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Mumbai youth rally against terror

Sanaya Dalal in Mumbai | December 02, 2008 11:43 IST

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Everyone watched as Mumbai burned a few days ago. And thousands -- if not millions -- of Mumbaikars are still burning -- with rage, as our politicians make fools of themselves on national television with their empty promises and self-righteous words.

There is revolution in the ranks. People are determined not to let this situation die down, to nip our 'chalta hai' attitude in the bud once and for all. And standing front and centre is Mumbai's youth, demanding answers and waiting to see who is held accountable.

Also see: The youth fight back

Cell phones beep continually with invitations to peaceful protests, candlelight vigils are being held in parks and gardens and the Internet is flooded with forums and online communities protesting the terrorist strike.

Says Kirthi Shetty, 29, a sound engineer, "I felt I had to express what I felt in some way and attended a peace march on November 29, at Carter Road in Bandra (northwest Mumbai). I'm guessing there were about 200 of us, mostly youngsters, but families and older folks too. We reached there at 9 pm and sat around, discussing and debating over what should be the course of action taken. Everyone spoke up about security, the accountability of politicians and things that people are discussing in Mumbai at the moment. We then lit candles and walked in a procession to the additional commissioner of police's office on Carter Road, where we placed all of them outside."

Ask Kirthi whether he thinks such protests will make a difference and if it's only a matter of time before people will go back to their own lives and he says, "We don't really have a choice. Mumbaikars have to bounce back -- we all have to work and move on from what happened. But what we did was out of respect to the deceased and to the police. We owe them that much. There was an air of mourning -- the march was peaceful, but everyone's pain at the tragedy was palpable and a few were even weeping. This is not the end of things -- I'm taking as active a stance as I can, attending protests, passing the message on and everyone else is too."

Tarika Vaswani, 27, who works with NGO GiveIndia, feels the same way. "Only a day after the attacks, while they were still underway, I received an SMS to light a candle in my window at 9 o'clock," she says. "I forwarded it to a bunch of my friends and my family was amused -- what good is your candle going to do, they asked me. But I didn't let them dissuade me -- better a small gesture of solidarity than just sitting on the couch and watching this tragedy unfold on television. I was heartened when I saw a little light in many neighbours' windows."

Continues Tarika, "I don't believe that allowing these politicians to quit is the solution to what's happened. They can't just put their hands up and quit -- we want accountability, we want answers! Where was our tax money going? Why are our police and security forces not provided adequate funds, while these politicians travel in style all over the world?"

Others are thinking beyond just peace marches and candles, though. Says 30-year-old Nitin Mukesh* who works in the merchant navy, "It's time for a change. Yes, I am taking part in protests and vigils, but I'm also looking at the bigger picture here. A few of my friends and I have been discussing creating a voluntary body of youngsters in our neighbourhood to help in such times of crises. As a merchant navy man, I have some basic training in how to respond to emergencies like a fire, etc. It can come in handy and we intend to approach the police for their help too, in keeping our homes and locality safe. If the experts give us basic advice and tips, youngsters everywhere can take the initiative instead of taking part in one-off protests -- we can make a difference."

In response to the terrorist attacks on the city, South Mumbaiite Ishmeet [Images] Singh Chandok, 30, created an online community using social networking site Facebook. Says Ishmeet, who heads operations for a leading Indian company, "After seeing how complacently our government is handling what happened, I thought as many people as possible should take a stand. There is strength in numbers and I'm hoping we can put the forum I've created to good use. I don't want everyone to just join in randomly; I have categorically stated that we are looking at signature campaigns and other means of upping the pressure on our so-called leaders. They should remember who put them in power and that they're supposed to be serving us. One honest politician by himself cannot succeed."

Continues Ishmeet, "We need to raise a collective spirit and fight injustice, we need to eat away at the core of corruption. Look at the people of Zimbabwe -- they sued their government for the ourbreak of cholera that their inaction brought on. We should be filing a public litigation suit against our chief minister and the state -- let them go to trial for causing these people's deaths through their negligence."

Karishma Bhatia, a 27-year-old interior designer, is hoping for the same outcome. "The whole of Marine Drive [Images] was packed with people on November 30, assembled to protest the terror strikes. I was there too, but I think it should have been better organised -- there were just groups standing around, discussing what happened. We need to get out there and do something constructive -- express our opinions, understand our options and take a real stand. The government needs to take note. I would definitely join a youth organisation and interact with other youngsters to help make a difference. Rather than watch the drama unfold on television and get back to our lives, we should be moving in a definite direction."

*Name changed to protect privacy.






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