The New York Times says the death toll is now 143, expecting it to go up substantially because many bodies cannot be retrieved because gunmen still occupy the buildings.
Blood in Mumbai
By Dileep Padgaonkar
Friday, November 28, 2008; Page A29
NEW DELHI -- Terrorist attacks have shattered the peace in more than half a dozen Indian cities over the past year. Yet none threatened India's secular and democratic polity as much as the carnage that jolted Mumbai on Wednesday. Mumbai is India's financial and commercial capital and arguably the country's most cosmopolitan metropolis. By targeting, among other establishments, two of the city's most opulent hotels -- the Taj and the Trident -- where the rich, famous and influential congregate to advance their business and political agendas, the terrorists struck at the very symbol of a resurgent nation.
The timing of the assault is equally significant, coming on the eve of elections to five provincial assemblies. Campaign rhetoric has polarized opinion along sharply antagonistic lines, essentially pitting the ruling Congress party, which swears by secularism, against the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
After terrorist attacks in the past, the BJP has denounced the Congress party as being soft on terrorism in an effort to mobilize India's substantial Muslim vote in its favor. The Congress, in turn, attacks the BJP and its affiliates for bashing Muslims in order to consolidate its core Hindu vote. Indians have a peculiar word to describe this state of affairs -- communalism, meaning a determined bid to exploit religious sentiments for electoral gain.
The effect of this competitive demagoguery has been disastrous on many counts. Terrorism suspects have been picked up at random and denied legal rights. Allegations of torture by police are routine. Questions have been raised about the "encounters" between police and terrorism suspects. Suspects have been held for years as their court cases have dragged on. Convictions have been few and far between.
Commissions set up to investigate particularly gory incidents of religious violence have taken their time to produce reports. Few are opened for public debate. The recommendations in these reports have been routinely ignored or else implemented in a highly selective manner. Muslims convicted in some cases have been punished while Hindus have been let off lightly or not punished at all.
As a consequence, India's Muslims have begun to lose faith in the Indian state, its institutions and its instruments. This has led to the radicalization of Muslim youths. Religious extremism has pushed them onto the path of violence. Increasing evidence suggests that some have joined the ranks of the international jihadist movement with close links to terrorist groups in neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh. Here in India, these groups are widely believed to collude with those countries' intelligence agencies...more