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Living on the edge

mumbai Updated: May 03, 2010 10:34 IST
Sayli Udas Mankikar

Eight major terror attacks since 1993. Twenty-six bombs. Over 700 people killed.

These numbers are mere statistics. They fail to tell the full story of Mumbai’s traumatic tryst with terror, which began on March 12, 1993, when 13 coordinated bomb blasts tore through the city, killing 257 people and injuring 700.

That attack put India’s financial capital firmly in the terror crosshairs. Several attacks followed, the last on November 26, 2008.

Why is Mumbai a prime target?

“It’s simple,” said Y.C. Pawar, former joint commissioner of police, who investigated the 1993 serial blasts. “Mumbai is India’s economic powerhouse. When you attack the country’s nerve centre, everything goes haywire.”

By doing this over and over again, the terrorists want to destroy Mumbai’s status as a business-friendly hub, said Pawar.

To underline his point, Pawar cited a conversation he intercepted between don Dawood Ibrahim and an informer. “Dawood told her that a blast in Mumbai would set the police on their trail. While that was happening, a communal riot should be fuelled and the city flooded with counterfeit notes. The aim was to finish Mumbai completely and put India on edge,” he said.

Here’s another set of numbers. The UNDP Human Development Report 2009 said Mumbai contributes 33 per cent of India’s tax
collection, 60 per cent of the customs duty collection, 20 per cent of the country’s central excise and 40 per cent of foreign trade. The city’s per capita income was Rs 65,361 in 2006-2007 — twice the country’s average.
No wonder terrorists are obsessed with Mumbai.

Former union cabinet secretary B.G. Deshmukh agreed that the purpose was economic. “The terrorists’ aim is clear: they want to create an impression that Mumbai is unsafe for business. They want to show that they can attack it at will,” he said.

Deshmukh pointed out that, unlike the US, which became very strict about anti-terror law enforcement after 9/11, Mumbai turns complacent soon after an attack. This makes it easier to attack again.