How 26/11 changed us
“I still recall the unfortunate day. The entire country was revving up for a cricket series between England and India. Nobody could have prepared for how drastically their lives were about to change, forever,”said Aarika Sinha who hails from Mumbai and was visiting her grandparents in India during November of 2008.
The catastrophe which was aptly described as the 9/11 of India by Pakistan’s former minister of foreign affairs, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, altered the lives of many Indians. Many believe that the synchronised audacious attacks — that paralysed the financial hub of India — changed the lifestyles and behavior of many if not all.
“I lost one of my dearest friends in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. He was waiting for the train at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). The attackers fired a bullet that tore through his neck. If you ask me whether the execution of Kasab has healed all the wounds then I would certainly say no. More than a hundred Indians lost their lives without any reason whatsoever because of fundamentalists who believe that our mere existence is against the principles of their religious and national ideology. They killed indiscriminately without any mercy or empathy towards the inevitable misery faced by the families and friends left behind,” a Mumbaikar recounted his memories of the attacks on condition of anonymity.
The tragic incidents that unfolded on 26/11 claimed the lives of husbands, wives, children and parents. Socially and politically it affected the already tense relationship between many Indians and Pakistanis who were left to bear the repercussions and carry the resentments of the atrocious attacks.
“I have always been an optimist and believe in peaceful coexistence. Since I live in the United States I get the opportunity to meet people from different religious backgrounds, cultures and traditions. I have many friends who are originally from Pakistan, especially Karachi, and a part of me shattered when it was established that many attackers were from Pakistan. A part of me became cynical. I started questioning whether the friendliness of the Pakistanis I know is genuine or are they hiding behind this façade of camaraderie with Indians just because we live outside India and Pakistan. The incident actually estranged my relation with Pakistanis although none of what happened was their fault. In retrospect, if I had to admit whether I blame Pakistanis for the deadly attacks I would have to say no but I do blame the security regime and the state for their involvement and failure to protect innocent Indian lives,” Sinha added.
Although, I know for a fact that a major chunk of Pakistanis do not intend any harm to Indians, I was still appalled to find that Pakistanis were behind the attacks — an attack which paralysed Mumbai for 60 hours. I truly felt ashamed, knowing that a group of my fellow countrymen were responsible for an act of such massive destruction with complete disregard to precious human lives. Never had I felt such emotions of disgust and embarrassment. Primarily because some of the militants hailed from Pakistan, however, I must assure you that they did not represent the sentiments of true Pakistanis who bear no ill-will against Indians, Americans or innocent citizens of any other country.
Although every killing is equally deplorable and heart wrenching, the brutal murder of the Jewish couple that owned the Chabad or Nariman House, was especially painful. The infant son of the couple, two years of age, survived the ordeal but was left an orphan. I will never be able to forget the picture of his tear smeared face on the day of his parents’ funeral — screaming “Ima, Ima” meaning “Mama, Mama” in Hebrew — as long as I live.
Ajmal Kasab — the only surviving attacker — was executed in India last week. For many, his execution brought closure, whereas for some his “speedy” trial and rejection for clemency raised questions about the Indian judiciary.
On the other side of the spectrum, organisations which indoctrinate young minds took his execution as a reason for launching attacks in retaliation. Lashkar-e-Taiba — a banned militant outfit alleged for perpetrating the dastardly attacks — recently issued a statement claiming that Kasab will be remembered as a hero and “will inspire more attacks”. At the same time Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was shocked at his execution and “vowed to avenge his death” by targeting Indians.
It is a fact that militant factions recruit and brainwash impressionable minds and then use them as pawns to kill innocent people. Most people are shown golden dreams of being granted a palatial mansion in heaven for persecuting Indians, Jews, Christians, Muslim minorities and other non-Muslims. What remains unfathomable is how can manslaughter of innocent men, women and children help anyone to achieve a heights of piety? God created life to be appreciated. Most of us know that such fundamentalist groups only serve one God called “money and power” and I truly feel sorry for the youth that falls for their devious traps as they hail from poor backgrounds and do not have enough awareness.
Today marks the 4th anniversary of the deadly Mumbai attacks and although nothing I say or do would be able to placate the survivors or compensate the loss of innocent blood, I would still like to take this as an opportunity to apologise to the relatives and families of all the Indians, Americans, Canadians, Europeans, Israelis and other victims who lost their lives in this tragic act of terrorism.
I hope that nothing of the sort ever happens again and pray that we all learn to value human lives. I yearn to see a day in which religions are taken as a basis for embracing unity, humanity and treasuring life. Our only chance of survival as a human race lies in living and letting live.
The writer is a Reporter at Dawn.com