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Mumbai Blasts
Mumbai Terrorized Again
By Gautaman Bhaskaran
South Asia Editor
Taj Hotel building in Mumbai, India on Nov. 29, 2008

The recent bomb explosions in Mumbai left about 20 dead and 150 wounded. What is more, it destroyed the peace of a metropolis that has been the home to hundreds of thousands of migrants, who have left their families behind to earn money. Mumbai has been not only the citadel of Indian cinema, Bollywood, and the country’s financial centre, but also a lucrative source of various economic activities.

In fact, there is one view which strongly suggests that the blasts were triggered by economic reasons, rather than fundamental or religious causes. The July 13 attacks were perpetrated in three of the city’s flourishing business districts: Zaveri Bazar, Opera House and Dadar.

While Zaveri Bazar is the centre of gold business in Mumbai, Opera House is the heart of diamond trade. In fact, diamonds worth millions of dollars are missing. Dadar is a paradise for small merchants.

Let us go back a little in history to examine the financial connection. The man behind the ghastly 1993 Mumbai bombings was Dawood Ibrahim. He was no mullah, but a hardcore gangster who headed a well-heeled crime syndicate called D Company. There were other members of the mafia involved, and one of them was Gul Muhammad, a notorious gold smuggler.

The gold link is particularly important: in 1993, Zaveri Bazar was targeted. So was it this time. Along with Zaveri Bazar, Mumbai’s business centres were hit in 1993: Bombay Stock Exchange, banks, hotels, a shopping mall as well as the Air India Building and the regional passport office. These suggest an economic vendetta rather than communal revenge. Curiously, D Company is said to have had a hand in the July 13 blasts as well. If one were to discount the financial/mafia angle, one is left with the political.

The most obvious political-religious suspect is the Indian Mujahideen, a mysterious group that has foxed the country’s investigators and police for at least four years now. However, this group has had little support from India’s Muslim community, which has time and again denounced violence as a way of addressing issues and redressing grievances.

Moreover, the timing of the July 13 attacks does not seem to coincide with any major Muslim problems in India. There has been no communal tension or any significant impediment to ties between India’s majority Hindu group and the minority Muslim segment. So, one is led to turn towards Pakistan, more specifically its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The Times of India in an edit page article writes: “…the regional political context provides a more compelling framework for understanding these bombings and appears to implicate Pakistan’s ISI. The ISI is widely believed to have a network of sleeper cells inside India with the capacity and skills to carry out attacks like those on July 13 at a moment’s notice” As is well known, the ISI is an integral part of Pakistan military.

Several recent incidents, like the killing of Osama bin Laden, the testimony of David Headley in Chicago and the murder of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad, have turned the heat on the ISI, which many think are behind these occurrences. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of rancour in the ranks of the ISI today, and the organization is also livid over the fast changing American attitude.

The Mumbai terror took place two days after Washington said it was withholding $800-miilion worth of aid to Pakistan. Let us also not forget that Mumbai was struck a day after Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, was assassinated in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. President Karzai is an important American ally, and the link between the Taliban and the ISI is no secret.

Could it be that the American snub provoked the ISI to pull the trigger, so to say? Or, more accurately, place the gun on the shoulder of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Indian sleeper cells to fire the bullets? The Mumbai tragedy appears to be confusion confounded. Whatever it be, India needs to sharpen its investigating agencies. Since 2005, 400 people have died in terror attacks in Mumbai, and 1400 wounded. Many of these attacks have remained unsolved in all these years.



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Gautaman Bhaskaran is a veteran film critic and writer who has covered Cannes and other major international festivals, like Venice, Berlin, Montreal, Melbourne, and Fukuoka over the past two decades. He has been to Cannes alone for 15 years. He has worked in two of India’s leading English newspapers, The Hindu and The Statesman, and is now completing an authorized biography of India’s auteur-director, Adoor Gopalakrishnan. Penguin International will publish the book, whose research was funded by Ford Foundation.

 

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