Remembering the black day – 26/11

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It was a night of terror as the nation watched gory footage of ten gunmen killing people indiscriminately. Members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, carrying AK-47s and grenades, backpacks straining with dry-fruit made a maritime entry into Mumbai, after which they unleashed horror in the city. The young members of the terror outfits were seen smiling and grinning in videos as they sprayed bullets all over, they were but brainwashed bots. Those events will remain etched in the history of the city of dreams – Mumbai. Today, 13 years post the horrifying terror attacks, the question still remains – How safe is Mumbai? Many would dismiss the question as superfluous and speculative but then it’s better safe than sorry. For instance, the Mumbai coastline looks as porous today as it was on 26/11, 2008. One American even noted, “Shocking and brazen, the brutality was, without question, some of the worst that we have seen in terrorism in modern times. Terrorists using fairly ordinary weapons wreaked great havoc and destruction. We need to know what happened, how it happened, so we are better prepared to deal with potential attacks of a similar nature.”

The ten terrorists were well-armed, well-trained who fanned out to multiple locations. They attacked a railway station, hotels, and religious facilities. This was possible as Mumbai had enough convenient targets. It was a chaotic city and nothing much has changed in that over the years. Ironically, these terrorists helped themselves around the city by using Google Earth. India’s intelligence agencies even today cannot seem to match the ISI. Had it been otherwise, we would not have seen Pulwama or Uri or Pathankot and tens of others. Keeping Mumbai aside, what if similar elements make a sea landing in Kochi or Lakshadweep or Goa and a score of other landings along India’s long winding coastline? We Indians are known to be the worst of people when it comes to learning from history. Add to that, the right-wing obscurantists have their own reading of history, peppered and made spicy with fairytales and mythological love angles!

We cannot let our guard down. But are we sure we haven’t let our guard down? That is the point. A determined terrorist will be patient and always plotting. The 26/11 terrorists knew Mumbai too well to be dismissed as persons of a fluke. Have we devised plans to handle another 26/11? If we have, nobody is talking. As for our own preparations, and are we safer as a nation today from a 26/11 type attack; are Mumbai and Kochi or Kolkata and Chennai, safer today? Common citizens wouldn’t know. Do we have a unified command center to deal with such emergencies? Again, who knows? The United States’ Homeland Security formed a ‘National Response Framework’ after 9/11. Are we living in our own safe bubbles? The enemies (not one enemy!) have changed tactics—Kill soldiers all in one go! Do a Pulwama and a Galwan. Then it is ‘Wages of War’, not mindless mayhem wreaked by amphibious proxies. If Kasab’s hanging taught Pakistan anything, we don’t know. But did 26/11 teach us anything? We don’t know!

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