39 hours have passed since the beginning of the attacks in Bombay. Loud blasts were just heard at the Taj hotel, and a hundred (!) Indian commandos have invaded Nariman House and are trying to kill the estimated two to three armed militants inside. The whole episode seems to be a lesson in how much damage a handful of attackers with the aim of wreaking the most havoc possible without any regard for their own lives can do. Meanwhile, the rest of south Bombay seems to have settled into an eerie peace. Reports indicate that the attackers arrived on boats from the sea. They are young men, between 20 to 25 years old. One witness who saw the boats being unloaded at India Gate said that they looked well-off. Who are they? What do they want?
What is more worrisome to me now is that Narenda Modi, the Hindu fundamentalist leader who presided over Gujarat during riots that killed hundreds of Muslims, is now in Bombay. He released a statement blaming Pakistan for allowing terrorists to use its sea routes for the attacks, and added that Manmohan Singh’s public statement yesterday was “disappointing.” Before riots break out that could kill many, many times the number of people already affected, political leaders here need to take control, keep people like Modi quiet, and encourage all citizens to remain united and peaceful in the aftermath of the attacks. There is a real potential for widespread retaliatory violence that needs to be diffused. But where are the country’s leaders? They have been far too quiet.
In Chennai, we are far removed from the drama in Bombay, but many of the city’s residents are watching the news anxiously. The rains have eased for the moment, but the sky is still overcast, and severe rains are predicted for this evening and night. I hope that this does not lead to further flooding.