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.