Mumbai attacks spark outrage in city fed up with terrorism

While Indian officials praised the city's resilience after Wednesday's blasts, Mumbai residents said they are simply resigned to life under threat.

Saurabh Das/AP
Policemen stand guard as commuters walk by the lane that witnessed a bomb explosion Wednesday, as it is opened for public after police investigation at Zaveri Bazaar, in Mumbai, India, Friday, July 15. Investigators were examining forensic evidence and footage from surveillance cameras Friday for clues about who orchestrated the triple bomb blasts that shook India's business hub of Mumbai.

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Indian officials remain unsure about who is behind Wednesday's blasts in Mumbai, in which three bombs went off in different spots in the city, but Mumbaikers and others across the country know that regardless of the investigation's outcome, they are fed up with the government's inability to tamp down terror.

The only concrete clue so far is the sophistication of the bombs used, implying that the bombers had explosives training and may have used timers to synchronize the explosions, according to The New York Times. “They were not crude bombs but sophisticated devices," Home Secretary R.K. Singh said. “Only somebody who has training can assemble those devices."

Rain has hampered efforts to gather evidence from the sites and no potential suspects have been identified.

Inspection of footage from surveillance cameras revealed persons behaving suspiciously at the scenes of the attacks, but no more is known about them, BBC reports. The owner of a scooter in which explosives were planted has been identified as well, according to the Indian Express.

Indians are lashing out against the government, asking why an overhaul of the country's security forces after the deadly 2008 shooting spree did not prevent another attack. After 2008, the government expanded its police forces and their training, invested in new equipment, and beefed up its police arsenal. It also created a federal agency specifically to investigate terrorist attacks.

The government's response is that it's unlikely it will ever be able to completely stop terror attacks, the Associated Press reports.

"We live in the most troubled neighborhood in the world," said Indian Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, pointing to nearby Pakistan and Afghanistan. "Every part of India is vulnerable."

The government has praised Mumbaikers for their ability to endure the attacks. Such rhetoric about the city's strength is a deflection from the real issue – the fact that it can't do anything, writes Ramesh Thakur in The Australian.

(The government) seems to soak up the warm and fuzzy feelings of rhetorical pats on the back from foreign leaders about courage, resilience, patience and refusal to be provoked into any retaliatory action against countries from where the attacks originate.

Instead of credible threats and effective action against terrorists, the Prime Minister urges calm on citizens.

Anyone can counsel caution. The real challenge is to offer practical suggestions on what to do, not what to avoid doing. The undying proof of India as a soft state earns the contempt of Islamists at a government that is all bark and no bite – except that, frankly, even the barks are getting fewer and fainter – and the cynical resignation of citizens.

In a column in the Times of India headlined "If US can after 9-11, why can't India after 26-11?" (26-11 being India's shorthand for the 2008 attack), former government official V. Balachandran claims that antiterrorism efforts aren't working because they are decentralized and left to the states, not because terrorism is impossible to fight.

The Centre has no statutory role in internal security, except providing additional forces, while the ill-equipped and overburdened state police has to manage all aspects of internal security, including terrorism. This is because we copied the colonial Government of India Act, 1935, on Centre and state "lists" placing "public order" and "police" under the states.

In 2001, the NDA government's group of ministers (GOM) recommended a change by placing direct responsibility for inter-state crime and terrorism on the ministry of home affairs (MHA). But nothing was done by the NDA and UPA governments till 26/11 hit us, when the National Investigation Agency (NIA) was created. However, three years since then, we are yet to see NIA making proactive, all-India efforts on terrorism.

Several op-eds ran in Indian and international newspapers that scoffed at Indian officials' talk about Mumbai's resilience – it's not resilience, Indians said, but a number of other less admirable things: apathy, reluctant acceptance, and inuredness to terrorism.

In a column for Indian Express, Mumbai resident Shyam Benegal writes:

Mumbai has suffered time and again, there have been blasts after blasts. Is that the reason why Mumbaikars have somehow got immune to panic even in the aftermath of an explosion? Is that why people here don’t get scared so easily like they do elsewhere? Are people here indeed getting accustomed to such a thing happening in the city? If so, that is a dangerous thing. For this should not be a norm for any city. That is why, even as an orderly Mumbai took care of itself and of the danger in its midst, I worried about the sense of casualness that has crept into the system.

People have started to feel that the state does not have any control over what is happening in Mumbai. … Mumbai has its different reactions. When Opera House was in damage-control mode, across the road in Chowpatty, the restaurants were full and busy. The Fort Area, where Zaveri Bazaar is located, was not in a spot of bother either. The city went on functioning. The city has become more resilient, you realise. But you also wonder: at what cost has this happened?

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