country is able to remain calm, and while doing the needful, does not at any stage lose itself in any kind of overkill which can only cause hurt to itself in the long run.

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