Bombay Burning, Two Years Later

By: Bill The Butcher

They came from across the wine-dark sea of evening, riding the waves towards the glittering city. There were ten of them in the rubber boat, all young, male, and dressed in dark clothes. Highly trained and indoctrinated, armed to the teeth, they were out to strike against what they were told was the City of Infidels: Bombay, sometimes called Mumbai, the commercial capital of India. They came with one mission, and one only: to fight to the death against the great kaffir land of India.

Disembarking on the almost deserted jetty that evening of 26 November 2008 (most people were busy watching a cricket match on television), the ten man group split up into five two-man fire teams, which rapidly spread out across the city, shooting, throwing grenades, taking hostages, and leaving destruction in their wake. By the time the last of them were killed, three days later, these ten terrorists had virtually shut down the city, killed 166 (not including nine of their own number), shattered thousands of other lives, and – most important of all, seen from the Western point of view – targeted Europeans, Americans, and last but far from the least, citizens of the so-called state of Israel.

These ten men didn’t come from nowhere, of course. They were armed, trained, and sent from India’s enemy, Pakistan, and were part of that nation’s determined strategy of bleeding this one to death from a thousand terrorist cuts. While not officially part of Pakistan’s armed forces, they were sent out quite knowingly, and the Pakistanis knew exactly what was going on and at least tacitly approved it.

At any rate, that’s the official story. Cowardly Pakistani terrorists, heroic Indian police and soldiers, courageous Indian civilians, and innocent foreigners unfairly targeted.

Of course, as with any official story, there are other aspects to it.

I remember those three days of 2008 well enough. I actually first got to know of it online, blinking awake in the pre-dawn darkness and reaching automatically for my cell-phone to check on my blog. One of my contacts had begun a discussion about shooting going on in Mumbai and asking if it were Hindunazis who were involved, since I’d been discussing the dangers of Hindu radicalism. Struggling awake, I turned on the TV (I still used to watch TV once in a while in those days) just in time to see a white police van drive off down a deserted street, armed policemen watching it go. Then the van turned round, drove towards the camera, and the driver’s side window exploded outwards as somebody inside opened fire.

Over the next three days, along with the rest of India, I watched with a mix of amazement and disbelief as a few isolated men held off the might of India’s vaunted security forces. I wrote a series of articles [1],[2],[3], [4] amounting to a personal reaction to the running commentary on the media, on the ongoing “crisis” (for want of a better single word to describe a combination tragedy, eye-opener, exhibition of hypocrisy, and media manna-from-heaven). I pointed out that even though a very large number of those killed (almost half) were ordinary commuters waiting for a train, the media focused almost exclusively on the high-profile targets.

And I tried to explain (not only to others, but also to myself) why these attacks happened and what they were.

In one of those articles [1], I wrote these words:

It would be incorrect to call these young men in black T shirts and jeans suicide attackers. Though they obviously attacked prepared to die in the effort, they are not suicide attackers like suicide bombers in “Israel” or (if one believes the official version) the 11/9 hijackers in the US. These attacks are not suicide attacks, they are fidayeen attacks.

What is a fidayeen attack? The technique was used repeatedly and extremely effectively in Kashmir by the jihadi group, the Lashkar e Toiba. In this, a small team of terrorists – often a single individual, and seldom more than two or three in number – makes a surprise attack on a military installation, fights its way inside, and begins fighting and killing everybody in sight until the members of the squad are killed (which might take a day or more) or until they find a chance to escape. Surprisingly often (given the technique) some of them do get away. This is why it’s not a suicide attack…

Fidayeen attacks in Kashmir were effective because they took the fight to the military bases. Instead of going out to fight, the military had to spend more and more effort simply in securing its own installations; something that obviously left (fewer) soldiers to fight the war outside. It also dropped the kill ratio from about one soldier to every seven terrorists to virtual parity. That’s success.

I have been reading a hell of a lot of guff about how terror attacks are “dastardly” and “aimless”. Bull. Dastardly? You might call a fidayeen a crazed fanatic, but he’s in a different category altogether to the guy who makes a bomb and walks casually away after leaving it to explode in a crowded marketplace. Like the Japanese Kamikazes, fidayeen are anything but cowardly…
Aimless? Terror strikes always have specific motives. In this case the motives … would be fivefold:

1.    to, firstly, overload the security agencies and force them to spend ever more effort in securing the cities and themselves;
2.    to make a spectacular strike to show that they meant business;
3.    to put even more stress on an already imploding economy;
4.    to provoke Hindunazi retaliation against innocent Muslims (like those American morons who after 11/9 went around looking for brown-skinned people to shoot) so as to gather more recruits and:
5.    to punish India for this traitorous government’s supine support to the Bush criminal endeavour.

While the shots were flying around thick and fast, the news services were full of reports that up to three of the attackers had been captured and that some of them, at least, were British (these reports later quietly vanished from the media, and I still don’t know from which source they had appeared, with their oddly precise identification of the nationality of the terrorists). And after the smoke had settled, the number of attackers somehow shrank to ten, of which only one, now known as Ajmal Amir Kasab, survived and was captured.

As the smoke settled, too, the mega-rich of Bombay, targeted for the first time, rose up in fury and fear. Here, again, are words I wrote then [5] in response to their reaction:

…it was the first time ever that places were attacked that are primarily associated with the elite and their lifestyle. And the elite are scared.
So scared are they that we have them declaring, for instance, their readiness to “die for South Mumbai” (not even the whole of Bombay, you’ll notice, let alone the whole of India) and burning their photos in candle flames to advertise the fact. So scared are they that they threaten to stop paying their taxes unless their security is guaranteed. A rather interesting point, that, on several levels. First, it presupposes that if you pay more taxes, you somehow earn the right to better services, as if taxes were a kind of user fee. Typical oligarchic thinking, as it happens. And of course it also suggests that the rich aren’t already trying to evade as many taxes as they possibly can, and that the taxes they actually pay aren’t a tiny fraction of what they should legally pay. Also, it suggests that if you earn too little to be taxable, you deserve nothing whatever.

Remember that these are the same people who ignore the state when things are going well for them, and who for all practical purposes declare themselves an independent nation. These are the same people who want corporate fatcats … to become the leaders of the nation and for democracy, such as it is, to be junked in favour of rule by the MBA. These are the same people who are more interested – and say so, at the tops of their voices – in what goes on in New York than what happens in the street outside their triple-glazed, tinted window. Suddenly, they know fear.

Of course, and rather predictably, the panic didn’t last. On the first anniversary of the attacks, a year ago as I write this, I found this to say [6]:

The people of Mumbai, who only last year condemned the state government and wanted it out, had a chance to throw it out at an election this year. Only 40% of those very vocal, very visible (at candlelight rallies) Mumbai people bothered to vote in the election and the same government was handily returned to power. The state’s Home Minister, who had been sacked after the attack, is today back in the same post. Protest rallies on the one-year anniversary looked more like public fairs than like protests.

As I said in the concluding lines of that same article, the nation had moved on.

Now, try as I might, I’ve never quite been able to accept the official version of events. Let’s see a few of the points where I find things not quite right in the official account:

First, the story that the attack was carried out by just ten terrorists.

While initial reports were of a variable, but always larger number, of attackers, they dropped to ten, apparently entirely due to the information provided by the aforementioned Ajmal Kasab. There seems, still, no reason other than Mr Kasab’s own statement to support this number of attackers. But, for various reasons, it’s convenient for everyone to believe him.

As I said at the time [3],

1. If you believe him, all the attackers are accounted for, so everyone can breathe easy at night;
2. If you believe him, then all the attackers are Pakistanis and no Indian Muslims are involved;
3. If no Indian Muslims are involved, then there is no need to think of why they would want to be involved: no need to discuss Muslim alienation and marginalisation that would drive them into the arms of jihadis.

Incidentally, the boat these ten attackers came on had toothbrushes and jackets for fifteen people [7], and assuming one person wears one jacket and uses one toothbrush, one wonders what the rest were for.

Then, these ten attackers apparently carried out their attacks with no local help, no support from members of the Indian Muslim community in Mumbai, many of whom were complicit in earlier terror strikes in the city. This quite frankly is incredible. If you launch a major terrorist attack on a city across the ocean, will you dispense with local help and support if it’s there, quite demonstrably, for the asking?

(I should point out that two men arrested for helping Kasab were, by the same court which sentenced him to death, acquitted [8] for lack of evidence, which – given Indian courts’ anti-Muslim bias – means there really was, without a doubt, not the faintest soupcon of doubt that they were innocent.)

A couple of clues: there were reports [9] that a woman had acted as a guide or spotter for one of the terrorist teams at one of the targets. Kasab himself claimed that [10] five local people had provided help and aid in their attacks, a claim that somehow was never followed up. He also claimed that some of the attackers had actually come to Bombay earlier and stayed at the targets attacked. In that case, why did they ever launch a risky and rather impractical seaborne assault? Why not simply infiltrate the city and launch their assaults from bases within the crowded slums and tenements?

Questions without answers.

Then there is the strange and involved method the terrorists took to attack the city. Starting out from Karachi in Pakistan, they sailed down to the coast of the west Indian state of Gujarat, where they, undetected, (this being a rather crowded part of the world in maritime traffic terms) hijacked a trawler, MV Kuber. They apparently murdered the crew, compelled the captain to sail them off the Bombay coast, abandoned the ship after murdering him, and took to their rubber boat for the last few kilometres, landing at half past eight in the evening on a sea-front normally packed with people. All of this effort, while they had already reconnoitred the city and could have infiltrated and attacked from inside it.

So many weak points in the chain, so many things that could go wrong, that if I’d written something like this in one of my stories, you’d have been justified in laughing at me.

Then again were the things the attackers carried, and left on the Kuber when they abandoned the trawler: diesel containers, a prayer scarf, and packets of tissue paper, milk powder, wheat flour (this weighed all of ten kilograms) and even detergent powder, all made in Pakistan [11]. Were the terrorists planning on cooking bread on the trawler? Were they intent on washing their clothes? Apparently a GPS system was also abandoned on the trawler with a map fed into it to help the attackers get back to Pakistan [12]. If it was, as the police claimed, to delude them into thinking they had a chance of survival, then why on earth would they abandon it on the trawler? Does this make any kind of sense? Were these things planted on the trawler by the Indian government in order to provide “proof” of the attackers’ Pakistani origins? Gilding the lily is an occupational disease of the Indian security agencies.

Apparently, going by what we’ve been told, the terrorists were members of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, which I’ve already mentioned in this article; a group which specialised in fidayeen attacks in Kashmir. Unlike other jihadi organisations operating in that state, the Lashkar doesn’t limit its activities to that state alone; its targets theoretically cover the whole of India, and it has networks with Indian Muslim radical organisations. But the Lashkar is far from an integral part of the Pakistani state, and its closeness with the Muslim radical fringe makes it as much a domestic enemy of Pakistan (which is a nation that has suffered far more than India from domestic terror attacks) as of India. Assuming, automatically, that the Pakistani government was involved in this attack doesn’t look like a lot of sense, unless you provide proof. And so far I have not seen the proof.

From my personal point of view, the strangest feature of the whole episode was the entire idea of a fidayeen assault against the city. Against an army camp, fidayeen are effective weapons. Against an entire city, they are highly visible but ultimately the damage they can wreak is puny. Even the Indian government’s official account of what happened during those three days in November 2008 demonstrate that the terrorists achieved their (in the long term, limited) success due to an incredible incompetence on the part of the authorities and not due to their own efforts.

In India’s encounters with terrorism, if one excludes Kashmir, the Christian terror groups in North East India, and the erstwhile Sikh terror campaign in Punjab, the overwhelming majority of attacks targeting civilians has been the bomb, not the bullet. Bombs are relatively easy to construct, and can be left to explode while the bombers are far away. Even Hindu terrorists rely overwhelmingly on the bomb [13]. Bombs, if properly placed, inflict far more casualties than guns, and have a far greater terrorising effect. In an overpopulated nation like India, bombs are extremely easy to smuggle into markets and railway stations. And with bombs it’s not easy to tell who planted them, or where the next one might be.

Therefore, if terrorising the people was the only purpose of the attack on Bombay, it was the wrong weapon.

However, if it were meant as a warning of things to come, and to make a political statement, it was a very powerful weapon indeed. Remember how the elite and the foreigners were targeted for the first time? It’s kind of difficult to strike at the crème de la crème with bombs. But with fidayeen attackers it’s a different story.

But what should it have been a warning about? And can it happen again?

We know that Pakistan is an Islamic state, though less extremist than many. India, on the other hand, is secular…in theory.

In reality, India has been subject to a creeping Hinducisation as the so-called centrist government in power shifts steadily to the right, economically, politically, and in every other way possible. It is now in direct competition with the right wing Hindu parties for the Hindu vote. The Indian courts haven’t exactly been slow to follow suit; the nadir probably arrived in September when a court declared, essentially, that a Hindu mythological figure was essentially a real person [14] and that facts and evidence didn’t matter when it came to Hindu faith.

Even as Muslim terror is now a convenient political tool worldwide for cracking down on freedoms, Muslims continue to be marginalised and sidelined in countries like India. A high profile attack on this country would be a good way of drawing the world’s attention to the fact.

It would be, of course, also stupid in the extreme, because all it would lead to would be further Muslim deaths (and among the civilians killed were many Muslims, including six members of a single family) and do nothing to help the cause of Muslims. And, in fact, the revulsion of the Indian Muslim population towards the attacks could easily drive them closer to the Indian state instead of further away.

But who ever accused religious fundamentalists of having common sense?

Not I.

[Statutory Disclaimer: I am a self-confessed and proud anti-Indian card-carrying traitor, who wishes this nation nothing but ill. Therefore, those Indians who wish to accuse me of being a traitor for writing this article might as well save their breath.]Sources:[1] http://dockbillin.multiply.com/journal/item/1310[2] http://dockbillin.multiply.com/journal/item/1311[3] http://dockbillin.multiply.com/journal/item/1313[4] http://dockbillin.multiply.com/journal/i…._World_IS_Flat.

[5] http://dockbillin.multiply.com/journal/item/1357/What_goes_around_comes_around

[6] http://dockbillin.multiply.com/journal/item/1761/Bombing_Bombay_A_Year_Later

[7] http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/73828/Mumbai-5-gunmen-still-on-loose

[8] http://www.flonnet.com/fl2711/stories/20100604271101700.htm

[9] http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Myst….how/3775205.cms

[10] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Mumba….how/3774106.cms

[11] http://www.rolibooks.com/lotus/current-affairs/-/26-11-mumbai-attacked/

[12] http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?239064

[13] http://www.flonnet.com/fl2716/stories/20100813271600800.htm

[14] http://www.flonnet.com/fl2721/stories/20101022272100400.htm

Further Reading:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Mumbai_attacks

http://www.flonnet.com/fl2525/stories/20081219252500400.htm