12 July 2006

Terrorism is here to stay

Imagine this: You’re on your way home after a hard day’s work. You board the usual local commuter train to your suburban home. You fend off the rush-hour squeeze from other commuters to get a place. You catch up on some gossip from the daily tabloid. You talk to your neighbour in the seat beside you. You answer a call on your mobilephone telling your wife that you’d be home soon. You stare out of the window dreaming many things… Then an explosion erases your entire life from this planet.

Something like this may have happened in the train bomb blasts of last evening in Mumbai; killing hundreds and injuring several times that number. Of course, some of those tales we’ll never get to know.

The instrument of terrorism was probably very simple: a bomb in a bag in a crowded train. It has been used before against Mumbai; in buses too, besides in crowded places. But more importantly, it has exposed the vulnerability of life in modern Mumbai. The terrorists knew how to exploit this. They planned seven such bombs to go off in seven different trains in a matter of a few minutes – too little time for Mumbai to spread the word to save lives.

Terrorists want to cause terror. Some say, terrorists don’t really want to kill people, but to gain sympathy for their cause. Free Ireland. Jerusalem is ours. Get out of Iraq. Release our comrades from your jails. Quit India. They want to show their power by disrupting peace, or taking hostages, or exploding bombs at places and times of their choice. They do it in order to warn, not really to destroy. What makes last evening’s act more terrifying is that no specific demands were made.

It looks like terrorism is here to stay in Mumbai. How do we prevent it? How do we reduce the damage? How do we save lives?

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