On Wednesday night, at the peak of evening rush hour, three bombs hit heavily trafficked sections of the Indian city of Mumbai, killing at least 17 people. The attack was the first since 2008, when Pakistani terrorists targeted two high-end hotels, a Jewish community center, and a train station. Wednesday’s bombings were clearly coordinated attacks, since they happened within minutes of each other. The perpetrators of the attack are still unknown.
The Indian government refused to confirm what many commentators have suggested: that the bombings were designed to derail the upcoming talks between India and Pakistan, who have fought wars with each other over border disputes. According to officials, early signs seem to be pointing to an India-based group, perhaps the India Mujahideen, a group of Indian Muslims who say that Muslims are treated unjustly.
Mumbai’s citizens are angry in the wake of the violent attack, and many question why their city has been repeatedly targeted. There have been five attacks on Mumbai in the last twenty years, and its role as the financial center of India, as well as its high population density, may explain why terrorists have repeatedly staged attacks against the city. In light of Mumbai’s recent history, the government is fending off accusations of an intelligence failure.
“Whoever planned this attack worked in a very, very clandestine manner,” Home Minister P Chidambaram told reporters, according to the Wall Street Journal. ”It’s not a failure of intelligence…There are inherent difficulties in trying to police every inch of crowded market areas.”
The question of how India can improve public safety is, however, paramount. People are stunned and distressed that Mumbai succumbed, once again, to a terrorist attack. ”Why is Mumbai being targeted again and again? Trains, bus stops, markets, hotels — nothing is safe anymore. After the last attack, the government promised us that this will never happen again,” Swati Kamat, a 30-year-old corporate executive, told the Washington Post. “I feel sad, but I feel much more anger than sadness. I am angry at the government, at the police, at our system.”
Something has to change. But, as WSJ bloggers Amol Sharma and Diksha Sahni point out, we can only hope that the Indian government responds more productively to this national tragedy than to the 2008 Mumbai bombings, which quickly descended into “tit-for-tat politics.”
Photo from Deepak Gupta via Wikimedia Commons.