This was written on the second anniversary of the attack:
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
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 ,,,  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 , 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
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  in response to their
...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
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 :
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 ,
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 , and assuming one person wears one jacket and uses one toothbrush, one wonders what the rest were for. (I suppose one might say that they were for misdirection, to make people believe there were fifteen instead of ten attackers; but it's kind of difficult to believe that a plan so convoluted, thinking so many steps ahead, couldn't at the same time simply dump the evidence of the attacker's origins in the sea.)
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  for lack of evidence, which –
given Indian courts’ anti-Muslim bias – means there really was, could not but have been, not the faintest soupcon of doubt that they were innocent.)
A couple of clues: there were reports  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  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 .
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 . 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 fact, if you believe all the information given out by the Indian authorities, this allegedly fiendishly clever and well-organised plot was marked with such extreme amateurishness that only truly mind-boggling incompetence on the part of the intelligence and security forces allowed it to succeed.
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 . 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 that was used.
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  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
But who ever accused religious fundamentalists of having common sense?
[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.]