Terror strikes India – death toll 18 and rising

India's biggest city Mumbai is once again under attack as three terrorist bombs explode. An age old dispute that has killed millions takes its latest victims.

Three bomb blasts rocked Mumbai on Wednesday evening, killing 18 people and injuring 131. As speculation begins as to who committed the crimes, all fingers point to Pakistan.

Neighbouring countries India and Pakistan, the world's 2nd and 6th most populous countries, were created by the splitting of British India in 1947 along religious lines. The aim was a Muslim Pakistan and a Hindu India. Despite huge population exchanges, half the Muslims in the area remained in India. The haste with which borders were created planted the seeds that would later grow into four wars, an endless international feud, and this week's violence.

Detonated at the height of the Mumbai evening rush hour, the bombs were intended to cause maximum disruption. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, but there are two main possibilities.

The Indian Mujahideen are an Indian Muslim extremist group. They have masterminded many other bombings across the country in the last four years, including three on the 13th of the month, as this week's was. They protest injustices against India's Muslim minority and claim they wish to destroy all faiths other than Islam. Tentative talks began last month to start building confidence between India and Pakistan. The attacks may have intended to derail these.

The other likely culprit is Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Their stated objectives include making the much-contested Kashmir region a part of Pakistan, creating an Islamic state in South Asia, and killing all Hindus and Jews. They claimed responsibility for the last major assault on Mumbai in November 2008, which saw 10 gunmen terrorise the city for 60 hours, killing 165 people.

Wednesday's events are worrying because each major attack in India has been preceded by smaller ones. A small attack shows that a network has formed, linking bomb makers with strategists and willing combatants. Now that exists, something bigger and more deadly could be in the pipeline.

Evil or naive?

Who should we blame? Many argue that this is the work of crazed religious extremists, they are either evil or mad, and no one but themselves is accountable for their horrific acts.

But should we be looking for the cause at a deeper, more systemic level? Muslim discontent might be less if the Indian government was less heavy handed in controlling mainly Muslim Kashmir. The US is pressuring Pakistan to crack down on terrorism, and this might have created a backlash. The British created a geographically dysfunctional country. It may be naive just to blame the people that planted the bombs.

You Decide

  1. What's the moral difference between the British Army killing terrorists in Afghanistan, and terrorists killing civilians in India?
  2. What can be done to reduce the risk of further attacks on India?

Activities

  1. Think of a problem in your life. Write down all the people who you could blame for it, then circle all the people you think you should blame for it. Justify your decision.
  2. Recreate the India-Pakistan talks going on at the moment. Kashmir is the subject. In fours, pick two to be India, two to be Pakistan, and spend some time researching what each of them want, then hold the debate.

Some People Say...

“I'd rather live in a police state like Singapore than a democracy where terrorists can operate.”

What do you think?

Q & A

So what's the big debate about Kashmir?
In 1947, each British Indian state could choose whether to join India or Pakistan. Muslims entered Kashmir to liberate it from Hindu rule. Unable to resist, the Hindu ruler agreed to join India if they would help him beat the invading force.
Pakistan probably wasn't very happy about that.
Indeed. Three wars have been fought over Kashmir: 1947, 1965, 1999.
And what do the people that live in Kashmir think about it?
Some Kashmiris want it to be an independent state, others want to join Pakistan, and a minority wish to remain part of India. They mostly wish to have their views heard.

Word Watch

Population exchanges
When large numbers of people move from one country to another. In this case, 7.2 million Muslims travelled to Pakistan, and the same number of Hindus travelled to India. The exodus was badly handled: neither country was ready for the number of refugees that arrived. Mass violence occurred on both sides of the border and hundreds of thousands were murdered.
Mujahideen
Translating as 'strugglers', it signifies people who struggle in the path of god, not necessarily in a violent way.
Lashkar-e-Taiba
This translates as 'army of the righteous'.
Kashmir region
An old princely state in the Himalayas which is partly controlled by India, partly by Pakistan, and partly by China. Its capital is Srinagar.

Subjects