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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2611

The Terror Nights of Mumbai: Boom-Boom News Channels

By M. Burhanuddin Qasmi

These were horrendous scenes on all news screens for as long as 60 hours. Our two kids- Bushra and Ammar were asking childish questions. We wanted them away from these scenes for which we did not have much to reply. Yet I couldn’t help keep my eyes off the TV screen.

The CST station, Cama hospital and Metro cinema are just 4-5 minutes walk to the south-west of our home where the first Mumbai horror actions got shot and the rest of the shooting places— Oberoi-Trident, Nariman House and the Taj Mahal Palace are also not far though— within a two kilometer radius.

Raising sirens ambulance, police and fire fighter vans were so frequent below in the Crawford market circle that it sounded as if the dooms day was knocking at our door. The night of 26/11 would be a never forgettable, life long painful memory, for many. All imaginary horror actions of Hollywood and Bollywood were proved pale in comparison to the real terror actions in Mumbai.

The Mumbai strikes were even more terrifying than what we have seen on 9/11 when two aircrafts dashed to WTC towers in New York. For, it was continuous panic for long three nights and two days in Mumbai, people across India were just fixed to the TV screens, screaming over new developments unfolded through ‘live and exclusive’ TV coverage.

The November 2008 Mumbai attacks were a series of coordinated terrorist attacks across Mumbai, India's financial capital and one of the world’s largest cities. The attacks began at around 9:30 pm on 26 November and ended at around 9:30 am on 29 November 2008 when India’s National Security Guards (NSG) in Operation Black Tornado, regained control of all attack sites including the heritage building of the hotel Taj . At least 188 people were killed and 293 were injured in the attacks.

As news of the unfolding Mumbai terror attacks spread countrywide, shock and horror were woven with sorrow and sympathy everywhere. But soon this empathy began to be a TRP bonanza for India’s electronic media. Even before the bloody saga in Mumbai had ended, sections of the media were busy telling complete bio-data of the attackers.

The terrorists were still inside the buildings, but the smart media was already reporting on their nationality, the weapons they carried, the phones they were using and even the commands they were getting from across the border! The TV channels gave in detail the number of terrorists in each building and that the terrorists were looking for citizens from USA, Britain and Israel!

A TV channel sells to change India- 'Badle Bharat Ki Tasweer' aired interviews of two of the terrorists holed up in a building surrounded by commandos, but no one wonders why their phone hadn't been jammed. And why did the terrorists call this particular TV channel twice a day? If they preferred publicity of their notorious 'heroism' through 'live' telecast how did they become so choosy and if even anyway they got through any channels why one of our channels did become a source of their publicity propaganda through which they justified their crime! A lot of questions come to mind and surprisingly very few people seemed interested in discussing them in the post attack public debates.

Another channel— claims to be 'the best' and 'sabse teez', reported there were at least 17 terrorists alone in one wing of the hotel Taj and repeated ‘We are the first to give you this breaking’ story. Most of the news channels were racing for 'hot' stories as if it was a feast for channel marketing.

Seriously enough, most of the information given by the 'terrorists' during that so-called TV interview was proven wrong when the operation ended in the building the next day. It amply indicates that the 'TV interview' rather misguided our NSG commandos during operation and it caused either over estimation or under estimation of the enemy which may have even caused more lives or at least it took more time and energy for the NGS to ensure the number of the terrorists in a particular building before their final assault.

On the contrary, the interview carried very inflammatory sermon of the terrorists justifying their atrocious crime against Indian nationhood. The terrorists claim to be Indian, fighting on behalf of Muslim Indians and are taking revenge for Gujarat carnage. The whole episode went like that of Osama bin Laden or Aiman Az-Zawahiri video taps on Al-Jazeera TV after WTC attacked in the United States or London blasts in the United Kingdom. There was also high possibility of the communal backlash in an already volatile atmosphere in the country following the Mumbai attacks.

To set a fire, it just requires a flicker, here our house was already burning, and airing that interview was no less than fueling it. What good then these 24x7 news channels are doing for our united fight against terrorism!

Thanks God, common Indians have better sense, at least smarter than some TV journalists. Indians look more together than before November 26, they now openly speak for each other which some outsiders have anticipated otherwise.

I don’t want buy any conspiracy theory against the killing of Mumbai ATS chief Hemant Karkare and other two trusted senior IPS officers but a question keeps disturbing the consciousness — why can’t the ‘terrorists be just ‘contract killers’?

May be it’s just not the right question. But who knows, in the world of modern possibilities ‘everything is possible’.

M. Burhanuddin Qasmi is editor of Eastern Crescent and director of the Mumbai based Markazul Ma'arif Education and Research Centre.

- Asian Tribune -

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