Mumbai Meri Hai
Every Mumbaikar needs to make Usha Uthup’s unforgettable , jaunty number, “Mumbai Meri Hai…” into a personal anthem to reclaim the city we all love…. and which has been appropriated by people who clearly have zero stakes in it. People who call themselves our leaders, who now strut around ‘sanitised’ areas, with their security personnel, mouthing platitudes…. and worse insults, that wound the citizenry with the callousness of their content.
Shivraj Patil has finally been shamed into resigning. But what about the other local Patil, R.R., whose shockingly insensitive remark ( “ bade, bade shahron mein aise hadse hote rehte hai…”) incensed so many shell-shocked Mumbaikars, that tv channels were requested to kill that clip by his staffers, afraid of violent reactions to his ‘casual’ comment. Almost immediately mass smes started flying across the city, demanding Patil’s head and pointing out how he should have reserved the zeal expended on chasing the city’s bar girls out, for chasing terrorists who caused such unprecedented devastation that took so many lives. Going by the magnitude of the ‘aam janata’s’ response to the heartless handling of the crisis by our netas in New Delhi, why stop with Shivraj Patil? Why not hold Manmohan Singh equally responsible? After all, moral responsibility starts at the top. The chief must take the rap first before looking for scapegoats.
For the very first time, the people of Mumbai have united as one, and have woken up to the fact that together we stand, divided we fall. I was saddened by the attitude of various foreign journalists from across the world who called to ask, “ You mean there is no sectarian violence in Mumbai so far?? Communal riots have not broken out?” They sounded disappointed! Such is the perversity we are dealing with. And to all those Mumbaikars holding candle light marches, meeting at the Gateway of India, or urging people to wear black, I want to say these sweet and simple acts of solidarity, may bring some solace to our troubled minds, but they remain symbolic and somewhat hollow. What we need to safeguard ourselves and secure the city, must go beyond holding hands and lighting diyas. We must plan ahead, with specific ,achievable and enforceable targets coupled with accountability\ penalty clauses. Get the best brains on board – import them if necessary. Increase police-spend substantially. Train all those whose jobs involve protecting citizens ( firemen included), and have an aggressive attitude while dealing with terrorists. Revisit old, antiquated laws. Provide more autonomy to those on the job. Show no mercy. Show some teeth.
Some of the most influential, powerful and affluent people in India reside in Mumbai. Specifically, in South Mumbai. They must emerge from their cocoons and lead from the front without any political interventions whatsoever. But will they?? Can they afford to? Will personal business interests dominate all other considerations? Too many self-serving voices have been heard. The worst being those of P.R. agents peddling stories to the celeb-hungry media on behalf of their clients – unheard of tv starlets, botoxed socialites and other urban horrors we really don’t give a damn about. Ban them Blank out these cheap publicity-seekers. And do the same with politicians in search of soundbytes and photo ops.
So many vital questions remain unanswered. Who will respond to our legitimate queries, given that so many politicos are busy preening for the cameras themselves, instead of staying in the war room, planning how best to regroup and strategise, now that various clues are being pieced together. With all due respect to the dead – the heroes who laid down their lives in the line of duty – there was a singular lack of professionalism in the fact that three top cops (one in mufti) got into the Qualis together when they were aware terrorists were on the prowl. The cops became sitting ducks. I was at the Taj, a mere hour and a half before the blood bath began, and was surprised to notice that after months of very stringent security measures ( sniffer dogs, metal detectors, sensors,barricades, rerouting of cars, no access but the central one) being in place, almost all of them had been removed virtually overnight, with the side and back entrances left unmanned and open. Under whose instructions was this decision taken? Ditto for security at the CST, which had seen a formidable, fortress-like situation with sand bagged enclosures and heavily armed personnel …. till last week. Why were they withdrawn? Even to this day, nobody is sure exactly how many terrorists arrived in the city, or even how many may have been present earlier, master minding operations. The grand, old Taj could not provide the Marcos with a map of the premises – they were sent in cold – while the terrorists possessed a detailed floor plan all along. Nobody has assured Mumbaikars so far, that there are no escapees who may have slipped out as tourists\guests from the two hotels during the rescue operations. There was also a spectacular lack of co- ordination during the entire operation, especially during the first few crucial hours, when all the people involved seemed to be bumbling along without clear directions from one central body. We still don’t know whose orders were being followed, nor who was in command throughout. It became equally obvious that neither the city, nor the hotels have a crisis management programme in place that provides an immediate plan of action in an emergency. Look at how efficiently and swiftly the South African body guards swung into action at the Trident and saved so many lives. There was discipline and arduous training behind the drill they followed. Our brave men used their hearts, when minds were needed far more.
The scariest aspect of the assault on Mumbai, is the chilling question – is it really and truly over? The accurate response is – yes - for now. Perhaps another sleeper cell is hard at work right at this minute, planning the next attack – warnings of which we shall ignore once again, as we did this one, too. Those demons are ten steps ahead of us. They came from the sea. Next time, they may strike us from the air. Their targets could be the RBI building, the WTC, our docks and railway stations Will we be prepared? The Air Force base in Pune is but ten short minutes of flying time away. But those ten minutes are enough to flatten even the biggest city. To save ourselves, we the people of the city will have to find our own solutions. The horrific truth is, Mumbai remains naked and vulnerable even now. With evil political vultures circling it for pickings that fill their own stomachs. Shame on all of them!