Monday, June 20, 2011

Mumbai in the Age of Terrorism

The new Millennium came with many hopes for Mumbai to become an International Financial Centre. The description of 'Financial/Economic Capital of India' came into vogue. Brand Mumbai was all the rage in the new era of globalization.

However, the new millennium came with much more. On the tenth anniversary of the destruction of the Babri Masjid, in 2002, a bomb placed in an empty BEST bus exploded. A year later, just a day before Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was scheduled to visit the city, another bomb blast took place. Several more blasts took place that year, seemingly to mark the tenth anniversary of the 1993 serial bombings.

The bloodiest blasts took place in the Mumbai local trains in 2006. Over 200 were killed and nearly 700 injured. The perpetrators were never caught, although the Pakistan-backed LeT is largely suspected. But terrorism came not only from abroad - in 2008, Raj Thackeray broke away from his parent Shiv Sena to formed the Maharashtra Navanirman Sena (MNS). The MNS took up eviction of North Indian migrants as its first cause, followed by threatening shopkeepers with dire consequences if they did not use Marathi for trade. Today, most shops in the city sport names in Marathi. It was a cruel repeat of what the Shiv Sena had done before to South Indians.

But it was November 29, 2008 that really ravaged the city - a terrorist squad launched one of the largest attacks in the world on Mumbai. The incident, popularly called 26/11, took the world by surprise and saw most large countries reassessing their safety. India changed its maritime safety policies and put the Indian Navy in-charge of overall coastal safety along with the Indian Coast Guard. New wings of the National Security Guards (NSG) were established, including one in Mumbai. The martyrs of 26/11 remain revered names in the city.

The new millennium has changed the city in a short span of time but the truth is that the entire country is changing very quickly. And Mumbai, although an island pointing away from the mainland, remains a part of this great nation.

Next: The Bombay High Court: A History

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