In Remembrance of 26/11 and Thanksgiving to the Heroes

Warn­ing: A post with­out struc­ture, theme or com­po­si­tion. Sense­less unedit­ed out­pour­ing. Read at your own risk.

Blood, bul­lets, and deaths. Bru­tal vio­lence. Screams. Help­less­ness. Despair. Pain. Courage.

A nation of a bil­lion aspir­ing to be on the UN Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil brought to its knees by just ten armed ter­ror­ists.

Hun­dreds died. Thou­sands wept. Mil­lions pan­icked. A bil­lion were ter­ror­ized.

The killers didn’t dis­tin­guish between rich and poor. They did dis­tin­guish between for­eign­ers and Indi­ans, Mus­lims and Jews.

If you think this was insan­i­ty, you’re part of the prob­lem. If you think this is sim­ply mis­guid­ed Reli­gion, you’re part of the prob­lem. This is Evil dis­guised as Insan­i­ty. The gun­men were pluck­ing the flow­ers and hop­ing to snatch the fruits of this reli­gious tree. The tree was care­ful­ly plant­ed and nur­tured by those who were con­trol­ling the attack­ers via phones. Just like it was by those who orga­nized a “rath yatra” 17 years ago.

No method in the mad­ness? There was no method in the response. There was metic­u­lous method in the act. Strate­gic and care­ful plan­ning by the per­pe­tra­tors. Help­less, unpre­pared, pan­icked response by India.

Voic­es of soci­ety, colum­nists, media, blog­gers, politi­cians, and the pub­lic loud­er than the gun­shots. The lat­ter achieved their goal, the for­mer didn’t. The lat­ter act­ed, the for­mer didn’t. The lat­ter didn’t dis­tin­guish between the Taj and VT, the for­mer did.

Today, it is Thanks­giv­ing day in the Unit­ed States. I offer my grat­i­tude to the offi­cial and unof­fi­cial heroes of 26/11. They were peo­ple who act­ed with rea­son, in response to the mad­ness around them. Some of them saved many lives. Some of them died. I refuse to believe that they died in vain. Their courage has inspired many peo­ple, espe­cial­ly young peo­ple. They are sav­iors of our san­i­ty.

A year lat­er. A fat­wa against a patri­ot­ic song. The response? A gra­cious vis­it by the Home Min­is­ter to those issu­ing it. Zealots from one reli­gion destroy­ing another’s struc­ture, caus­ing may­hem. 17 years lat­er, wounds that have not yet healed. Every reli­gion that has a size­able fol­low­ing in this “sec­u­lar” nation has seri­ous­ly injured it. One man sits in its par­lia­ment as the Leader of Oppo­si­tion, anoth­er sits in Pak­istan. Does it mat­ter whether the roots of evil grow with­in the nation or out­side it?

But this nation and its bil­lion peo­ple con­tin­ue to believe that reli­gion is actu­al­ly for the good, it is only mis­used by a few who are mis­guid­ed. Con­tin­ue to nur­ture the tree, prune it’s mis­guid­ed branch­es and it will grow right back again.

Water the tree, nur­ture it, feed it. Don’t act sur­prised by the vio­lence, the blood, and the deaths. Don’t blame the gun­men. It was their form of “prayer”, you see? Haven’t we all been taught not to ques­tion or doubt another’s form of reli­gion or method of prayer? That is what “sec­u­lar­ism” means, right?

Are you protest­ing about the attack on MLAs or media out­lets? You shouldn’t because the attack­ers were “pro­voked”. Just like the 26/11 plan­ners & gun­men. You can’t blame one and not the oth­er. Don’t paint nude pic­tures or draw car­toons of holy fig­ures. Any­one who’s reli­gious sen­ti­ments have been pro­voked have a right to vio­lence.

Want to get votes but have no clue about eco­nom­ics, nation­al growth, infra­struc­tur­al devel­op­ment, etc.? Reli­gion is your tick­et, baby. Either encour­age one of them, or claim to embrace all of them. Use it wise­ly, for it wields enor­mous pow­er over mil­lions of human beings. They will kill each oth­er for it. Just like they have done so many times, repeat­ed­ly.

The intel­li­gentsia? Don’t wor­ry. They will method­i­cal­ly crit­i­cize gov­ern­ment short­com­ings, police inef­fi­cien­cies, lack of emer­gency response plans, lack of coor­di­na­tion between secu­ri­ty forces, etc. Reli­gion is sacred, it will remain untouched and unharmed, as it has for cen­turies, even after mil­lions of human beings have been killed by this evil pow­er.

After 26/11, there will be numer­ous oth­er such dates. There have been many of them over decades, over cen­turies. Gen­er­a­tions have passed, mil­lions of peo­ple have died. Reli­gion is the sole sur­vivor. And it will con­tin­ue to kill, until mankind dis­cov­ers that Reli­gion is Evil in dis­guise.

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  • This post didn’t have a theme or struc­ture? Nahh.. Any­way, suc­cess can be mea­sured only be look­ing at our pre­pared­ness to stop future attacks… any­thing short of that is the lame “Mum­bai moves on” speak… I remem­ber the strict check­ing at air­ports right after this inci­dent (since I was fly­ing around in India at that time) but my friend who vis­it­ed recent­ly remarked that every­thing is back to ‘जैसे थे’. Although I’m crit­i­cal of US bor­der police, I applaud their obses­sion regard­ing secu­ri­ty, they are still para­noid as if 9/11 hap­pened yes­ter­day.

    • As I remarked on Nita’s blog, what I observe in a lot of people’s thoughts is the accep­tance that there will be future attacks. It is almost a “giv­en”, that ter­ror­ism is here to stay for­ev­er, and that there’s noth­ing any­one can do about it. I used to (and still) call myself cyn­i­cal, so in a way, it is reas­sur­ing to see that many peo­ple are cyn­i­cal. 🙂

      Yes, the post was indeed unstruc­tured and unplanned. I just wrote it from start to fin­ish as it came, with no edit­ing after­wards.

  • Why so much pes­simism Mahen­dra? We have seen the worst, it can only improve from here.
    A very emo­tion­al post, straight from the heart.

    • Pre­rna, Thanks for read­ing and com­ment­ing. I don’t think it is pes­simism, it is an hon­est appraisal of real­i­ty as I see it.

      I don’t think it can only improve from here. Tech­no­log­i­cal advances are chang­ing the game all the time. I wish I shared your opti­mism, but today, I hon­est­ly fear for our children’s gen­er­a­tion.

  • I think most of these guys who say they are doing it for reli­gion, aren’t real­ly. The world does have its evil peo­ple and I feel they take the shel­ter of reli­gion. Yes, there will always be evil peo­ple, till the end of time. If it is not reli­gion they take cov­er under, it will be some­thing else. Its time that the gen­er­al pub­lic stopped believ­ing that its for reli­gion.

    • Nita, The tes­ti­monies and inter­ro­ga­tions of such ter­ror­ists all reveal that they were brain­washed using reli­gion. I don’t under­stand why you think they’re not doing it “for reli­gion”.

      If the gen­er­al pub­lic stopped believ­ing that its for reli­gion (some don’t any­way), exact­ly what I fear will con­tin­ue — Reli­gion will con­tin­ue killing peo­ple through their igno­rance.

  • Nita wrote:

    If it is not reli­gion they take cov­er under, it will be some­thing else.

    This in itself does not exon­er­ate reli­gion. An idea [here, Q’ran is the word of god, eter­nal­ly valid, blah, blah] that can­not be sup­port­ed by log­ic or evi­dence, but requires the slaugh­ter of those who dis­agree, deserves at best the trash can.

    Its time that the gen­er­al pub­lic stopped believ­ing that it’s for reli­gion” 🙂

    Mahen­dra,
    Stu­pid and hate­ful as it is, can we real­ly equate the destruc­tion of a few blocks of stone with the mur­der of hun­dreds of lives?

    • TRF,

      The blocks of stone that were destroyed in turn caused the deaths of hun­dreds of lives.

      But, I am in no way equat­ing the evils, mere­ly point­ing at their com­mon root.

  • Ratio­nal thoughts can only come from some­one who has been taught to take reli­gion ratio­nal­ly. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, a whole chunk of peo­ple fol­low reli­gion ‘by the book’ instead of apply­ing log­ic and human­i­ty and tht’s where all trou­bles start..

    26/11 was shock­ing because of the impec­ca­ble pre­ci­sion and method, as you have said. i guess gun­ning down about 170 peo­ple in cold blood was some­thing that had nev­er hap­pened before… we were used to bombs and riots and this was new!

    we all have learnt our lit­tle, valu­able lessons and i hope we don’t for­get these eas­i­ly.

    won­der­ful post

  • Looks like this is straight from the heart.
    and a tru­ly inter­est­ing post to read.

    I find a lot of incon­sis­ten­cy in the first paras.

    Then again it was cor­rup­tion bureau­cra­cy favouritism that brought us on our knees…
    and it still will espe­cial­ly when police to politi­cian ratio is 200+ while police to cit­i­zen ratio is .02 or some­thing low­er …and reform com­mis­sion files gath­er dust as powar­ful peo­ple appoint top cops just to boost their sec­u­lar cre­den­tials or to fill the posts with cronies. No won­der an MP was busy plan­ning his elec­tion cam­paign strat­e­gy sit­ting in the taj.

    The ter­ror­ists did dis­tin­guish espe­cial­ly between mus­lim and non mus­lim, and the peo­ple giv­ing com­mands are still influ­enced by the deoban­di and wahabi ide­ol­o­gy, arent they?.

    Is it that easy to ban­ish reli­gion from peo­ples minds? the com­mis tried it in rus­sia and see how the church­es are spring­ing there…

    i first thought it came down to edu­ca­tion …i con­clud­ed No/not entire­ly then i thought it came down to upbring­ing … and yet again NO/not entire­ly ..frankly i think one has to see on a case by case basis.

    //Want to get votes but have no clue about eco­nom­ics, nation­al growth, infra­struc­tur­al devel­op­ment, etc.? Reli­gion is your tick­et, baby//

    Sor­ry even if u do — Caste/tribe/religion is still ur tick­et baby and by reli­gion i mean Caste cause hin­dus (as the mus­lims called them )are nev­er real­ly that unit­ed a bunch.
    Each politi­cian has his equa­si­on MulayamVotes=Muslim + Yadav MayaVotes = Dalit + Mus­lim +/- Savar­na (depend­ing on situation)etc

    On the com­mon root or rad­i­cal­ism ‚…wont there be a cer­tain sta­tis­tic in a gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion that will be rad­i­cal? so also a cer­tain that is vio­lent? if not stones wont there be oth­er rea­sons?

    what about the rad­i­cal Green­peace guys, envi­ron­men­tal anar­chists , the anti abor­tion zealots ?

    • Prax, you’ve fur­ther strength­ened by skep­ti­cism by point­ing out that in India, it’s not just reli­gion, but caste as well.

      The com­mon root I’m point­ing out is not rad­i­cal­ism or extrem­ism — it is reli­gion. Extrem­ists of dif­fer­ent kinds have resort­ed to vio­lence, as you men­tion. The num­ber of extrem­ists that reli­gion pro­vides a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for, how­ev­er, far out­num­bers any oth­er kind. Anti-abor­tion­ists are dri­ven by reli­gion. For Green­peace and envi­ron­men­tal­ists, see my ear­li­er post: Reli­gion in Envi­ron­men­tal­ism.

  • well i think ur an egal­i­tar­i­an athe­ist or some­thing like that. no won­der u blame it all on reli­gion.
    I think it depends upon ones per­spec­tive though 🙂

  • akhilesh

    Good post. The cyn­i­cism is not mis­placed. To hope for a world free of Decem­ber 6s and 26/11s is only sim­plis­tic wish­ful think­ing.

    Tol­er­ance is not one of nature’s gifts to human soci­eties. Nor do soci­eties man­age to acquire it the peace­ful way. Amer­i­cans need­ed cen­turies to come to terms with the obvi­ous and under­stand that skin col­or was only skin deep. The West hunt­ed the Jews all over the plan­et for even more cen­turies, final­ly thought they ought to behave bet­ter, pro­ceed­ed to shake hands with them, and decid­ed to atone for all wrong…….. by kick­ing out the Pales­tini­ans to house the Jews. A psy­chot­ic Hitler could per­suade some of the best sci­en­tists and entre­pre­neurs of his time to team with him for some of the best adven­tures in intol­er­ance any­body could think of. These are all recent enough to remain fresh in our mem­o­ries. In fact, them being recent has a lot to do with us being far more tol­er­ant now. Our mem­o­ries remind us to be on guard against slip­ping into intol­er­ance, because we know how eas­i­ly that can hap­pen in a plur­al soci­ety, and how bloody the results are. If 5–6 gen­er­a­tions pass by in India with­out a seri­ous instance of religious/ sec­tar­i­an vio­lence, their suc­ceed­ing gen­er­a­tions will be way too sus­cep­ti­ble to get caught up in intol­er­ance, because they won’t have the ben­e­fit of fore­warn­ing mem­o­ries. (yes, reli­gion will still be around, and edu­ca­tion won’t stop any­thing, not with­out mem­o­ries). So, in a way, we need our Decem­ber 6s and 26/11s occa­sion­al­ly, for our own sake. The soci­ety, ulti­mate­ly, is only as good as the kids in ‘Lord of The Flies’.

    • Akhilesh, thank you for the detailed com­ment. I share your cyn­i­cism and think that there will be reg­u­lar such instances of reli­gious vio­lence.

      How­ev­er, I wish to clar­i­fy my thoughts regard­ing “tol­er­ance”. Peo­ple “tol­er­ate” reli­gious babus swin­dling inno­cent vil­lagers. They “tol­er­ate” reli­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion against women of all kinds. What I mean is, tol­er­ance by itself is not a virtue, one should be intol­er­ant of injus­tice of any kind.

  • A look at his­to­ry is good enough to tell us that the his­to­ry of reli­gion is a his­to­ry of vio­lence.

    • Nisha, absolute­ly. And fur­ther, as Shaw said: We learn from his­to­ry that we learn noth­ing from his­to­ry.

      Thanks for com­ment­ing and intro­duc­ing me to your blog.