The young face of militancy

November 28, 2008

When the first pictures of the Mumbai attackers were shown on national television, they sent a shiver down my spine.

Staring back at me from the television screen was a guy about my age, dressed in a dark T-shirt with ‘Versace’ written across it, clad in jeans, hair falling across his forehead and a blue backpack slung over one shoulder.

The first thought that struck me was “this guy should be in college right now.”

He had the look typical of any college student or young professional.

He definitely did not look capable of pumping bullets indiscriminately at innocent passers-by from an automatic weapon or hold so many people hostage at one of Mumbai’s posh hubs.

For the first time since a string of bombings over the past few months, militancy now has a definite clean-shaven, young face that does not seem to care if it is seen or heard as it appears fleetingly at the windows of a luxury hotel between encounters with commandos.

No more of the crude bomb chucking from motorbikes or the nameless and faceless shadows leaving vehicles loaded with explosives to blow up in crowded markets.

The militants, some of whom arrived by sea, seemed well-trained in the art of hostage taking and dying for a cause.

Bedraggled and dazed hostages escorted out of the Taj hotel describe the militants as mere boys, wielding deadly AK-47s with backpacks loaded with ammunition.

The intention behind these fidayeen-styled attacks appear primarily aimed at taking as many hostages as possible and grabbing steady publicity over successive days in a nation weary of gruesome bombings.

The brutal outcome of the attacks reflect the real reason behind using men who appear in their early 20s, men who would not hesitate to fire in their hot-headed zeal to succeed in a fatal mission.

The attack at the Leopold Café, a popular watering hole in the city, brings out the irony best.

The militants who opened fire outside the café could not have been much apart in age than most of the crowd that was inside, unwinding with a drink or catching up with friends.

Yet the attack brings out the stark difference in the world separating them from their victims.

Sourav Mishra, a colleague and classmate, was injured in the attack at the Leopold Café and is recovering in a Mumbai hospital.

Trying to reach Sourav after the incident was another colleague and friend Abhishek Shanker who heard shots ring out around the Victoria Terminus and speaks of the night of horror.

“I along with many other onlookers and media were at the mouth of J.J. flyover next to the VT station. We could not see anything but I did hear some rounds of firing and some big blasts like a bomb blast,” he says.

I am sure in the coming days more details will emerge on the investigations following the attacks and the motivation behind a group of youngsters taking up a suicidal mission when they should be pursuing an education or a job.

It may be too late to call them misguided youths brainwashed into wreaking havoc on a city dealing with repeated blows to its resilience.

Their efficient preparations speak volumes of their cold determination.

But like me, Mumbai and the rest of India will not forget the chilling images for a long time to come. This may well be an urgent wake-up call for a country unprepared for this kind of militancy.


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i think its only india s fault that its security agencey is so uncapable of securing its soverignty.shame on indai

Posted by ankur | Report as abusive

The Muslim people and the Muslim religious leaders must put an end to this madness. None can do it, but them, but you. Just this inner movement in the Muslim nations will let them and give to the Muslim people a chance to flourish and develop and to be embraced by all nations and religions.

Posted by marcel tenenhaus | Report as abusive

This is not a collection of random young militants. These are Islamic terrorists, not disaffected youth. They chose to ostracize themselves. They chose to kill the infidels in accordance with their holy scripture. Why do you and other bloggers insist on blaming society, economics, and other extraneous factors? The blame belongs to the individuals who committed these acts and to those who espouse the ideology that bred this evil.

Posted by Cicereaux | Report as abusive

Why should one be shocked to see a young man with a rifle and a clear determination to kill? Isn’t it always the young men that we convince(train) to kill. Killing for your God, for your people, for your flag, takes a fair amount of convincing and it is those that do the convincing that we need to worry about. Those “boys” are a mere symptom.
You will find other symptoms elsewhere. Some are being convinced to kill in “Boot Camps” all over the United States as I write. They will not wear a Versa t-shirt when they operate. Their killing, for the most part, will not dominate the airwaves as we have seen these past 72 hours.
We will not “wonder” who they are or as to the origins of their motivations. Should they make us any less upset? Or are we the convincers?

Posted by John McCluskey | Report as abusive

The mindset of a particular society or manipulation by certain influential leaders can impact an impressionable enough to encourage an individual to take these sort of actions. These youths either believe that they are doing a “justified cause” or have a low self esteem and believe that by doing these acts they will be worthy something bigger. But in the end these are just youths who have been influenced (brainwashed) and been converted from youths with pens and paper into massmurderers with AK-47s and grenades.

Posted by Karan | Report as abusive

It was a shame on indian security, as open shootout by young gunmen. and that too in city like mumbai,and the polititains still sleeping like no national intrest, specialy Raj Thakarey, who calls himself savior of mumbai. But as per me it would be easy to identify these young terrorist, they always wear black t-shirt, a cargo trouser(as it has many pockets, they can keep more ammo into it, and finaly they wear slim running shoes). These points must be published for public awarness.

Posted by Bipin Bhosale | Report as abusive

As a Sri Lankan who has watched helplessly the agony inflicted by LTTE terrorists on the people of Sri Lanka, my heartfelt sympathies are with the Indian people in this hour of grief. India created, armed, trained and supported the LTTE in Sri Lanka, intervened to partition our country, tried to control the LTTE when the separatist threat posed by the LTTE to India became evident, and backed out when the task proved to be too costly, leaving Sri Lanka to cope with a muderous terrorist movement. Perhaps now that terrorism ans separatism have come home to roost in India, India will join Sri Lanka in a common struggle to stamp them out where ever they raise their ugly heads on spurious pretexts.

Posted by Ananda-USA | Report as abusive

The motives of the terrorist was not to make hostage for any demand.They want to make an impact on the high class society which could ultimately address at the higher level.

Dressing and appearance has nothing to do with motives of person coming from illitrate society.An illitrates perspective towards any subject will always have an impact of society from where he comes,a illitate thought.
I would not hesitate to say attacks are the brainchild of an illitrate society.Where they have already sold the religion and the followers are like orphons.These orphons are roaming on the streets and are ready to do what every comes in their way.In simple an IDEOLOGY of a society or a nation.

Posted by RIAZ HYDER | Report as abusive

these sort of acts occur daily in kashmir. and nobody come to know about it… as soon as kashmir is let in peace.. these attcks will stop,,..

Posted by faisal | Report as abusive

“Wakeup call given by terrorist to indian politicians”.
wakeup dear politicians before its to late for
you to act.
Terrorist numbered in two digits shocked & terrorified a Nation of 10 digits (billion people).
They had AK47& grenedes,they mercilessily killed innoncent indians.
what was their fault?
Politicians enjoy z-PLUS security,they have left whole nation with out stringent law to curb militancy.
Mohd.AFZAL (culprit of parliament attack)is still enjoying goody googy days,who must be having a laugh at our politicians for their secular reasons..
May god give wisdom to our Politicians. Especially secular politicians.

Posted by sanjay gupta | Report as abusive

Well expressed Ritu.

Quoting u from ur previous blog:

India’s plans to put an astronaut into space by 2014 and send a manned mission to the moon by 2020 do not seem far-fetched any more. Neither does ‘Aditya’ — a satellite project to study solar emissions.

To me, it seems so useless now. So meaningless…

Posted by R S | Report as abusive

We need a proper and well maintained infrastructure and nothing else. that mus include security, transport, health, education and crisis management.
if these are covered nothing can harm us.
did i mention politics and corruption.

Posted by avinash | Report as abusive

I share the anger that each and every Indian must have felt on seeing our beloved city suffer yet another insult when its people were butchered, its iconic landmarks burnt while our impotent politicians watched and plotted how to gain political mileage out of this tragedy.

If the ‘public servants’ of our country can not ensure effective security against terrorism to the public that they are supposed to serve, then why do they deserve the same?

I think the quickest way to get all our politicians to jointly address the issue of National Security is to remove their Black Cat Security cover and allow them to share the fate of the common man.

I can imagine every one of our ‘leaders’ falling over themselves to resolve this issue then…

Ashish (A disgusted resident of Mumbai)

Posted by Ashish Dandekar | Report as abusive

Politicians, you have had nothing to do with the the cleanup operations that happened in Mumbai. Please do not ask for votes saying you have helped in the cleanup. The only help you have really provided is to shut up and keep quiet.

Thank you for doing so.

Posted by Manu | Report as abusive

Unless the issue of Kashmir is resolved, India can never be at peace with ‘terrorists’. Indians are good at Yoga. They like to stand on their heads. Hence they saw issue of Hyderabad from people’s perspective and issue of Kashmir from ruler’s perspective. Wake up call.

Posted by MAM | Report as abusive

India’s police force and its “commandos” are hopelessly useless in dealing with the crisis. It appeared that many officers just wanted their picture taken by the news media.

Posted by a.c | Report as abusive

thought to attack someone seem easy but get your innocent family member kill by terrorist is very hard to accept i really condemmed the terror attack in mumbai,
i must tell that all muslim is not born to be a terrorist,but situation and bad guidance make them to do so,make brainwash with someone who is uneducated or young teenage is very easy,as i am concerned ,if i could not give life i cant take it

Posted by aslam | Report as abusive

This isn’t supposed to happen after Obama got elected. He and the media told us we’re safe now. For three days now terrorist roam from room to room in Mumbai looking for Americans to kill. The world is far, far less safe now the Paper Tiger Clinton Administration is back. I’m sure terrorist every where are licking their chops..
Support heavy metal music. it’ll keep you angry

Posted by malice420dotcom | Report as abusive

When the bodies of 12 soldiers killed by LTTE terrorists were brought to Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1983 after 4 years of prior hit-and-run attacks against the Sinhala majority community, mobs attacked Tamils in Sri Lanka. These mobs fell into the trap set by the LTTE who used this one violent act to tar and feather the Sinhalese forever, to gain a support base, and to justify their awful terrorism that has now consumed over 100,000 Sri Lankan lives over a 35 year period. Note the modus operandi: aggressively provoke the majority community to elicit a violent response, then claim to be the innocent victim, yell discrimination and genocide, and then the killing on a massive scale until you the country is beaten into submission!

Likewise, the Mumbai attackers hope to pit the Hindus against the Muslims, and drive an irreparable wedge between these two communities of India. This is the time honored formula that worked so well for the LTTE in Sri Lanka. Indians, ignore the rabble-rousers and do not fall into this trap: advise, prod and support your government in securing your country, but do not take the law into your own hands and resort to mob justice! On its part, the Govt. of India must be prepared to firmly and quickly stamp out mob violence. That is the trap!

Posted by Ananda-USA | Report as abusive

This is a direct consequence of the actions of people like LK Advani, Narendra Modi, the BJP and the RSS and their affiliates – when they think that political power can be gained through using religion as a means of persuasion. The minority feels they have to do something to forestall the pogroms and ethnic cleansing that the BJP and RSS have been conducting in states like Gujarat, ORISSA and the like.

Posted by Jay | Report as abusive

Mumbai, we mourn with you, we are with you in your pain. Your pain is so intense, it pierces the heart.

We are with you in spirit, in pain and in prayers.

Have courage, God is with you. Know that your spirit is comforted by God. Be brave and hold your heart.

Posted by Lilac | Report as abusive

this is indeed a barbaric act of terrorism any sort of act of this nature should be condemned
As a Sri Lankan we have many experience of terrorism No one should help any terrorist group to gain any advantage but India did in the past and still paying its price Now it’s past India should stand together to eliminate terrorism and importantly no communal clashes like in the past

Posted by dilesh | Report as abusive

the whole nation is angry at the inability of the law enforcement in protecting them. but then we know its not easy to protect a billion people every where every time. What is needed is a plan of action to deal with future incidents. May be we should focus on that rather than blame game. thats what we are good at. Lets look at what we can do NOW.

1. Can we assemble a ATF in all important cities in 3 months time. whre atleast 20 commandos are available 24/7

2. Can we have choppers in at atleast 8 cities to ferry the ATF in less than 20 min to the place of incident

3. Do we have a backup plan to support financial markets the day of incident or the next rather than closing the market.

4. Do we have a Anti terrorist operation manual in place

5. Do we have a terrorist warning system like a tsunami warning system

6. Does the Law enforcement have a plan where they can work with the media to alert the public of the places under attack.

7.The so called call center of the world have its own call center to deal with terrorist incident rather than depend on web blogs of amateurs

I want people to add to this list rather than swearing at politicians . Then publish this list on the front page. Then tell me why they wont take note and work on it. They dont do it because they are too busy persuing their self preservation objectives. So we tell them what they need to Do. hopefull if we give them a to-do list they might hand it over to someone who might do it for them

Posted by venu | Report as abusive

Hi Venu,
You have made some good points and I agree that you cannot protect a billion people from militant attacks. I believe we need to move away from paper shuffling bureaucracy to fast-tracking government response and reducing reaction time when an attack of such a nature happens. In the last 24 hours, we have seen the positive outcome of collective public anger as we forced politicians to assume responsibility. Lets keep that anger burning till they are forced to listen to the people who walk the streets without the cover of Z-plus security.

Posted by Rituparna Bhowmik | Report as abusive

enough is enough!!!! all Indians should unite irrespective of differences and ask the govt for its failure on the security part.
we need to abolish corrupt beaurocrats

Posted by veena | Report as abusive

We salute the real heroes who are the NSG commandos, Marcos, Hemant Karkare, vijay Salaskar and Ashok kamte without whom the destruction would have been much more.

Our govt has failed us disgustingly. Politicans dont deserve to have Z-security. they are just hypocrites who want to play with innocent lives to fill their vote banks.

Posted by cherrene | Report as abusive

Venu you have made very good points.At times I wonder such attacks are becoming common all over the world,Govts of different countries are trying their best to combat these attacks or fail them, why none of the intelligence agencies have found out Who Funds These Terrorist Groups?
These youngsters on street killing people definitely had brainwashing and they were provided with training and arms…where does all money come from?I feel Intelligence agencies should track out where the money comes from and get to the root of the problem.
Also, I have been following news and how other countries are sending their condolences..Why there is no news from wealthy Saudi nations? Why such things donot happen there? why are they not offering support to fight terror? These are Islamic nations, if they say smth there are better chances that these Islamic groups would listen to them.

Posted by MG | Report as abusive

I just wanted to make a quick response to all of those who ask and then point fingers regarding ‘where to they get thier funds?”. This is not an unimportant question, but it i was really a moot point. 10 AK-47s, a few thousands rounds of ammo, a few dozen grenades, a handful of GPS devices, and some almonds. All of these things are not terribly expensive, esp to a large motivated group of individuals. I mean what, $5,000? $10,000 at the most? High school bake sales can raise that much. I think questions like ‘who is preaching the hate?’ and ‘who manages and plans these groups?’ would be far far better questions.

Posted by Eric | Report as abusive

Why we are so shocked and angry because of what happened in last few days in Mumbai.
Keeping aside who the attackers were, what was their intention, their religion, look from other angle.
Look at it simply as the attack on a city by outsiders. This types of attacks has been happening in India for last 1000 years.
Attackers dared to attack Indian cities because we Indians living in our cities forget what exist out side our cities. And enev if we know we underestimated them. Once we are attacked we run for our life to escape from attackers to gain few more days to live, till we may die in next attack.
We forget that every person living in the city has duity to protect it. It is not the just duity of police / military to protect us. Do not try out source your protection of your own life to other.
Every one of us living in the city is capable of fighting the outside attackers.
Next time when there is attack do not run away, but stand up and fightback with whatever you have in your hand. Death is not smething you can postpon for too long. Every one who is born is going to die one day.
It is better to die fighting than dieing of old age.
If every person in India is ready to stand up and fightback and ready to die, then no outsider will dare to attack Indian cities.
Before you blame others including attackers, ask yourself are you ready to stand up and fight back and prepaired to die fighting?
In this world you have to be raedy always, to fight the present, protect your own life and live in future.
It always matters how you live rather than how long you live.

Posted by Madhav Chowdhary | Report as abusive

I do get your point Eric, I still donot think its a moot question.Its not just about the arms they carried that day..its about running those organisations.Do you think these people are earning that money by working themselves? There must be some people behind all this funding the training camps, funding those schools or people who are preaching hatred. There must be some people behind all this who provide money to those who plan these attacks and train people to execute those plans.
I completely agree the important questions are who preaches hatred? who plans all this? But nothing happens without big money..

Posted by MG | Report as abusive

As an American in the USA I can only say that India has our sympathies and support. Most Americans don’t realize that India has been fighting against these terrorists since becoming its own nation and culturally been fighting these same terrorists for a thousand years.

I hope that more nations who have turned a blind eye to the Islamic Jihadists terrorism can see that the Islamic terrorist will attack anyone who does not believe as they do and not just close allies of the USA. The liberals in Europe always want to blame the current situation on the USA. I hope that some greater understanding will take place now.

In summary stand strong India, free democracy must win against these criminals.

Posted by Paladino | Report as abusive

Please be careful what you ask for and exactly what form it is given to you in. After 9/11, many here in the US called for additional security, which was a very rational thing to ask for, but now we have warrant-less wiretapping, black box prisons, watch-lists and two wars, neither of which has served to make us safer, nor the world a better place. Ask for security if you wish, but please make sure that there are appropriate checks and balances in the use of force and surveillance.

Posted by jen | Report as abusive

Let’s not forget the hotel staff who ceaselessly went above and beyond their duties to help those in the hotel. These people were not trained or hired to save lives and rescue people, but they did, and many of them lost their lives doing so.

Posted by Katrina | Report as abusive

Being a reporter myself,and having heard from my friends of what they experienced around TAJ, i feel extremely sorry & pass on my condolence.
Good Blog Ritu.
India’s nisus against Terrorism!!!
Having seen a dramatic end to what can be called as “Indian 9/11” in Mumbai’s multiple terror strike, I wonder where is India heading in terms of Terrorism. Its high-time for the government to take decisive steps towards ending this drama, where Pakistan has demonstrated a stagecraft expeditiously.
Technically speaking we took quite a lot of time grounding the fidayeens in Mumbai’s episode. Having brought technicality in this context, we had NSG, Marine-Commandos, and the RAF working in tandem with the ATS and Mumbai-Police which officially started 9hrs after these terrorists struck and took 60hrs then on to finally bid them good-bye. A question looms in every Indian “What proactive steps did we take in controlling the siege for those 9hrs?” Answer to this question, only a politically-governed body can give, may it be to either subside the issue or to create another questions pertaining earlier one.
Many political careers survival may depend on finding a strong response to the attacks in Mumbai as Indians clamour for answers and action to the country’s “9/11″. India had suffered a series of bombings on its cities even before the Mumbai attacks, and since 2004 has trailed only behind Iraq in terms of lives lost to attacks by militants. Next question that looms around is “Who is to be blamed?”

Posted by Bharat Vikasa | Report as abusive

Hatred cannot be eradicated with bullets. The Jihadist movement is too well installed throughout the globe to be irradicated forcibly. India’s greatest weapon is the sizeable Muslim population within its own borders. Indias muslims need to develop the courage and excercise the wisdom and humanity it takes to alter the negative course of Islaam.This negativity within Islaam is too easily tolerated by so called “peaceful Muslims”. They could start promoting those aspects of Islam such as Suffiism that truely are about peace and tolerance. Only muslims can reeducate muslims about what their contribution to humanity can be, instead of blaming the Worlds tiny(14 million) Jewish population.

Posted by david soumekh | Report as abusive

THAT IS IT!!!!!!!!!
We should now join hands in doing something we should have done long back…..clear our soceity of this filth…every perpetrator of such a heinous act should be given such a treatment that it should send shivers down the spine of anybody who would even dare to think ’bout nething of the magnitude……the dead bodies of the terrorists should be left to rot and be fed to the scavengers…and this ahould be aired all over the world so that the fundamentalists or ‘jihadis’ what they call themselves should think twice before preaching their stupid ideologies …..the law and order system should be ruthless in combating these clan of so called is high time WE TERRORISE THE TERRORISTS!!

Posted by Bikramjit | Report as abusive

I am a Pakistani and I feel that whatever happend in mumbai was terrible and shocking. No one can support something like that. One this I would like to raise point of, that its very difficult to stop a terrorist spreading terrorism but it is very easy to stop people getting sympethetic to them. I dont wanna creat a sense here that I dont know what I am talking about. Motivation always come from a reason behind it and there are enough reasons around the world that events like this can keep happening for nest 100 years. you wanna finish terrorism,kill the reason. if you kill the terrorist thats not gonna lead you anywhere.
and whereever all those investigations are going or coming from, one this is common ,that these guys were part of a kashmiri seperatist group. dont get confuse that pakistan back all of kashmiri groups thats not issue. issue is why those groups exists and reason is kahmiri people are unhappy with india.

Posted by Farooq | Report as abusive

Americans are with you India. We share your outrage.

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive

Who manufactures the guns these guys use, who sells these guns to them likewis for the bullets. cant we blow up these companies can’t we stop people from selling these weapons. When there will be no weapons, how will the terrorists pread terrorism…..

Posted by SK | Report as abusive

we the indian r all 2gather and we never allow any one 2 disturb u r royalty and culture, we r very devoted 2 all people who dide in tererist attack…..

Posted by kunal | Report as abusive