Terror Attack Anniversaries: Ritual or Realization?
9/11, 7/7, 26/11 is more than dates on the calendar for people in the U.S. Britain and India. Wrapped in melancholy, these dates have come to symbolize fear, grief and anger for those who were affected by the most heart wrenching terror attacks of this decade. Loss of innocent lives in such terror attacks is difficult to forget and these ‘dates’ re-visit us every year as a haunting nightmare. As the Thanksgiving celebrations get underway across the U.S., mood in India will be gloomy with the first anniversary of Mumbai terror siege approaching on November 26th. While political and humanitarian gestures commemorate the 26/11 terror siege, I was compelled to think how much of this is a realization and how much is a mere ritual. Can we share the sorrow of those who lost their dear ones? Can we sympathize with those who are coping with the trauma of surviving through the ordeal? Have we realized and addressed the flaws that allowed such a brazen attack? Or are we observing 26/11 because ‘terror anniversaries’ are in vogue? Or simply for securing the top place in the global list of most atrocious terror incidents?
I found some commemorative gestures, marking the 26/11 anniversary as mere ritualistic and others more meaningful. Ritualistic or meaningful, these are expressions of anguish and solidarity. It is perhaps, these gestures that do not allow such incidents from simply becoming dates on the calendar.
Leopold’s Café in Mumbai, one of the targets of the 26/11 terror strike, was distributing especially designed beer mugs to tourists as homage to lives lost during the attack. The mugs were designed to look like they had the imprint of a bullet and a blood stain along with stylized captions reading “NSG/ VICTIMS / POLICE OFFICERS”. They were being handed out to patrons as souvenirs. The Management of Leopold’s says they took their cue from New York restaurants which gave special badges to visitors after 9/11. The distribution was however, stopped following protests.
Street hawkers in front of Taj Mahal Hotel, another site targeted by terrorists, are selling toy soldiers dressed as NSG personnel.
Idea, a cellular network provider in India, has launched ‘Talk for India’ campaign. People across the Idea network are being encouraged to make calls on November 26 between 8.36 p.m. and 9.36 p.m. Revenues generated during this ‘Talk for India’ hour will be presented to Mumbai Police for purchasing better equipment. A sarcastic gesture!
15 famous singers from Bollywood, including star icon Amitabh Bachchan, have recorded a track to commemorate the attacks. The track is reported to be based on on the spirit of Mumbai, its resilience and its character of being able to withstand all storms. Amitabh is also expected to be part of a day-long commemoration on the first anniversary of the 26/11 terror attacks to be organised by the Mumbai Police.
A less hyped but more meaningful event was organized by US-based Simon Wiesenthal Center and India’s Art of Living at Hotel Trident-Oberoi in Mumbai. It was a multi-faith prayer attended by families of some victims, local leaders and foreign dignitaries. According to Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Wiesenthal centre, “Religious leaders have a special obligation to publicly condemn terrorist attacks that are inspired and sanctioned by those who call themselves servants of God. We are gathering at the site of last year’s attacks in solidarity with the people of India as they remember all the victims of 26/11, including the first-ever attack on Jews in India”.
Interviews with families of victims and survivors are flooding the news media across India. As a cautionary advisor, The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has issued an appeal to all television channels urging them to do “balance” and “responsible” reporting while showing programs on last year’s terror incident. CNN IBN is hosting a special series ‘Salaam Mumbai’ on stories of 26/11 bravehearts, men who demonstrated extra-ordinary courage on that fateful day. NDTV is calling people to join in a virtual human chain around India as a shield against terrorist attacks.
Some of the gestures can be viewed as propagating commercial interests and others simply as attempts to feed the 24×7 news cycle. There is every possibility that 26/11 will soon join the long list of anniversaries observed in India: March 13, when a series of bomb blasts rocked Mumbai; December 13, when terrorists attack the Parliament in New Delhi; July 11, when bomb blasts in Mumbai trains terrorized the people and other similar incidents. Facebook groups on Mumbai terror siege have already lost momentum with no relevant posts in over six months. Despite the expression of concern and solidarity, I continue to wonder if these ‘anniversaries’ have any meaning?
Subscribe to the RSS feed and have all new posts delivered straight to you.