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Youth Speak: Mumbai invincible? No!
Deepti Dadlani
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December 11, 2008

The Mumbai attacks have shaken up the nation. And rightly so. As India rallies in search of 'a change' and a government that not only cares for its citizens, but actively participates in their protection and welfare, the city itself is still reeling. The youth of the city are angry and demanding answers. One such youngster is Deepti Dadlani who, along with thousands, protested the terror strikes at the Gateway of India [Images] on December 3. Here, she shares her thoughts regarding the 26/11 terror strikes.

A week has passed since I was one of thousands who made their way to the Gateway of India to be part of what many refer to as a protest march. Throngs of passionate citizens came together to make a difference. And all this because Mumbai -- the New York of the East, the jugular vein of the nation -- was attacked by terrorists on November 26. There was a time when we thought it was the safest city in india. But what now? Do we still think that we are invincible? The answer is a resounding 'No'.

Who would have thought that Mumbai would fall prey to such heinous attacks, especially with Rs 940 crore allotted to improve and modernise the city's defense? Which Mumbaiite would have imagined seeing the iconic Taj Mahal [Images] Palace & Tower charred? Or for that matter, how many would think twice about paying a visit to Colaba Causeway's favourite hangout, Leopold Cafe [Images]?

How many South Mumbaiites would have imagined that there would come a day when, looking out their windows, they would see NSG commandos dropping from helicopters to nab terrorists holding innocent people hostage?

"Is this what we have come to, is this what our nation has come to? Is this the future of a 'brighter' India?" ask a group of college-goers at HR College of Commerce and Economics, one of South Mumbai's well-reputed educational institutes.

Many have heard that the country's top administrative officials were warned of these terror attacks, but what then gave them the impression that ignoring these so-called 'rumours' would have anything but negative consequences? Why weren't they doing their job? What gave them the right to gamble with innocent lives? But then again, this is not a time for questions -- we want answers!

So who are the Indian youth expecting answers from? "Not from the obtuse politicians," remarks Shivangi Patil, who lost a loved one in the attack at the Oberoi.

"I don't get it -- these politicians sit on their backsides in their posh sedans and expect us to trust them to run our nation," says a livid Rohan Singh.

So, has the youth finally had enough? We believe so. Fear has now been overshadowed by anger and resentment -- people feel cheated now. "What are we paying taxes for? I am 29 years old, I work in one of India's top banks and just got married. A large part of my salary goes in paying off my home and car loans. Why in God's name would I want to pay taxes when my money seems to be lining the pockets of corrupt politicians, when I am not sure whether a night out dining with my wife could be the last day of my life?" wonders Sujoy Gupta.

Many believe that this might be a turning point in India's political history -- it might just be that point when the public take matters into their own hands and believe that they can make a difference.

Interestingly, 26-year-old Hussain Sheikh points out, "As insensitive as it may sound, the truth is that some good has come of this incident. For one, unlike in the past, we have seen that people's reactions have been uncontrollable. Many politicians used opportunities like this in the past to garner votes, either by creating communal tension or by pretending to help uncover the truth. Their actions did more harm than good."

"This time around, however, people have seen the Government make drastic changes to try and regain our faith. Communal riots and Muslim-bashing are absent; for young, modern Muslims like me, that is a sign of growth and safety. Ironically, I find myself feeling safer now more than ever."

Ashish C says, "I am not going to cast my vote till the Government introduces an option of 'none of the above contenders'. Why should I vote when it seems like all the politicians are corrupt? Why am I asked to choose the 'best of the worst'?"

That being one side of the coin, many youngsters haven't allowed the rage and helplessness to affect their decision to vote. A thoughtful Meghana Joshi remembers the words of her professor -- "The difference between a full-to-the-brim jug and one that has overflowed is simply one stone." Remember, every vote counts. It's possible that your vote may just prevent another terror attack."

So where do we go from here? Do we continue to partake in protest marches, peace rallies and candle light vigils to the Mantralaya?

"No, that's not enough. It's unfortunate that it's taken an incident of such magnitude to wake us up, but now that we are awake we need to make sure that we do not fall back into a passive state." Firm words spoken by Kalpana Iyer, member of a youth political movement.

Kalpana goes on to say, "Be aware of your rights. Do not waste your chance to vote; if you don't vote, you do not have the right to complain about the Government. Be aware of what is happening in your country, do not place the onus purely on the police and politicians. Think about how you can make a difference -- report any strange-looking objects; report a suspicious conversation; while entering any mall, theatre, airport, etc, make sure that the security thoroughly scans your belongings, for remember that if they are careless with you today, they will carry the same attitude forward. If you see injustice, report it -- it's your right and duty to do so!"

"The media, whether print or television, is a great vehicle of information, but it's important to not get carried away by it. Always verify your facts, do not believe everything you see or hear."

So I ask you, is this our new beginning? With younger politicians on the political scene, with corrupt old officials being replaced, with a sudden uprising of questions, citizens who are not ready to have their lives compromised, could this be the beginning of our victory over terror? Let's each one of us take it upon ourselves to believe in the power of one, and that each one of us has the power to make a difference.

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