At six in the morning on November 27, when Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and half his cabinet drove past the Oberoi, the hotel where terrorists held sway, in a procession of 25 cars and well-protected by grey commandos, the worthies didn’t dare to take even a surreptitious glance at the policemen and reporters who lined the street. In another time, in another Mumbai, these gentlemen would not have missed the moment of photo ops and platitudinous banalities.
But this Thursday morning, as Mumbai bled and mourned, they were on the run. And it’s unlikely that they would have found a place to hide.
Well, there is no place for the entire political class to take refuge, for, the whispers of the dead—India’s political donation to the global enterprise of jihad—will frighten them out of every conceivable hiding place. Mumbai 2008 is the bloodiest of ironies that India, unarguably the softest victim state of hate, could have lived without. As the Indian Navy was excelling in its daredevilry by fighting pirates in the faraway Gulf of Aden, a few rubber boats could offload around two dozen armed jihadis in front of Mumbai’s prominent landmarks— the Taj and the Oberoi, the twin towers of the maximum city. And among the dead in the war on Mumbai was the boss of Maharashtra’s ATS (Anti-Terrorism Squad), which has been in the middle of a politically volatile investigation into the so-called saffron terror.
Sadly, the enormity of the Evil threatening the foundational solidity of the nation is yet to be comprehended by the political class, particularly the ruling establishment, which in every hate attack sees a million electoral possibilities. The impotent rage and vows of punishment in the wake of every terrorist strike—the frequency of which would have put any other country on permanent alert—are customary political theatre meant for the consumption of the gullible. The dead—who continue to multiply—don’t power India to new national resolutions.
They remain statistical trivia: 1,202 have been killed in 23 terrorist strikes in the country since the attack on Parliament. Five of them took place between December 2001 and May 2004 when the NDA was in power and the rest during the last four-anda-half years of the UPA Government. In three instances, terrorists were killed, but in all others, there have either been noarrests or, when arrests were made, the Government has not been able to secure their convictions. Still, we are not ashamed. And still, we are lining up to be killed.
As Mumbai becomes a horrific finale to a year that made India a nervous wreck, the politicians are back in the game—to be played with added deception in this season of elections. This could not have come at a worse time for the Congress which is already on the defensive over the twin issues of terrorism and national security. This week, voters in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan elect their new rulers and though L.K. Advani, who talked to the prime minister after the attacks began on the night of November 26, wisely desisted from playing the political blame game, no one doubts that his party stands to gain.
Grief and fear do not unite India. They divide us, for the nation is negotiable, but the vote bank is not, sorry. Mumbai 2008, perhaps more than Ayodhya 1992, is bound to change the syntax of Indian politics, and, immediately, it may reward the Indian Right. The colour of power in 2009 will be determined by the blood that discoloured the night of Mumbai on November 26.
Let that alone not be the political conclusion of Mumbai. India cannot afford to remain a nation in denial, and a nation shackled by the politics that divides. Winning an election is no longer the same as winning the soul of the nation. India, the most savaged nation on earth by the mercenaries of gods, is waiting for its political redeemer.