Tag Archives: Terrorists
Published: December 2, 2008
By Thomas Friedman
On Feb. 6, 2006, three Pakistanis died in Peshawar and Lahore during violent street protests against Danish cartoons that had satirized the Prophet Muhammad. More such mass protests followed weeks later. When Pakistanis and other Muslims are willing to take to the streets, even suffer death, to protest an insulting cartoon published in Denmark, is it fair to ask: Who in the Muslim world, who in Pakistan, is ready to take to the streets to protest the mass murders of real people, not cartoon characters, right next door in Mumbai?
After all, if 10 young Indians from a splinter wing of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party traveled by boat to Pakistan, shot up two hotels in Karachi and the central train station, killed at least 173 people, and then, for good measure, murdered the imam and his wife at a Saudi-financed mosque while they were cradling their 2-year-old son — purely because they were Sunni Muslims — where would we be today? The entire Muslim world would be aflame and in the streets.
So what can we expect from Pakistan and the wider Muslim world after Mumbai? India says its interrogation of the surviving terrorist indicates that all 10 men come from the Pakistani port of Karachi, and at least one, if not all 10, were Pakistani nationals.
First of all, it seems to me that the Pakistani government, which is extremely weak to begin with, has been taking this mass murder very seriously, and, for now, no official connection between the terrorists and elements of the Pakistani security services has been uncovered.
At the same time, any reading of the Pakistani English-language press reveals Pakistani voices expressing real anguish and horror over this incident. Take for instance the Inter Press Service news agency article of Nov. 29 from Karachi: “ ‘I feel a great fear that [the Mumbai violence] will adversely affect Pakistan and India relations,’ the prominent Karachi-based feminist poet and writer Attiya Dawood told I.P.S. ‘I can’t say whether Pakistan is involved or not, but whoever is involved, it is not the ordinary people of Pakistan, like myself, or my daughters. We are with our Indian brothers and sisters in their pain and sorrow.’ ”
But while the Pakistani government’s sober response is important, and the sincere expressions of outrage by individual Pakistanis are critical, I am still hoping for more. I am still hoping — just once — for that mass demonstration of “ordinary people” against the Mumbai bombers, not for my sake, not for India’s sake, but for Pakistan’s sake.
Why? Because it takes a village. The best defense against this kind of murderous violence is to limit the pool of recruits, and the only way to do that is for the home society to isolate, condemn and denounce publicly and repeatedly the murderers — and not amplify, ignore, glorify, justify or “explain” their activities.
Sure, better intelligence is important. And, yes, better SWAT teams are critical to defeating the perpetrators quickly before they can do much damage. But at the end of the day, terrorists often are just acting on what they sense the majority really wants but doesn’t dare do or say. That is why the most powerful deterrent to their behavior is when the community as a whole says: “No more. What you have done in murdering defenseless men, women and children has brought shame on us and on you.”
Why should Pakistanis do that? Because you can’t have a healthy society that tolerates in any way its own sons going into a modern city, anywhere, and just murdering everyone in sight — including some 40 other Muslims — in a suicide-murder operation, without even bothering to leave a note. Because the act was their note, and destroying just to destroy was their goal. If you do that with enemies abroad, you will do that with enemies at home and destroy your own society in the process.
“I often make the comparison to Catholics during the pedophile priest scandal,” a Muslim woman friend wrote me. “Those Catholics that left the church or spoke out against the church were nottrying to prove to anyone that they are anti-pedophile. Nor were they apologizing for Catholics, or trying to make the point that this is not Catholicism to the non-Catholic world. They spoke out because they wanted to influence the church. They wanted to fix a terrible problem” in their own religious community.
We know from the Danish cartoons affair that Pakistanis and other Muslims know how to mobilize quickly to express their heartfelt feelings, not just as individuals, but as a powerful collective. That is what is needed here.
Because, I repeat, this kind of murderous violence only stops when the village — all the good people in Pakistan, including the community elders and spiritual leaders who want a decent future for their country — declares, as a collective, that those who carry out such murders are shameful unbelievers who will not dance with virgins in heaven but burn in hell. And they do it with the same vehemence with which they denounce Danish cartoons.
December 2, 2008
For Heroes of Mumbai, Terror Was a Call to Action
MUMBAI, India — On any ordinary day, Vishnu Datta Ram Zende used the public-address system at Mumbai’s largest railway station to direct busy hordes of travelers to their trains.
But last Wednesday just before 10 p.m., when he heard a loud explosion and saw people running across the platform, he gripped his microphone and calmly directed a panicked crowd toward the safest exit. The station, Victoria Terminus, it turned out, was suddenly under attack, the beginning of a three-day siege by a handful of young, heavily armed gunmen.
“Walk to the back and leave the station through Gate No. 1,” he chanted alternately in Hindi and Marathi, barely stopping to take a breath until the platform was cleared. No sooner, gunmen located his announcement booth and fired, puncturing one of the windows. Mr. Zende was not hurt.
Overnight, Mr. Zende became one of Mumbai’s new heroes, their humanity all the more striking in the face of the inhumanity of the gunmen. As the city faced one of the most horrific terrorist attacks in the nation’s history, many ordinary citizens like Mr. Zende, 37, displayed extraordinary grace.
Many times, they did so at considerable personal risk, performing acts of heroism that were not part of their job descriptions. Without their quick thinking and common sense, the toll of the attacks would most likely have been even greater than the 173 confirmed dead on Monday.
Not far from the train station, as the same network of gunmen stormed the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel, a sous chef named Nitin Minocha and his co-workers shepherded more than 200 restaurant diners into a warren of private club rooms called The Chambers.
For the rest of the night they prepared snacks, served soda, fetched cigarettes and then, when told it was safe, tried to escort the diners out through the back. They wanted to make sure their guests, many of them Mumbai’s super-elite, were as comfortable as possible.
“The only thing was to protect the guests,” said the executive chef, Hemant Oberoi. “I think my team did a wonderful job in doing that. We lost some lives in doing that.”
During the attacks, six employees from the kitchen staff were slain. Another hotel employee, a maintenance worker on night duty, was shot in the abdomen and remained in critical condition on Monday.
Mr. Minocha, 34, caught two bullets in the left arm. It felt numb.
He could see that the bone had been shattered. He panicked.
“I’m a chef,” he told himself. “I cook with both hands.”
Even after an aborted evacuation bid, hotel workers helped get water for their guests and held up bedsheets to create makeshift urinals. Next to the Nariman House, the headquarters of a Jewish religious organization, where gunmen took hostages, neighbors helped neighbors evacuate to safety.
At another hotel, the Oberoi, staff members ushered restaurant diners into the kitchen and out the door; at that hotel, 10 employees were among the dead.
At Victoria Terminus, also known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mr. Zende’s calls prevented many commuters from walking into the path of two gunmen. “It occurred to me, I should prevent people from going to that side,” he said.
The attackers had already shot up the other wing of the 130-year-old railway station, littering it with dead bodies, puncturing windows with bullet holes.
In choosing their targets, the gunmen spared neither rich nor poor, neither Westerners nor Indians.
At the Taj, for instance, Mr. Minocha was on duty at the Golden Dragon restaurant when gunmen stormed the hotel lobby. He cracked open the door, saw the commotion and promptly closed it. He and his fellow workers escorted diners at his restaurant to the city’s most expensive Japanese restaurant, and finally up to The Chambers, where guests were invited to sit and wait it out.
“They were doing everything they could,” said Bhisham Mansukhani, who had been attending a friend’s wedding reception that night, before he was shepherded into The Chambers.
For the next several hours, the staff tried to keep everyone calm and well-fed. At one point, Mr. Minocha recalled Monday from his hospital bed, he had seen the red dome of the hotel on fire.
Well before dawn, security officers instructed that guests leave in groups of four. The hotel staff lined up, as though in a chain. Some people got out. Others did not. Bullets suddenly came in a burst. That is when Mr. Minocha was hit twice in the forearm.
The gunfire led to a near stampede. Mr. Minocha made it outside, screaming for help. Those who were still inside made a U-turn to The Chambers, which is when a maintenance worker named Rajan Kamble was shot in the back.
The bullet went straight through his abdomen, perforating his intestines, which a couple who had been dining at the restaurant, Prashant and Tilu Mangeshikar, both doctors, tried to push back into place with some bandages and bedsheets.
Prashant Mangeshikar said that even when they were trapped inside a room in The Chambers, the young hotel staff kept unusually calm. “Everything was looking like a holy mess,” he recalled. “The majority was between 20 and 25. Nobody lost their cool.”
At Victoria Terminus, the gunmen acted with a cool precision.
They first struck the long-distance section of the Victoria Terminus, spraying the large waiting hall with gunfire. Those waiting were about to board the slow, crowded, poor-man’s train to Varanasi, scheduled to depart at 11:55 pm, one of many that ferry migrant workers between India’s hinterland and this, its dream city.
Satya Sheel Mishra, who runs a second-floor restaurant called Re-Fresh Food Plaza, saw the two gunmen take their positions and fire. Seven bullets pierced his glass windows. Crouching on the ground, he saw the men shoot indiscriminately and then march toward the other side of the station, where Mr. Zende made announcements for the commuter trains to the suburbs.
Mr. Zende saw the gunmen walk in front of his window. Then he crouched on the ground and heard them shoot. One bullet came through a window. Above his microphone, the Hindu elephant-god Ganesh, believed to be the remover of obstacles, sat in a blue box with twinkling red lights around him. Mr. Zende called his wife. “I am in the office. I’m safe. Don’t worry.”
Mr. Zende joined the railways at the age of 19, when his father, a railway guard, died. With a 10th-grade education, Mr. Zende began at the bottom of the ladder, working himself up to the announcement booth. Now, he commutes an hour and a half each way from a working-class corner on the city’s northern edges, naturally on the railways. He makes little more than $300 a month.
On Monday, a woman strode up the steep, narrow steps to his announcement booth and burst out her praise: “Mr. Zende, you have done such good work. We need more people like you.”
She declined to give her name. She said she was a retired scientist who had stepped out of her home for the first time since the attacks began. She railed against politicians.
Then she signed off. “Jai Hind,” she said, or “long live India.”
Mr. Zende quietly replied, “Jai Hind.”