It is said that 40 terrorists were involved in this attack. 8 terrorists died. 1 is alive. 31 are still to be accounted for.
We cry about the loss of the 102 innocent. Nobody is crying about the 8 terrorists who also died. I am not either.
But do we realize that those 8 young men, all between the ages of 8 and 28, are also a loss to the world? There are many other things they could have been other than terrorists. But they chose to be terrorists.
Is it just these 8? No it isn’t. There are hundreds, possibly thousands, in the grips of various terrorist organizations, being trained in body and mind for future attacks, at this very moment. And they are going to train thousands more. Thousands more of eight-to-twenty eight’s.
Is that not a loss to the world?
And are they not going to bring greater losses when they carry out their next attack?
Is it not a loss and failure when evil wins over good?
Like I asked before- who is it that failed? Was it their upbringing? Was it religion? Or was it us?
Once again, I question.
Was this attack in Mumbai, an act of cowardice?
We know that this time it wasn’t a faceless bomb. Instead it was an unmasked and armed militant.
As I’ve mentioned before, they were not afraid to die, and they were not afraid of living life in jail if caught alive either.
They had a cause, and were willing to go to any extent for its success.
When army men kill in battle and lay down their lives for their country, it isn’t considered an act of cowardice. When freedom fighters boldly challenge their captors, they risk their lives, and that isn’t called cowardice either. When they finally do die for what they believe in, it is called courage. They are called martyrs. We honor them like saints.
This is not to make excuses for what the terrorists have done, and will continue to do. But this is to try and understand it. This is not to take away from the nobility of our soldiers either. I love them and am fiercely proud of them.
Terrorists also have something they believe in. Something they are willing to give their life for. The cause is not honorable. But it’s a cause all the same.
They live their lives with passion. They have so much zest for this life, that they kill in order to live it the way they dream. They aren’t afraid of this life and they boldly contest the next. They have confidence in heaven. They do not obviously live by the standards of chivalry and honor that the rest of society lives by. They do not care for our code of conduct.
So how then can it be called cowardice?
One can call it disgraceful, misled, sinful, primitive even. But surely you cannot award it cowardice.
**** Readers please note: 'Gripped By Terror' is one long article. I have divided it into 6 sections, in 6 different blog posts. But it is to be considered as one article and read from the top most post, that is this one, to the bottom. It has been divided to make it easier for reading, and also so that you could leave comments at whichever point you feel like. Do not regard the time stamps, and do not read it from the post at 1:12 am. ****
Everything that’s in my head and heart. I’m just pouring it out, in as coherent a form as I can make it.
Gripped by terror is exactly what I was, since Wednesday, the 26th of November 2008.
Reason- Gunmen, terrorists, had opened fire at 11 locations in Mumbai, India.
Let me tell you how I came to know about it.
I had an exam on Thursday and was supposedly studying. I had fallen asleep over my books, when my phone buzzed at 10:55 pm. It was a message from a friend saying “Turn on the news.” I was a little irritated. “What turn on the TV?!” I said. But then I recalled that the last time I’d gotten a message like this.. it was from the same friend. And it was a few months back when there was a terrorist attack at the Mariott Hotel in Lahore. So I knew something bad had happened.
I switched on the telly to see pictures of the famous Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, in flames. Apparently, gunmen, terrorists, had opened fire at 11 locations in Mumbai, India.
“Its hardly news.” I replied to my friend. This was completely misleading of what was actually going on within me.
I was hooked. I could not drag my eyes away from the television. I don’t have any relatives and only one friend in Mumbai who stays far from the scene of crime. But I was glued to the TV and at 2 am in the morning, I was still watching.
It was only after several hours of watching, did I become conscious of what I was doing. Why was I so hooked? Was it because it was India? Maybe. That was when it dawned on me- this was a story like never before. This attack was completely different from anything that has taken place, not just in India, but anywhere in the world.
You know how people keep saying that terrorism is a cowardly act? In my opinion, this time it wasn’t. All the attacks we have had over the last few years, around the world, have been carried out by unknown assailants. At least no one knew who they were initially, and in a few rare cases, they were caught after tedious investigations.
All the previous major attacks we have heard of, have been hit and run. Bombs were placed and detonated from afar. Or it’s a suicide bomber who nobody expected would blow himself up, and not much could be found about the suicide bomber from his remains.
I asked my friend how he always seemed to be watching the news when something like this happens. He said that a friend’s friend of his had been shot dead. That’s how he knew.
I slept off some time around 3 am. When I woke up at 6, even before I opened my eyes, my hands reflexively reached for the remote. It had been about 12 hours since the crisis broke out. It was still not over.
Is this not different?
While going to school on Thursday morning though, I remembered another friend whose brother is in college in Mumbai. I asked her about it. She said he’s fine. Then she asked me something I really didn’t understand. She said, “Its happening all the way in Mumbai. Why do you care?”
Terrorism has no religion.
Not matter what, I will always support that. I have several Muslim friends. Some of my best friends are Muslims. Why am I even talking about Muslims here? It is because of the unfortunate fact that terrorism has become synonymous with Islam.
But how much can you blame the world for that stereotyping? Nearly every terrorist act in the last 5 years or so, has been in the name of Allah, for the purpose of Jihad. Terrorists freely admit their intentions of wiping out all infidels.
Somehow, only selected verses from the Quran seem to be taught to these young men and women.
I see a parallel here with Catholicism. Even Judaism. Even Hinduism. Devotees allow somebody else to dictate religion to them. They become pawns in somebody else’s understanding of the holy texts.
Let me explain. For centuries, Jews were not allowed to read the Torah. Only rabbis read and explained the scriptures. Catholics too, surrendered their beliefs to the butchering of priests. They never took their version of the Bible home, to study it for themselves. The binding caste system of the Hindus did the same thing. Only the Brahmins, who belonged to the highest class, were allowed to read the scriptures. Why, lower castes weren’t even taught how to read, just so that there would be no danger of them even accidently reading the ancient texts!
However, the kind of extremist undertakings that we see happening in Islam today, did not happen in these other religions. Yes we had the crusades by the Catholics. But then the Protestants broke away, and that history never repeated itself. And the caste system in Hinduism, though still alive, is not practiced to the same degree. It now mainly shows up for marriages and other alliances only.
Like a Muslim friend of mine said, most religions evolved with time. Islam seems to have not.
Coming back to what I started with, I cannot however say that Muslims are terrorists. Any God loving person wouldn’t do what they are doing. And as yet another Muslim friend of mine said to me, “We don’t even consider these terrorists as Muslims. A true Muslim would never do this. This is not what Islam teaches us.”
How can a religion ask of its followers to kill followers of other faiths? If it did, it wouldn’t even be a religion anymore. It would be a perversion.
More on stereotypes.
Just like my Muslim brothers and sisters are shaking their heads all over the world and saying “This is not us”, I’d like to tell you about another stereotyping that I do not like.
It’s the stereotyping of non Muslims.
We do not want terrorists to generalize all Indians or all Americans or all anybody’s as bad people either. We do not want to be held responsible for what the administration 60 years ago did or didn’t do. Plenty of water has flown under the bridge, and wrongs have been done by both sides. But to kill random innocents now is wrong. Does my judgment count for anything?
I have questions. Lots of them.
I asked a friend about the hierarchy of Islamic administration. Like in Christianity, in India itself, there is the Church of North India and the Church of South India. Each has its own diocese. The various priests all come under a Bishop. Then of course there is the Pope, who is the highest authority for Catholics.
So what is the system like in Islam? She wasn’t able to answer me, but I hope to find out soon.
Guessing that there is a head cleric, for the entire world, maybe at Mecca, I would like to know, what they have to say about all this. Do they not also agree that what is going on is a gross misinterpretation of the Quran? Then why are they silent? Even if there is no head cleric, why aren’t Muslims uniting to show the world different, to clear up misconceptions? Why isn’t there a movement? Why aren’t they coming forward, to not only tell the world that this is not what Islam is all about, and confirm what I believe, but also to save these many Muslims who are laying their own lives for hoped martyrdom?
Coming back to the terrorists now. More questions.
How is a blast in a hotel, a Holy War? How is killing random people, who I am sorry to say, nobody but their immediate family and friends care about, fulfilling their purpose? If they want some attention- which we know they do- why don’t they target famous figures, world leaders and the like? Instead they target not just innocent people, but also random people? Why?
I was watching the news when the first image of one of the terrorists was put up for the first time. It was the picture of a young man, who didn’t look older than 20, in a black T-shirt saying Versace, with a blue backpack. And an AK47. He had what appeared to be a line of blood on his face. And he was smiling. Not even in an evil sinister way. He was just smiling.
It scared me. It scared me because I was just thinking how he could have been my neighbor, or the boy who sat in the row behind me at college. He could have been my best friend’s boy friend. He could have been anybody. Of all the pictures of the terrorists that we have seen, it is surprising that not one of them had the trademark beard and traditional clothes.
The man/boy with the Versace T-shirt featured in nearly every photo taken. He was obviously not the most careful of the lot. I want to know what became of him.
None of them wore masks. Maybe they had no plans of escaping anyway? Maybe they had either planned to die in battle, or were aware and prepared to spend life in jail if they were caught alive. Why else would they not wear masks?
But what sort of indoctrination and brain washing prepares you for death or a life in jail?
I immediately thought of the parents of these young men. Do they know what their sons have done? Its usually a big deal for parents to be called to school even, when their sons have done something stupid like bunk class or get into a fight. But what about when their sons grow up to be terrorists?
Was it them as parents who failed? Or do they believe the same things as their sons? Was it religion who failed them? Was it us, who showed them too little love, for them to think there was any good in the world?
When I saw images of the guns being used, they looked familiar. Then of course I learnt that they were AK47’s. I don’t know anything about defense and arms, but I do know that model number. The news also mentioned that Bazookas were being used by the terrorists.
I was reminded of how I first learnt the word Bazooka. It was more than 5 years ago when we bought our first computer. I had asked some of my neighbors in the building, to give me some computer games. I didn’t care for them, but I thought that’s what everybody did when they had computers- they played computer games on them.
They installed 2 games for me that day (which I never played finally). One was an NBA Basketball game. And the other was this cops and robbers kind of game, where the bad guys had fancy cars and fancy guns. The boy who gave me the game played a few rounds to show me how it worked. And I remember him getting excited when the ‘bazookas’ were used.
That’s the story of how I learnt of bazookas.
I also remember an argument I had with a friend of mine a few months back, about video games. I swore that when I had kids, they were not going to be given those toy guns with the springs inside, that made annoying shooting noises when one pulled the trigger. They were also not going to be allowed to play boy-games that involved shooting and killing. And finally, there would be no watching of wrestling on TV.
My friend disagreed with my point of view. He insisted that there was nothing wrong with these things; he didn’t turn out wrong after all.
That’s not the point. If I had a choice, I would remove the word ‘hate’ and ‘kill’ from the dictionary. That would sadly not solve anything. Hate is in all of us. So is love. We are born with it. We are born into it. But I want for every child in the world, to not know of these evils.
That’s like asking for a dog’s tail to be straight. Its like that story about the man who raised a leopard cub, on vegetarian food all its life, but one day when the cub licked blood off a child’s wound, it knew what it was made for.
So how exactly do we root out terrorism?
In spite of all the hope and faith I have, some practical fibre in me tells me that this is something that will never leave us completely. Its like these microorganisms that are said to be immortal, because nothing can kill them.
Its like a horror movie, where you slice it once in the head, and 2 new ones appear.
As long as there is one left, there will be another.
So lets meet over coffee sometime.
And talk about how we are going to deal with this
On religion once again.
Its times like these that disillusion a lot of people, with regards to religion and faith. They ask where God is in all this.
Allow me to tell you what Mahesh Bhatt said.
“Don’t expect your gods and goddesses to come down and sort this out for us. We are the architects of this destruction.”
Doesn’t that make sense?
A far cry from ‘heaven being a place on earth’, like the Bangles felt it was.
One of my friends had on her Facebook status, that she is hoping for justice.
Justice? That word has lost all its meaning. This is not a fair fight. When innocent civilians have guns held to their heads, as a barter, that is not a fair fight.
According to the traditions of warfare, one never attacks an unarmed opponent. And one never attacks when the opponent is sleeping. Those were the good old days of chivalry and honor.. and justice.
Why is this happening to us?
This is not the kind of philosophy I would like to give a grieving person, or probably receive when I am grieving. But here’s what I think:
Know how they say ‘when you smile the world smiles with you, but when you frown, you frown alone’? Apparently this is not so. In fact the world doesn’t always smile with you when you are smiling, because the sight of someone else happy and successful burns them up. On the other hand, it is during times of grief that our hearts melt for each other. We make chicken soup for a person we don’t like just because we are good people deep down inside.
There’s a particular medical condition that some people are born with, in which, they cannot feel pain. You can put staples in their hand, or pluck out each strand of hair from their head, but they won’t feel a thing. Lucky for them you say? Not so. These people are at the disadvantage of not knowing if their body is burning or if they have lost a limb, because of this very same wolf in sheep’s clothing. And by the time they do realize it, it might be too late.
Pain is a necessary evil.
Times of happiness do not make humanity come together. Times of sadness do. Laughs, cries and music have no language just like terrorism has no religion.
To end, I want to say this.