Mumbai bombings: Terror in a holy land


by Colette Davidson • 11/27/08 • India, my love, what is happening to you?

I am about 400 pages into the 900 page book about India, Shantaram, where the main character and his friends often frequent Cafe Leopold in the southern, Colaba area of the city. The seemingly jovial tourist spot has taken on a new meaning to me as I watch the news now to see that an unknown group has just opened gunfire inside it. And that’s just the beginning – the groups have thrown grenades and shot at innocent people at approximately seven other locations in Mumbai, including the Oberoi Hotel, one of the major five-star complexes in the city.

kolet ink is the blog of colette davidson, a freelance writer for the daily planet and a former assistant editor of the uptown neighborhood news. she recently moved to perigueux, france to work as an assistant editor for the monthly english newspaper french news.

As journalists flock to the action and police officers try (unsuccessfully) to quell the violence, the people of India are left completely without answers, as gunmen continue to rage on as we speak. Having lived in India for three months, even if it wasn’t in Mumbai, I can’t seem to tear myself away from my TV screen, even as the IBN broadcasters’ voices reach glass-shattering pitches of panic. Or perhaps because of it.

Cafe Leopold, not to mention the other hotels and sites hit, are popular with foreigners (in fact, news came out that attackers specifically asked to see American and British passports), which begs the question of a link to terrorism and Al Qaeda. The use of machine guns and hand grenades only goes to mystify further, since attacks of this kind are almost never associated with terrorism – suicide bombers and explosives being the killer of choice. But if not for terrorism purposes, one wonders then why else attacks would be targeting non-natives or at least, wealthy Indian businessmen.

The news says it is to draw international attention, but I think it’s more than that. Of course seven attacks anywhere will garner a media frenzy, so why go to the trouble of targeting foreigners? There is an obvious underlying motive, of which we don’t know yet. The situation reminds me a bit of incidences in China and Japan, where random men ran out into the street with knives (or their cars) to go on killing sprees of innocent people because they hated the world.

But I think the groups involved with this Mumbai rampage have more going on than a personal vendetta. I wish I knew what the reasons were, but I have little light to shed, apart from the fact that India has been fighting with Pakistan for years and years over border and religion issues, so my bet is on that. Now that the U.S. is in a presidential change-over period, the world seems to be going crazy: Irish journalists killed in Somalia, protesters closing down Thailand’s international airport, cholera sweeping Zimbabwe, fighting in Congo… and now India’s going mad. Perhaps these Anti-Christ people got it right. Just kidding.

I remember in a high school psychology class we learned about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The pyramid of desires works to show us that if we don’t have comfort of one level, we can’t move onto the next. For example, if you’re really starving, you can’t possibly concentrate on your Math homework. At the top of the list is personal security. If you’re wondering whether a bullet is going to strike you, you’re probably not thinking about how much you’d like a McDonald’s hamburger.

Bombings in India? It’s a holy country by nature. If India goes, I fear what will go next. Is there nowhere safe in the world anymore? And worse, all these conflicts in predominantly non-white nations make Americans and Europeans even more paranoid about international travel than they already were – but I suppose that’s not saying a lot.

But India, I promise I won’t turn my back on you. I think about you all the time and I’ll visit you soon. But it might not be for a few weeks… and probably not in the South…