Peace in Mumbai exists in a glass house – a house that is periodically shattered. But with the country’s financial capital having been the victim of a high-profile attack as recently as November 2008, few would have imagined that the shadow of terrorism would envelop it again so soon.
Yet three blasts in the space of 15 minutes earlier today have again rocked the confidence of the city’s population. All the blasts took place in crowded places during Tuesday’s evening rush hour period. So far, 21 people are reported to have been killed, with more than a hundred more injured.
The first blast took place at the business hub of Zaveri Bazaar in South Mumbai, the second in the Dadar Kabutarkhana area, and the third at the Opera House in South Mumbai. They were detonated at the busiest time of day, when millions were returning home from work. The bombs were planted not on the main streets, but on the busy by-lanes that are usually buzzing with activity.
Some media reports quoting Mumbai police blame the banned terrorist group the Indian Mujahideen (IM) for the attack. IM is believed to be the Indian arm of the Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Immediately after the attacks, reports noted that the day happens to be the birthday of Kasab, the Pakistan born terrorist who was arrested after the 26/11 attack and who is in the custody of the Mumbai police (although other reports have said that Kasab was actually born in September).
One thing is already clear – these blasts are aimed not only at taking innocent lives, but also at shattering the country’s religious harmony.
Although Pakistan was one of the first countries to denounce the terror attack in Mumbai, many people’s anger is still being directed against their neighbour, and they hold Islamabad responsible for the tragedies that have struck this city. This anger has been exacerbated by a feeling that Pakistan has failed to take sufficiently tough action against the terror networks responsible for the 26/11 attack.
The people’s rage can be seen spilling over on TV, with many blaming the Indian government for being too soft on terror. Based on the prevailing mood right now, the public wants New Delhi to act.
Sadly, the attack comes just as New Delhi and Islamabad have resumed talks after a two-year hiatus in the aftermath of 26/11; Pakistan’s foreign minister is scheduled to visit soon for the next round of talks soon.
There’s a genuine chance the latest attacks, though, might further cloud the chance of progress, and the Indian government will come under significant pressure to adopt a tough line over the activities of groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, whose leadership appears to continue to operate freely from Pakistan.
The fear among many observers is that India’s tolerance for foreign sponsored terrorist attacks has reached a breaking point, and that any major attack could escalate into a full-scale war between these two nuclear-armed South Asian nations.