Thousands Mourn the Mumbai Dead

- Vent their Anger

Young and old, couples and widows, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, the rich and the poor - Thousands of angry Mumbaikars gathered at the Gateway of India here Wednesday to mourn those slaughtered in the terror attacks and to vent their anger at the country's political establishment.

Waving Indian flags of all sizes, holding banners big and small lampooning politicians and screaming 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' slogans, men and women walking in the shadow of the Taj hotel - where commandos cut down the last of the terrorists to end three days and nights of mayhem -- hit out at politicians for failing to provide security to ordinary people.

It was biggest gathering in India's financial hub since terrorists struck at 10 places on the night of Nov 26 and went on to massacre 161 Indians and 22 foreigners and injure more than 300 in the most audacious terror strike in the country.

By evening, the police were estimating the sea of people at several thousands - a spontaneous show of citizen power and mass homage to the innocents gunned down in cold blood by terrorists who India says came from Pakistan by boat. There were also a few foreigners - men as well as women.

The Mumbai demonstration coincided with similar angry protests across India - in Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Noida and Jaipur.

'Love All, Hate None' - read one cardboard banner carried by a young man. 'The only thing necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing,' read another. Yet another with a woman showed mug shots of 'most hated politicians' - Chief Ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh of Maharashtra and V.S. Achuthanandan of Kerala.

A young woman, seemingly from a rich family, stretched out both her hands to hold a black banner that said: 'I would prefer a dog to visit our house, than a politician.'

The reference was to Achuthanandan's widely denounced remark that even a dog would not visit the Bangalore house of slain commando Sandeep Unnikrishnan had the man not died fighting the terrorists at the landmark Taj hotel, close to the Gateway of India monument.

One huge cloth banner in black had a giant Ashok Chakra logo besides the now famous 'Yes We Can!' Another was defiant: 'No Security, No Taxes!'

Most protestors railed at politicians. Others silently placed flowers and bouquets on the ground close to the Gateway of India. And as it began to get dark, hundreds of candles were lit - in memory of the dead.

'There is something wrong with the system, with this khichri (coalition) government we have,' an elderly Muslim man told reporters. A young man added: 'We must teach a lesson to politicians.'

A middle-aged man shouted into a mike held by a television reporter: 'These politicians need to be shot dead. They should be flogged. They have taken us for granted. Why should we tolerate them?'

Among those in the crowds were sports stars and showbiz personalities. Former Indian cricket captain Kapil Dev said of terrorism: 'We have to fight it out. We have to express solidarity with the victims.'

There was also anger against Pakistan, which has denied all connections with the Mumbai killers. 'Time to make Pakistan history,' threatened one banner.

A Sikh trader was emphatic that terrorism can be defeated. "If it can be overcome in Punjab, it can be done in Mumbai also."    


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