Terror becomes way of life in Mumbai

2011-07-14 14:08

Mumbai - Bombs and blood on the streets of Mumbai are a grim reminder for local people of the traumatic 2008 assault on the city, leaving many with a sense of vulnerability after repeated attacks.

Newspaper headlines summed up the city's weary familiarity with deadly violence, as police began a hunt for the culprits and the shattered families of the 17 victims reflected on lives cut tragically short.

"Yet Again," said the Times of India after the triple blasts that struck at rush-hour in the nation's commercial hub on Wednesday.

"Hit Again!" said its tabloid sister title the Mumbai Mirror.

For many, the carnage in the Zaveri Bazaar jewellery quarter, the Opera House diamond trading hub and the commercial and residential district of Dadar revived memories of the events of November 2008.

Then, 10 heavily armed Islamist militants stormed three luxury hotels, the city's main railway station, a popular tourist restaurant and a Jewish cultural centre, killing 166 and injuring more than 300.

Poor hit hardest

Natwarlal Rotawan said he was watching news reports of Wednesday's attacks with his daughter, Devika, who was just 10-years-old when she was seriously injured in the railway assault.

"She was asking last night why has the country not done anything about terrorists," the 45-year-old said.

"Terrorists are all across the city and the country. It's our politicians who have caused all this. They are not bothered or affected by poor innocent people dying in the country."

Several hundred people have died in Mumbai attacks over the last two decades.

Seven bombs ripped through packed carriages of trains on the city's rail network in July 2006, killing nearly 190. Three years earlier, more than 50 died in blasts at the Gateway of India monument and Zaveri Bazaar.

In 1993, more than 250 people were killed in a series of explosions across the city then known as Bombay.

Resolute residents

"The common man suffers the most in the end," said Ravinder Singh, aged 48, who runs a spare parts shop in the Opera House district, just metres from where the home-made bomb went off in a crowded side-street.

Much is made of the resilience of the estimated 18 million people who live in Mumbai, where thousands of poor, mostly rural migrants arrive each day in the hope of a better life.

India's Home Minister P Chidambaram on Thursday praised the "resolute response", as shops, businesses and street stalls re-opened and the trains ran as usual, despite the attacks and heavy monsoon rains.

"Life goes on as normal," said Vinod Hiranandani, an estate agent who heard Wednesday's blasts. "The daily wage earners have to earn their daily bread. It's a tough place."

But many also wonder when the government to make good on their promises after "26/11" to improve security.

"No Lessons Learnt", the front page of the Mid-day tabloid declared, asking: "When will the mayhem stop?"


Sandeep Sharma, a graphic designer working with an international advertising company, said the repeated attacks had desensitised people.

"I feel ashamed to admit this but the fact is that we are all fine when the attacks don't affect us or anyone in our family," he said.

"Everyone just calls up their family and friends to check if they are safe and once this drill is over, people just forget about the innocent people who have been killed."

"The cold response we exude after every attack is what worries me."

Chhagan Bhujbal, public works minister with the state government of Maharashtra, said Mumbai's reputation made it a prime target for militants.

"An attack on a city like Mumbai rocks the entire nation and gets the attention of the world, which is what terror groups want," he told the Hindustan Times.

For many here, the countdown to the next attack has already started.