By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent
NEW DELHI: Ironically, though Mumbai-siege was not the first time that Indians have fallen victim to terrorists, the issue has many firsts linked with it. It is for the first time that the rich and the foreigners, particularly the British, Americans and Jews, have been specifically targeted, in addition to common Indians. Terrorist-incidents have earlier in the year been marked primarily by serial blasts in Malegaon (September 29), Delhi (September 13), Bangalore (July 25), Ahemdabad (July 26) and Jaipur (May 13), affecting largely the middle and lower-middle classes. Though India has time and again held militant groups based in Pakistan responsible for terrorist incidents taking place here, in the recent years, it is for the first time that Indian leaders are repeatedly talking about the same in loud tones. â€œPakistan must keep its situation under control. There are people there who are always ready to carry out bloody attacks against our country,â€ Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said while addressing an election rally in India-occupied Kashmir (December 14). He also expressed Indiaâ€™s willingness to normalize ties with Pakistan, provided it disallows use of its territory for terrorist attacks against India. â€œAll issues including Jammu and Kashmir can be resolved through dialogue,â€ Singh said.
It is for the first time that Prime Minister Singh has extended apology for the failure of his government to prevent terror strikes the people here have fallen victim to. Addressing the Lower House of the Parliament (Lok Sabha) at the end of a daylong debate focusing on Mumbai-issue, Singh said: â€œOn behalf of the government, I would like to apologize to our people for the fact that these dastardly acts could not be prevented.â€ Referring specifically to Mumbai terror-strikes, he said: â€œIt was a very calculated and sinister attack, intended to cause widespread terror and damage to image of India. The forces behind these attacks wanted to destabilize our secular polity, create communal discord and undermine our countryâ€™s economic and social progressâ€ (December 11).
The same day, Parliament unanimously passed a resolution, with both Houses expressing their â€œunequivocal condemnation of heinous terrorist attacks in Mumbai by terrorist elements from Pakistan, claiming hundreds of innocent lives and seeking to destroy values that India stands for.â€ Asserting that India shall not â€œcease her efforts until terroristsâ€ are â€œexposed and brought to justice,â€ the resolution stated, the country â€œshall firmly counter all evil designs against its unity, sovereignty and territorial integrityâ€ and â€œthe ideal of a secular and democratic India shall prevail.â€
The government has been forced to acknowledge for the first time that security lapses were responsible for a handful of militants being able to hold life in Mumbai at stake. While making a statement in the Parliament, Home Minister P. Chidambaram admitted that there were â€œgapsâ€ in the intelligence set-up, because of which the government will take steps to insulate the country from Mumbai-like terror strikes. â€œIntelligence gathering requires human resources and technical resources. We have identified the gaps,â€ he said. With there being evidence on involvement of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in Mumbai-terror attacks, Chidambaram said: â€œThe finger of suspicion points to the territory of our neighbor, Pakistan.â€
The Mumbai-carnage is also the first one to have cost quite a few prominent politicians their ministerial berths. Chidambaram, earlier the Finance Minister, has taken charge as Home Minister after Shivraj Patil resigned as the Home Minister over the Mumbai-issue. Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil also had to hand in their resignations over the Mumbai-carnage. While National Security Adviser (NSA) M.K. Narayanan too offered to resign, he remains in office.
Politicians keen to exploit Mumbai-terror strikes to their advantage have realized for the first time that the Indian voter is far more smarter than they earlier perceived him to be. This is marked by results of assembly elections in five states, announced last week (December 8), having proved contrary to expectations of those keen to play on communal politics. While the Congress has retained its hold on Delhi, it has wrested Rajasthan from BJP and has returned to power in Mizoram after 10 years. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has returned to power in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Stunned at Congress winning for the record third term in Delhi, BJP president Rajnath Singh said: â€œIn Delhi, the results were quite unexpected and shocking.â€ Singh acknowledged that high-pitch efforts made by BJP to turn the people against the Congress over the Mumbai-issue had failed. â€œLocal issues were given more importance, and voters it seems had already made up their mind (who to vote for),â€ he said.
The results suggest that Indian voters have rejected BJPâ€™s policies based on communalism and terrorism, according to left bloc. â€œIt is a huge setback for BJPâ€™s divisive politics,â€ S. Ramachandran Pillai of Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) said. â€œThe people do not appreciate the BJPâ€™s politics based on communalism and terrorism. The election results also give a clear message to the Congress that the people are not happy with their economic policies,â€ D. Raja of Communist Party of India (CPI) said.
â€œIt shows the maturity of our democracy and the depth of the democratic aspirations of the people of our country. Politicians should realize that peopleâ€™s emotions on issues like terrorism and communalism cannot be politicized,â€ Mohammed Salim (CPI-M) said.
Development agenda has assured Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhanâ€™s (BJP) return to power for the second term. In Chhattisgarh too, BJPâ€™s return to power under Chief Minister Raman Singh rests on development agenda.
Equally significant is the Mumbai-terror attacks having convinced the Indians that it is for them to join hands, cutting across religious differences, to let external and/or internal elements responsible for such incidents know that they (Indians) remain a strong and united forces. Though Muslims across the nation celebrated Eid-Al-Adha (December 9) with traditional religious fervor, the Mumbai-impact was sensed with there being somber note in the celebrations and security strengthened across the country. Many devotees were seen sporting black bands on their arms as their condemnation of terrorist strikes in Mumbai. â€œFestivities are on a low-key, because of the Mumbai-incident,â€ a cleric at Jama Masjid said. Besides, it is for the first time that Indians across the world have displayed their feelings for Mumbai victims and heroes by lighting candles in their memory and forming human chains to display their protest and also unity.