Mumbai remembers terror victims, gets on with life

December 26th, 2008 - 1:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Dec 26 (IANS) Against the backdrop of a calm sea, a small group of Jews lit candles in a quiet corner off the Gateway of India and chanted prayers in a sombre voice.That quiet corner on the seashore, far from the madding Christmas crowds, was chosen, not by them, but by their friend Gabriel Holzberg five years ago to pray in as serene a manner as the noisy multitudes on the vast sandy expanse would allow.

This year, they did not have Rabbi Gabriel of the Nariman House nor his wife, Rivka in their midst but only their memories - and a firm resolve to stand for universal peace and brotherhood in the face of global terror.

Though they prayed in isolation Wednesday night, the Jews, who came from Israel to pay homage to their kin killed by terrorists exactly a month ago, were not alone in remembering the victims of the horrendous 26/11 terror strike.

As the Mumbai police are busy investigating the multiple strikes while the political leadership is busy explaining the various measures the government is taking to strengthen the security of the country’s commercial capital, the citizens are wondering whether the third major terror attack on the city would be the last after all.

Outwardly, one can see life going on as usual everywhere in Mumbai including its all-important southern portion, targeted and held to ransom by the terrorists Nov 26-29.

This was true in other parts of the city even within 48 hours of the strike, as the National Security Guard commandos and police personnel were still battling the terrorists in Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Oberoi-Trident and Nariman House.

But this time, citizens of ‘resilient’ Mumbai have made it amply clear that a return to routine must not mean forgetting the shocking incident.

“Life will go on - work and play, pleasure and pangs - but the citizens will never forget the latest terror strike; by and large they will be watchful of the government, see whether it is delivering on its promises and themselves act responsibly through alert networks,” said Shailesh Kothale, a young executive who had participated in the mammoth citizens rally at the Gateway of India a week after the strike.

Theatre artist Ajit Kelkar had an interesting way to put across his feelings: “The 26/11 strike has jolted me out of my cynicism vis-à-vis the state and I think it has also jolted the government out of its sloth.

“I think the state will really do all it can for the security of Mumbai and the country as a whole.”

Echoing his optimism was a senior police officer who participated in the meetings the state’s new chief minister Ashok Chavan held to finalise Mumbai’s security beef-up plans.

“The speed with which the funds (Rs.1.27 billion) were released for purchase of speed boats, sophisticated weapons and new coastline check-posts among other things was quite unlike the usual government,” the officer told IANS, adding that the process of creating a state security guard force and revamping the state intelligence set-up has also begun.

However Renu Aghor, a housewife, does not share the optimism.

“The popular anger was amplified - and acknowledged - as the high-brow sections of society were at the receiving end of the strike this time; the western world reacted the way it did as so many foreigners were killed and the governments in Delhi and Mumbai woke up as never before largely because of these two factors, all of which is only an instant response.

“But if you look at the way the ruling parties prevaricated on changing the state leadership and acting against (Union Minority Affairs Minister) A. R. Antulay (for his statements doubting the circumstances of ATS chief Hemant Karkare’s death) shows their preoccupation with vote-bank politics,” she said.

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