The fires die down. Charred visages of buildings stand testimony to the Mumbai carnage. The death toll mounts and news of funerals dot news headlines.
The terror attack became a television spectacle with second by second ‘live’ coverage as channels vied for viewership with shrill, insensitive, often uninformed and contradictory information. This was dangerously irresponsible coverage that may have led to the killing of more people. The voyeuristic coverage modeled as the mother of all ‘reality shows’ after the focus on high drama and ‘combat’ has now moved on to beam ‘pain’ and ‘loss’ and ‘anger’. The hard right Western media lost no time to further its cause by whipping up frenzied emotions on the basis of initial eyewitness accounts of targeting of Americans, Britons and Israelis. Mainstream media in India was however not to be outdone in liberally promoting jingoistic nationalism and communal propaganda.
The number of deaths was revised down on Sunday from 195 to 174 after disaster management authorities said some bodies were counted twice. But this could rise again as areas of the Taj Mahal hotel were still being searched and some of the 239 wounded may not survive. Among the dead were 18 foreigners from 12 countries. What has still not been counted is the number of people reported to be missing.
Death is not such a great leveler. The loss of Mumbai’s ‘best and brightest’ are being mourned by the mainstream media and the valour of the slain NSG commandos and police force have been lauded from all sections of the polity. But lost in this humanitarian saga of the big and the beautiful are certain stories of the faceless and nameless working ‘masses’ whose lives were a story of familiar extraordinary courage to struggle against ignominy and survive and whose death has been reduced to an obscure event by the side in the recount of the tragedy.
It is time to remember the six members of the Waliullah family from Nawada – Ilyas, Shakila, Sarfraz , Murtaza, Abbas and Arif killed at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. It is time to remember Aditya, Ram Sundar and Vinod also killed at CST. It is time to remember sexagenarian Abbas Ansari, his wife and four other family members who were headed towards Koderma and were killed at CST after they missed their train. These were fifteen of the thousands of migrants whose labour and poverty services Mumbai and its opulence.
At least ten staff members have been confirmed to be killed at the Taj and the Trident Oberoi as we write. Many are reported missing and are possibly among the many charred bodies dotting the corridors of the Taj and the Trident Oberoi. These are the people who put themselves on the firing line between the 'guests' and the attackers, ensured their safety and helped many people escape. The only way in which one such guest could find an explanation for this selfless courage of those who are only supposed to serve was in the observation: 'these people believed that their own lives were expendable while 'ours' were not!').
No such explanation to assuage liberal guilt needs to be found in the valiance of Hemant Karkare. The right-wing forces, aided by mass media, have been seeking to turn the sacrifice made by those in uniform as a political weapon against democratic government itself, using the tragedy to stoke jingoism and militarism and cynically turning the people against the 'political class'. We salute Kavita Karkare, the wife of Hemant Karkare, for standing up to this tide and refusing an honour for Karkare from Narendra Modi, reaffirming the ideals of her late husband who did not discriminate in his duty between the killers of the Sangh Giroh and the killers who attacked Mumbai last week.
Pragoti salutes the nameless and the ordinary whose valiance and courage in life and death will not be headlines in the chronicles of the Mumbai carnage. The immediate appeals to jingoistic nationalism and communalism by the hard and soft Hindu right, and the proposals to launch war and pass draconian laws, dished out by the mainstream media, is an attempt to ensure that the people are put through more of such terror. We stand committed to the struggles of the ordinary and the nameless people of India to fight terrorism and all political harbingers of terror.