Wednesday, Dec. 3
Urged on by a series of anonymous, impassioned SMS text messages, driven by social networking sites such as Facebook, and picked up by local FM stations, thousands of Mumbaikars gathered in the city’s upscale Colaba district to rage against the politicians who did nothing to thwart last week’s terrorist attack.
Nobody knows how it started or who came up with the idea – at least not yet. But shortly after the last militants were flushed out of Mumbai’s besieged sites last week, SMS texts like this one started doing the rounds:
“Lets (sic) start something guys. Something. A non-cooperation movement. Something to show we are not taking this lying down. Something that can tell the leaders and politicians that we want our safety. Let it be started by the corporates (sic). A nameless, leaderless movement…Coming wednesday, dec 3rd in evening 6pm. Lets (sic) ask for what’s our right. Right to live fearelessly. Lets (sic)devote one evening of Our life to it. Its (sic) worth it. If you agree, spread the message.”
Tens of thousands of Mumbaikars apparently decided it was indeed worth it. Exactly a week after the first gunshots heralded the start of a 60-hour terror saga in this city, residents of the Indian commercial capital poured into the streets from the landmark seaside basalt arch called the “Gateway of India,” past the burnt out Taj Hotel, surging past Leopold Café, where 10 people were killed, in a massive candle-bearing sea of humanity.
Outside the Leopold Café, Rushabh Choksi, 21, and his friends did brisk business selling T-shirts with messages such as “I Love Mumbai”, “Enough is Enough” and “Mumbaikar” emblazoned across the chest.
Three days ago, Choksi and his older brother registered an NGO titled “SOS Mumbai”. They secured an Internet domain name, spread the SMS word around, printed up T-shirts and now intend to donate the proceeds from T-shirt sales to the families of victims of the attacks.
“After the attacks, we simply didn’t want to see everyone just complacent and not doing anything about it,” said Choksi, a student. “We’re doing this because I think this time our voices will be heard.”
Joining Choksi, his friend, Aditya Gupta chipped in, “This is my city. I need to fix it.”
While all the people gathered shared a sense of outrage that Mumbai was once again the target of terrorist attacks, there was very little unanimity about what needs to be done to address the problem.
Sporting T-shirts that read, “No Vote, No Taxes” and “No Protection, No Security” Sridhar Chari, a 44-year-old businessman, shrugged his shoulders as a group of young protesters screamed, “Pakistan, mar! mar!” – “strike Pakistan!”
“I don’t agree with it at all,” said Chari. “I’m not against Pakistan, that’s so immature at this level. Who knows,” he added nodding at the anti-Pakistan protesters, “maybe this is what the terrorists wanted. They don’t want peace between our countries.”
Did he not feel uncomfortable joining a protest comprised of voices so divergent from his? “No, not at all. I’m just trying to get my voice heard. We’re all just trying to get our voices heard. We are all sick of the politicians who do nothing. Terrorism is never going to die. But attacks can be prevented and that’s what we’re demanding.”