My fellow IIM alumnus, Venky Venkatraman, keeps an interesting blog at venkyvenkatraman.com We’ve decided to occasionally guest-blog, i.e., my posts will show up on his blog as well, and vice-versa.
I was intrigued by his take on the terrorist attack on Mumbai, and a comparison with the destruction in New York. Here’s his 7 Dec 2009 article:
26/11 vs 9/11
VT station was its normal, bustling self. The only signs that anything untoward had happened there was that there was one armed military person behind a stack of bags at one entrance, a few other armed policeman loitering around and strangely enough a bunch of metal detectors at the various entrance and exit points which hardly anyone bothered to walk through. No signs any bullet holes or any indication of any kind of memorial to those 50 odd people who had been killed at this location last November.
The Taj Mahal Hotel (across from the Gateway of India monument) looked exactly the same as it did prior to the terrorist attack of last year which had left several sections of the hotel on fire. The only changes that I saw was the side walk around the Taj was cordoned off and at the main entrance, one had to go through a metal detector and bags were also scanned separately. On walking around inside, I met a Commander Ramamurthy who told me that he was a consultant to the Taj (presumably on security matters). I asked him about any memorial that might be present to remember those dozens of people who had died in the terrorist attack. He directed me towards the Golden Dragon restaurant where most of the killings had taken place and to the adjacent area where some of the terrorists had been killed. However on going to these locations, I could not find a single indication of bullet holes or more importantly any memorial to the tragedy that had taken place at this hotel.
Bottom line – after the terrorist attack of 26/11/2008, people in Bombay had just cleaned up and resumed business as usual at all the locations that had been hit. India had not invaded Pakistan to capture or kill the terrorists (who are clearly based out of there) and so no war had resulted which could have thrown the whole region into a turmoil. But despite this, no further overseas based attacks had taken place a year since 26/11 either because security in Indian cities had been improved so much or just sheer luck or that Pakistan itself was now in turmoil with the home grown terrorist creating havoc there or a combination of all of these.
Compare that to the attacks on NY City of 9/11/2001.
Eight years later, the site where the World Trade Center stood is still a hole in the ground as competing interests (including politicians, lawyers, builders and victims’ groups) compete with each other to decide what exactly to build at that location. The place has been given a new name (Ground Zero) and a grand memorial is planned to be located there to honor the victims / heroes that died there on that day. Afghanistan was invaded to eliminate Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda but after more than 8 years of war involving more loss of thousands of US lives and billions of dollars in expense, this mission has yet to be accomplished.
Bottom line – the mark that the terrorists made on NY City continues to be there for all to see.
So why has 9/11 had such a different impact than 26/11?
In my opinion following are the reasons:
* India has been used to terrorist attacks and mass deaths due to the same and so 26/11 quickly became just another blip in history while for the US, which considered itself fairly immune to overseas terrorist attacks in recent times, 9/11 was a seriously, unexpected shock
* India was in no position to invade Pakistan (since it is a country possessing nuclear weapons) while Afghanistan had no such weapons to defend itself against a US invasion
* Indian people have not yet developed the individualistic mentality of those in the US and the Indian Government was no compulsion to listen to bunch of people’s opinions as to when to rebuild and how to memorialize those who died in the attacks and so could swiftly move to restore normalcy
So while India has apparently brushed itself from 26/11 and moved on (for better or for worse), the US continues to wallow in the aftermath of 9/11 having failed to rebuild the edifice that was destroyed and getting mired in an unending overseas conflict.
So in which instance did the terrorists win? The answer, at least in the short term, appears to be obvious …..