"By calling it India's 9/11 and taking military action against Pakistan we will follow the path that the United States took post 9/11. Racial profiling and loss of innocent lives as a result of 'war on terror' is not the solution to the problem that India has at hand," said Oza Rupal, Women's Studies professor at Hunter College in New York City.
Rupal is involved with groups that raise awareness about the Indo-Pak peace talks. One such organisation South Asian Solidarity Initiative (SASI) organized a forum on December 15, to speak against using military action in Pakistan to following the attacks in Mumbai on November 26.
Four panelists drawn from New York University, Drew University, St Mary's College called for "After Mumbai, Which Way Forward? A Public Dialogue" to discuss that peace and cooperation is the appropriate measure following the terrorist attacks. Svati Shah of Duke University moderated the discussion. Using the 9/11 rhetoric to describe the events that claimed more than 170 lives in Mumbai, will only lead to loss of more lives, the speakers argued.
About 100 attendees huddled in a small room at the Skylight theatre at the CUNY graduate center to call for peace.
The aim of the discussion was to send the message that there is a distinction between the Pakistani government, the people and the military, said Sahar Shafqat, professor of comparative politics and Law at St Mary's College. If India chooses to treat Pakistan, like the US treated Afghanistan and Iraq it will lead to more killings of innocent lives.
Shafqat said India is not the only victim of terror. Pakistan that been suffering from the same hands as India did. The Lashkar-e-Toiba has attacked on Pakistanisoil in Marriott Hotel, Islamabad and other locations killing civilians. The people in Pakistan are against Jihad as much as people in India, the US and around the world, said Shafqat.
"All Pakistanis feel solidarity with the people of Mumbai especially because they have been subjected to the same attacks," said Shafqat. Pakistan has been only second to Iraq in terms of loss of civilian lives in 2007 as a result of bombings in the name of "war on terror".
Shafqat emphasized that military action will only escalate the tension between the two neighboring countries.
According to Professor Jinee Lokaneeta, history has indicated that violence as retaliation has cost only lives, achieving nothing. "I was in Gujarat post Godhra, talking to the locals. One of them (Hindu) told me that the attack on Hindus in Godhra in 2002 was India's 9/11, attack on Muslims is our Afghanistan. This sentiment of violence has only threatened security, disintegrating the country," said Lokaneeta.
Instead of demonizing Pakistan as a rogue state, the panelists said that India should concentrate on its own security. The fact that there has been security failure cannot be ignored. The poor resources and intelligence failure led to loss of lives that could have been saved. While it is important to sideline groups like LeT who wreak such havoc, India should hunt down the Bajrang Dal, Hindu fundamentalists, who do the same against Muslims, said Rupal.
Author, Arundhuti Roy criticized the rhetoric of calling the Mumbai attacks, India's 9/11 as "actors in a Bollywood rip-off of an old Hollywood film, we're expected to play our parts and say our lines, even though we know it's all been said and done before". The panelists agreed Roy's comments, adding that India should focus on internal issues like attacks on the dalits and the poverty that is stark despite India Shining.