Of Rights & Duties & Being Indian

Well what I choose to write about today is something we have all written, read, discussed and felt angst about. I am not shocked about the shameful 42% voter turnout. I am not surprised. But yes, I am angry. I am disappointed that a city that poured out into the roads to light candles in protest of the horrific 26/11 attacks, refuse to show up at their polling booths to cast a vote.
To vote is our right and to vote is also our duty. Until when are we going to go on blaming the leaders, politicians and others when we fail to get out and stand in a queue to press a button?

I agree, the right to vote is given to you after a fierce struggle because of the adamant ERO people who refuse to take their job seriously (well, most of them). We admire campaigns like Jaago Re and praise websites like Mumbai Votes. We generate independent, dependable, well educated candidates like Meera Sanyal and yet decide not to vote? How can you think it’s a holiday? It’s a day you are supposed to forget that you’re a banker, doctor, engineer or a writer and think of yourself as an Indian.

I ADMIT. The year I turned 18 I was complacent. I did not bother to register but I felt shame, I felt regret when I did not vote for the state elections back then. I struggled, fought and boiled my blood to get my name on that list. And when I stood within the limits of the cardboard box, thinking about the research and thinking I put in, and pressed the blue button, I felt a high. I felt proud. I felt like I had finally gotten my lazy ass off the couch and decided to do something. It’s not enough but it’s the first step. When are you all getting out there and taking that step?

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Twittering Upto A Revolution

26/11 has changed many people forever. Those who have survived it, those who escaped it and got lucky, those who lost loved ones, those who came face to face with the terrorists, those who were reporting on location and then there were those who monitored the news closely and kept contributing to an online newsfeed with timely news reports, analyses and opinions.

I was on twitter and I sincerely want to thank the community for using this unique medium to create awareness about the situation across the globe. The phenomena brought forth the power of citizen journalism. Of course, it had its pitfalls too. Rumors can spread quickly etc. But then, think about it. Those living abroad and concerned about the situation in Mumbai could constantly keep in touch via this medium.

These twitter feeds were being used by the international media as well for the speed and precision with which it functioned.

Unfortunately, the one thought that hasn’t been letting me rest is that the terrorists’ aides could have been monitoring twitter too. The TV channels couldn’t stop giving out key information about the NSG operations at the three locations, which I am sure was being conveyed to them. The terrorists were equipped with SAT phones and blackberries. Did I unknowingly help those b*stards?

But I think some people on twitter deserve a mention here.

Right from the list of emergency contact numbers to the victim names, Asfaq was constantly mobilising info to help out concerned individuals across the globe. Your contribution is immense. Thank you

www.twitter.com/asfaq

He heard a blast like sound in his south-Mumbai residence and immediately put a question on twitter. His tweets on my phone made me realise the magnitude of what happened at 10.30 pm on the night of 26/11; thank you, Gaurav.

www.twitter.com/gsik

Lives abroad, but didn’t lose touch with the city while it withstood the worst terror attacks ever. Used to be a student at my Uni. Thanks for interesting reads you put up, Shriansh.

www.twitter.com/shriansh

I don’t know this person, they followed me and I followed them. They’ve been putting up amazing articles that give you an indepth read into the situation.

www.twitter.com/crypticvalentin

This person has been speaking of communal harmony and just been supportive of the sentiments of the Mumbaikars. It didn’t matter that they’re far away in LA, US.

www.twitter.com/goldenheart

He got together with his friends and organised a candle light vigil at Carter Road. Thank you.

www.twitter.com/ajeshh

These are just a few of them. There are a lot more. These guys make me believe that our country has people who think and will not be scared to run the country if they need to.

At a time where me and billions of Mumbaikars were distraught about the terror struck in their city, seeing these guys constantly putting up info, selflessly, was heart warming. I am glad I could put in my two bits. And as I write, there are about 20 tweets going up under the #mumbai tag every minute. Bravo guys! Bravo!

Mumbai Terror Attacks: Pieces of the Puzzle

I have been tracking all major news channels and twitterfeeds since early last morning. The feeling of anger has subdued and I am in an analytical mode now. I scanned through the papers and I recommend you read the cover page of ToI thoroughly. A report that has caught my eye is ‘Search for Sabina Still On’. According to this reported Sabina Sehgal Saikia was resting in her luxury suite on the top floor of the heritage building.

When she heard gunfire and activity, she immediately called her friends and relatives. She was in touch with many people through SMS. She kept saying that she was alone and a final message from her to an employee of the Taj says that ‘they are in my bathroom now’.

They have not found Sabina yet. The police traced no activity on her cellphone until seven hours later. It was used from Raigad.

The last line has left me numb. How did her cellphone get out to Raigad? Were the terrorists posing as civilians to get out safe? Have they split into groups to hold the show at the 3 locations while the rest of them have made a run for it?

Last night the Taj Mahal hotel was declared flushed and empty. Then late last night, the reports said that there was an injured terrorist who was putting up quite a fight and moving room to room. A fresh report this morning says that there is more than one terrorist in the old heritage wing of the Taj and an unknown number of guests stuck. They are NOT HOSTAGES, but they are stuck inside none-the-less.

Our Prime Minister, Chief Minister or even the nation’s President, have failed to make an impactful speech that makes the citizens believe that we can get over this ordeal. What’s worse is that they do not even appear shaken. At this point, I keep thinking of Mayor Giuliani, who emerged as a New York hero post 9/11 and built the city’s morale back into shape. Do we have such a leader? Do we deserve such a leader?

I have never felt this helpless. A stranger following my twitter feeds kept asking me about the Rabbi at Nariman House. Turns out he was known to this person and was a close family associate. I tried and tried, I still don’t know if the Rabbi is in the building, is he dead or is he alive? No idea…

This whole incident has changed me forever. I will never trust the stranger standing next to me on the bus, just as you might never trust a harmless person carrying a haversack next to you in the street. My dad was in Istanbul 4 years ago when there was a bomb blast there. He asked his taxi driver how he dealt with the uncertainty. “We assume there’s a bomb between our two feet!” the taxi guy replied.

I do not want to be a part of an India that makes us or the future generations think on those lines… Is somebody listening?

Ps: I am writing from my phone. Please excuse the bad grammar and spellings!

Mumbai Terror Attacks: Lesson For Us To Learn!

The past 13 hours have been numbing for every single Mumbaikar. There’s no point in explaining what happened. It’s all over the media. If you don’t know what happened, close the window and read a paper right now.

I don’t know why I’m writing this. I have been up almost all through the night. Worried sick for friends, then for the city and then for the bloody morale of this country, just worried. I have been surfing news channels. Gladdened by the sense of responsibility that some channels are showing, angered by unnecessary sensationalising of news.

This is a rant a bloody rant of a grieved citizen, a grieved Mumbaite and more than anything else, a shattered human being.

As I write this, I hear that the operation carried out by terrorists was just to cause mayhem and killing. They have no demands! This is ridiculous. We cannot tolerate these fanatics doing this for the fun of it.

We cannot tolerate these fanatics arriving in a boat on the Mumbai coast armed with explosives and guns. We cannot tolerate the fact that they got into high security stations and so called well protected hotels with guns and bombs and held people hostages. We cannot tolerate the fact that they killed people to just prove that they were capable of doing so.

I refuse to be resilient. I refuse to be tolerant. I want answers and I want them now. I want to know why the intelligence did not spot this. I want to know why the coast guard did not spot this. And I want us all to ask those questions.

This is a cue for us to get up and ask. How can we let these uncivilised bastards hold the city at siege? I don’t care if this post does not make sense. This is how I feel and I will continue to feel so until I hear that ATS chief Hemant Karkare, SI Vijay Salaskar, DIG Kamte and many other individuals did not lose their lives in vain.

As I post this, Barkha Dutt is questioning the info. More than 100 people are trapped in Trident and blasts have been heard.

A big thank you to Barkha Dutt, Kashif Khusro, the entire Times Now team for responsible journalism and for asking the right questions and keeping the citizens informed.

Right now, some sources said that the weapons used were H&K MP5s which are the Pkistan Military’s standard weapon and are produced in Pakistan on a license. The pieces of the puzzle if fit together create a scary picture.