India: Sacred Space, Profane Acts

Indian commuters read about the Aug. 25 terrorist attacks in Mumbai
Commuters in Mumbai read the morning newspaper, Aug. 26, 2003, the day after terrorists struck their city (Photo: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP-Getty Images).

Terrorists invariably choose targets that bring them maximum publicity and cause the greatest damage. The recent Mumbai (Bombay) blasts in the diamond market of Zaveri Bazaar and before the Gateway of India, like those of the twin towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, the Akshardham Temple in Gujarat, and the Parliament House in New Delhi, were no exceptions.

The terrorists were successful in their Mumbai mission, killing 52 and wounding more than 150 in India’s economic capital, a city of millionaires, billionaires, and Bollywood stars.

Mumbai witnessed heavy bomb blasts in 1993 following the demolition of the controversial Babari Masjid (mosque). The latest bombings came after the Archaeological Survey of India reported that there existed the remains of 10th-century structures under the site where that mosque had stood.

According to the Indian press, suspicion focused on terrorists nurtured by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Hindustan Times wrote, “Nobody with any brains disputes that Pakistan is sending terrorists to India, or that it is providing arms, explosives, training, and money to those who would maim innocent Indians. If the ISI were to stop doing that, it would go out of business.”

Criticizing Pakistan’s activities in nurturing terrorism and supporting India’s stand, The Pioneer argued that the bombings “could not have occurred without a green signal from those who control Pakistan.…It puts a huge question mark against Islamabad’s repeated articulation of its desire for peace with India. Blasts provide another vindication of India’s decision not to hold talks with it until it takes convincing steps to end cross-border terrorism.”

Terrorism, according to Outlook, has become a cottage industry in Mumbai, “with several small groups of young men and women, fearfully motivated riot victims, and highly ed cated sympathizers waging a brutal war to avenge recent wrongs against their community.” Offering background to these bombings, Outlook continued, “The deepening communal divide in Bombay has fueled such fundamentalism. The man behind one of the city’s longest spate of bombings, Jalees Ahmed Ansari, turned to terror in response to what he saw as growing intolerance toward Muslims in the city.”

The Hindu minced no words when it commented: “While millions of ordinary Muslims completely reject and condemn the retaliatory terrorism, the fact remains that hatred breeds hatred. Islamist terrorism of the kind Bombay is witnessing is part of a tragic cycle of communal terror and counterterror.” Blaming the politicians who have encouraged this hatred of one community against the other, The Hindu urged: “These politicians must in the final analysis be held to account.”

Remembering the shocking events of 9/11, The Indian Express wrote, “ The entire world has to now speak in the same language, irrespective of who the terrorists are, what they want and where they strike. Two years after 9/11 there is no forgiveness, or understanding, for the terrorist or his cause anywhere in the world.”