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Learning from the attack

The terrorist attack on Mumbai has been a national tragedy. But it has also proved to be a tremendous learning experience for many of us. Indeed, for some it has been a veritable voyage of discovery, writes Manas Chakravarty.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2008 23:21 IST

The terrorist attack on Mumbai has been a national tragedy. But it has also proved to be a tremendous learning experience for many of us. Indeed, for some it has been a veritable voyage of discovery.

Listed below are some of the new things that we have learnt in the past week or so.

The decision facing the Congress High Command was an exceptionally difficult one. The task was to find a chief minister for Maharashtra who would not only be effective against terror, but who would also be able to deliver the Maratha vote, not antagonise the sugar lobby, make sure the Dalits are not offended, assuage the fears of the people of the Marathwada region while keeping in mind the interests of the non-Marathwada area, taking into account Sharad Pawar’s feelings while cleverly trying to take votes away from him and, finally, ensuring that the new chief minister does not know Ram Gopal Varma.

Naturally marrying so many objectives with the war on terror is not easy. What’s more, this is probably the first time in the world anybody has attempted to do such a terribly complicated thing. Which is why choosing the CM takes such a long time and why it is so educational.

Other politicians have also learnt a lot. The Kerala Chief Minister, for instance, now knows much more about dogs than before he visited the slain commando's house. He knows all about canine habits, in particular the houses dogs visit and the ones they shouldn’t.

Narendra Modi has learnt, much to his astonishment, that mixing politics and terror doesn’t always work. R.R. Patil, the former Maharashtra Home Minister, now knows the difference between what is big and what is small.

The Prime Minister has realised that mumbling into his beard is not the same thing as making a speech.

President Zardari, after his volte-face on sending the ISI chief to India, has now found out who runs his country.

A lot of information has also come out of the interrogation of the captured terrorist. We now know where the terrorists came from, who trained them, their links with the ISI, apart from knowing all about Ajmal Kasav’s early life, his mum, dad and siblings.

In the process, we also learnt a lot about interrogation techniques. They go something like this:

Day 1: Ask about his parents and his educational qualifications

Day 2: Find out who sent him

Day 3: Find out about his links with Pakistan

Day 10: Ask him whether there are any other bombs planted in the city.

Note that the information on whether there are bombs in the city should be asked only after such a bomb is found. That way, he’ll break down and confess when confronted with the evidence.

We, the people, have also learnt many new things. Many of us have found out that we can be part of a new revolutionary movement against terror by sending SMSs and e-mails, with the extremist fringe even lighting candles. The NSG commandos have learnt the common people love them. They also now know what the inside of the Taj hotel looks like, which is something they would never have found out in normal times, unless they went in there while guarding some politician.

But perhaps the most important learning experience, as well as the most amazing one, has been that of people who have been stunned to discover that many politicians are vapid, vain, venal and vile.

And lastly, we in the media have realised that we too must wage a war on terror, although we're a bit unsure what is terror and what isn't. A few days after the Mumbai massacre, a bomb blast planted by militants exploded at Diphu in Assam, killing several people and injuring 33. They also shot dead two persons. But that was presumably not terrorism, as the TV channels completely ignored it, while the newspapers buried it deep in the inside pages.