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Vaibhav Gangan: Who Is Safe?

Who Is Safe?


Comment On The Mumbai Bombing
By Vaibhav Gangan

It was a dreadful afternoon. The year was 1993. The world had known of terrorist attacks only in countries with civil war. I was going about the motions of the day at work, when Dattu, the office assistant, ran in shouting “there’s been a blast”! Almost at the same time, the door of the air conditioning plant of our building threw open with a bang. Many of us rushed to the terrace of our office building, and we could see the smoke near the stock exchange building – one of the blast sites. As we looked on, we heard another blast. We turned around to see smoke near the Air India building, just a stone’s throw away from our office. There was panic as reports of more blasts started coming in – most of which were brushed off as rumours. How can it be true – 13 blasts in an hour within a 20km radius? Too horrifying to be true! Our manager closed our office for business for the day. But when I joined millions of commuters on Mumbai’s local train on my way back home at noon, I could see worried faces everywhere. The blasts were for real – and in different places of the city – increasing the likelihood of my family and friends being affected. Reaching home and finding everyone safe was a great feeling of relief.

I relived that fear last Tuesday - though I was 12000km away from the city that brought me up. But I knew that Mumbai would cope, as it did in on March 13, 1993, a day after the blasts when my local train compartment was as crowded as ever. I knew the city had survived. But this Tuesday was different. The city had not only survived, but had come out more confident. Sure enough, in less than 12 hours, the trains – the very trains – were crowded by millions of brave-heart Mumbaites. “The city that never sleeps” was back on her feet!

After contacting all family and friends, I got confirmation that everyone I knew was safe – just about! I received calls, SMSs and emails of enquiry from friends and families from all over the world. An American journalist friend (also a former colleague) wrote to me, “I could not forget about you all (in this hour of crisis). Besides, you all were so sweet to us after 9/11.” This friend had emailed me at every calamity: tsunami, Delhi blasts and Kashmir quake. An emerging trend from these emails was: people who had experienced bombings (either first-hand or second-hand through their friends or relatives) were the first ones to write. They could feel the grief.

The images and videos of disaster reminded me of the London bombings and the ill-fated 9/11. But many in the western world think of the Mumbai blasts as part of internal strife. The reaction of some was that of indifference. It seems not much has changed in 1993, in terms of world’s understanding of terrorism.

After the 1993 blasts in Mumbai, the Indian intelligence agencies had warned the world of the increasing threat of global terrorism. There was enough proof with the Mumbai police that the 1993 blasts were work of outsiders, not of local people. The links of the suspects were far reaching and were in fact found outside India. But world leaders, especially the US and the UK, regarded the blasts as manifestation of India’s internal conflicts. There was so much that the world could have learnt from India’s blasts.

But it took 9/11 as a wake up call for the US, and the London blasts for the UK to finally acknowledge that the threat is global. No borders are safe. The early signs from last week’s blasts are indicating a similar possibility. A terrorist outfit Lashker-e-Qahar has claimed responsibility for Tuesday's serial blasts in Mumbai and also claimed that the outfit was associated with the Lashker-e-Taiba (apparently founded by Osama).

The message is clear – the whole world is a playground for terrorists. Their fight is not against a particular government. That’s why war on terrorism should not be the priority of just affected countries. We all are in it together – especially with our extended families spread around the world.

India will surely take measures to prevent a recurrence. But other countries can use the information from these blasts to review their internal security. And India will be happy to share that information – as they did after the 1993 blasts when nobody listened! We all are in it; let’s be in it together!

*************

(Vaibhav Gangan is managing editor of The Global Indian (theglobalindian.co.nz), a monthly e-zine for Indians in Australasia.)

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