Thanksgiving Day Mumbai Massacre – Lesson for India


 A.H. Jaffor Ullah 


On Thanksgiving Day, November 27, we woke up to listen all day the terrible news of terrorists’ attacks in central business district of Mumbai.  The gunmen targeted a posh hotel, an expensive restaurant, a Jewish center, and a busy train station not only to maximize the casualties, but also to capture the attention of the foreign press.  The gunmen had specifically targeted the areas of Mumbai where foreign nationals gather to carry on theirs business dealings. 


The gunmen seized Mumbai for over 48 hours killing 185 or more people including visiting foreigners from multiple nations.  At the city’s Jewish Center, the terrorists killed an American Rabbi and his wife.  Many bystanders were killed too.  As per the news, the government flew an elite anti-terrorist squad from New Delhi who joined the Mumbai police to kill all the terrorists.  In the end, 9 gunmen were killed; only a lone gunman by a stroke of luck survived. India’s Home minister, Mr. Shivraj Patil, tendered his resignation because he became very unpopular in the aftermath of the terrorists attack. 


As the story of gunmen killing hostages in ritzy Taj Mahal hotel was unfolding, a U.S. counterintelligence expert opined that the signature marks of two known terrorist groups’ operating from Kashmir, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e Mohammed, were visible.  These terrorist organizations were organized by Pakistan’s ISI to foment political trouble inside the Indian-held Kashmir. 

 When the lone injured gunman was taken to a hospital, the authorities found that the group of assailants had come from Pakistan by sea.  The 21-year terrorist was recruited from a town near Multan, which is in southeast Punjab.  Given how much negative propaganda goes on day in, day out in Pakistan against India’s control of the majority of Kashmir, it won’t be difficult to assemble a group of jihadists to carry on a terrorist attack in India.  And in all likelihood, that is what has exactly happened. 

As per news reports, the Pakistani gunmen had assembled in Karachi from where they took a vessel to come to the coast of Gujarat.  From there, they finally arrived in Mumbai but in the process they killed an Indian coastguard personnel.  In the wee small hours of the night, the gunmen came ashore by rubber dinghies when they quickly seized Taj Mahal Hotel.  By now, we all know what happened. 


In the Internet, a freethinker South Asian forum started in earnest an intense debate over why is it that there is no dearth of supply of jihadists from Islamic world to carry out terrorist attacks on foreign soil?  One enthusiastic writer filled his blog space by penning an essay entitled “Faith’s Virus.”  In it the author, Dr. Avijit Roy, claimed that jihadism is like a virus which when infects a young mind makes the victim irrational.  Thus, infected with the virus, the jihadist then embarks on a journey to amend things, which his delusional mind thinks had gone awry.  The behavior of a “virus-infected” terrorist could explain why Mohammad Ata, the leader of 9-11 terrorists, was able to rationalize his dastardly action even though he knew how many innocent lives will be lost because of the action taken by his group on that fateful September day. 


It is about the time India should think rationally and ask a rhetorical question about why she has external enemy?  India has joined two other nations, Israel and America, where terrorists from other nations have attacked killing many innocent citizens.  Scores of suicide bombers both young men and women have undertaken dangerous missions deep inside Israel only to kill themselves along with a few Israelis.  The Scripture is not powerful enough to convert an innocuous Arab young person to become a suicide member.  All the social injustices done to the displaced Palestinians who spent years and years of agonizing days in temporary decrepit camps have fueled the flame of hatred among Palestinians.  This was a mistake on the part of Israelis.  After all, to a Palestine the occupied territories in the West Bank and Gaza strip were theirs.  They were uprooted by the influx of European Jews in the aftermath of the Second World War.  In 1948, Israel was established but the Zionists did not really care about the well beings of the uprooted Palestinians.  One should do a Google search on what the Israeli PM Golda Meir or Menachem Begin had said about the plights of Palestinians to know what an utter benign neglect and so much distrust they had for Palestinian people.  A grave injustice was being done by most Israeli leaderships against the Arabs who called themselves Palestinians.  Is it a small wonder that the Intifada II Movement had no problem finding volunteers to carry out suicide terrorist operations deep inside Israel?  


Why was America targeted by 19 or so Arab terrorists on September 11, 2001?  Again, the issue in the eyes of the Mohammad Ata’s gang was the social injustice done to the Palestinian people.  The Scripture alone in my view is not enough to persuade a would-be-terrorist to become a live bomber.  Israel became a very powerful nation vis-à-vis militarism in the Middle East only because American taxpayers’ money had made the nation a powerful one.  This has not gone unnoticed by Arabs.  On top of this, the Hollywood’s domination of entertainment industries has not sit well with many people in Arab world.  The invasion of airwaves allover the world by American made movies, TV programs have angered many a people allover the world who values modesty, chastity over nudity and promiscuity.  All these are contributing factors when 19 angry Arab men took control of four passenger jetliners in eastern seaboard in America on September 11, 2001. 


In South Asia, India is doing very well economically ever since the nation had open-heartedly embraced the mantra of globalization in the late 1980s.  The mushrooming of call centers and silicon workstations in Bangalore, etc., had made India the envy of the South Asian nations.  The glitz and ritz of Mumbai, New Delhi, Gurgaon, Bangalore, Hyderabad, etc, as viewed by millions in the satellite TVs in the neighboring countries had made an impression that India is an emerging economy.  However, beneath the veneer of this ostensible display of new riches lies the harsh reality of political dominance over Kashmiri people and impoverishment in northeast India where cessationist movements are common occurrence.  India is doing what one may call – a band aid method to squish the rebelliousness of the Kashmiri and NEI dissidents.  


Come to think of it, Kashmir has always been a thorn by the side of India.  In 1947 when Brits left India while dividing the nation into two separate nations, they left hundreds of principalities without assigning them to India or Pakistan based on the census data.  In Kashmir, Muslims were the majority but the king was a Hindu one.  When forces from Pakistan invaded the Jammu valley, the king asked India to come to his aid.  The first full-scale war over Kashmir was fought during 1947-1948.  A ceasefire broke out in the end while Kashmir was divided into two parts one controlled by Pakistan and the other by India.  Since then, 3 more war broke out between these two countries.  In 1948, the U.N. mandated that a plebiscite be given to Kashmiri people to decide whether they should join Pakistan or remain with India.  This plebiscite never did take place due to the vehement opposition of Indian government.  The movement to make Kashmir an independent landlocked country never gathered steam because of India’s persistent protest.  In the meantime, sixty years have gone by but Kashmiri Muslims have lived under Indian rule unhappily, of course.   


Because of the mass-scale discontent in Kashmir, many young Muslim Kashmiris were indoctrinated by such Islamic terrorist groups as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e Mohammed.  The western counterintelligence organizations think that these two terrorist outfits were the brainchild of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), an integral part of Pakistani military.  These organizations have blasted bombs allover Kashmir and its volunteers fought pitch battle with the Indian army from time to time.  In the hands of New Delhi, Kashmir has become a virtual police state where civil rights of Kashmiri Muslims are routinely violated everyday.  Consequently, homegrown terrorist attacks are on the rise against Indian army. 


Under this dire political backdrop, a group comprising of 10 Pakistani terrorists have come ashore on November 26, 2008 to undertake a violent attack on innocent civilians.  They targeted the foreigners to attract the attention of foreign press.  In the end they died; however, their actions opened the question – why is it that India attracts foreign terrorists similar to Israel and America.  The answer lies in social injustice these countries have meted out to various ethnic and political groups.  America’s involvement in arming Israeli army had made America a prime target for terrorist organization such as al-Qaeda.  Israel has drawn ire from Palestinians and neighboring Arabs because of their scorched-earth policy against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza strips.   


India may deny the social injustice charge that has been leveled against them vis-à-vis their treatment to Muslim Kashmiris.  But it is a bitter truth that India’s heavy-handed approach to control the dissident Kashmiris is viewed as an act of gross civil rights violation, which has fueled anti-Indian feeling among Muslims in the South Asian subcontinent. Add to this the cultural domination of neighboring nations by cheap Bollywood flicks and sexually explicit TV programs that may not sit well in Islamic nations. 


India should take positive steps to find a permanent solution in Kashmir.  If the division of Kashmir is anathematic to Indian politicians, then perhaps allowing the Kashmiris to make their country an independent nation is the best alternative solution.  This suggestion would invariably fall on the deaf ear in New Delhi.   

 In summary, the Kashmir problem, which was started in 1947, is the mother of all problems that confront India.  Unless this issue is resolved to the fullest satisfaction of Kashmiri Muslims, Mumbai, New Delhi, or any other big urban center may face the possibility of more terrorist attacks.  This should be the take home message for Indian ruling elites from the Thanksgiving Day massacre in Mumbai.                                          
Dr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans, USA