Mumbai limps back to normal

1st December 2008, Comments 0 comments

But there is growing public anger that the ruling United Progressive Alliance has been unable to put a stop to the frequent terrorist attacks hitting the city.

New Delhi -- A day after the terrorist siege of Mumbai ended, claiming 187 lives, political heads started to roll Sunday, even as India's financial hub limped back to normal.

Home Minister Shivrag Patil's resignation was accepted by President Pratibha Patil on Sunday, following the brazen attacks, which disrupted large parts of downtown Mumbai Wednesday through Saturday. The move comes amid widespread anger against the government's stance on terrorism.

As Finance Minister P Chidambaram took over the home ministry portfolio, local news channels reported that Manmohan Singh's government may call on top bureaucrats and other ministers to resign.

There was growing public anger that the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was unable to put a stop to the terrorist attacks and bombings that have hit the country almost every month of late.

More than 400 people have been killed in bombings and attacks across seven Indian cities in 2008.

Hundreds of Mumbai residents gathered in front of the Taj Hotel -- one of the central points of this week's terrorist attacks - and lashed out at politicians for failing to tackle terrorism. Many demanded "political accountability".

"We saw the National Security Guard (NSG), the army and the police at their best while tackling the crisis, but what were the politicians doing? Where were they in those crucial moments?" one protestor asked the IANS news agency.

Author Shoba De, a Mumbai resident, also slammed the government in a television show. "The city would not have suffered the way it has had it not been for the complete and total abrogation of duty and the kind of negligence we have seen, the kind of indifference we have seen," she said.

Sensing that the public mood may cost his Congress party dearly in general elections due in the next few months, Singh desperately sought to salvage his government's image.

"Public anger is mounting now after the Mumbai attacks and there had to be some accountability," a senior official said referring to Shivraj Patil's resignation.

Meanwhile, the political opposition also turned up the heat on the UPA government.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dubbed Patil's resignation "too little too late" and said the whole government had "failed" and should resign.

"It is a collective culpable negligence of the government. The responsibility should also be collective and no government has the right to survive after this," BJP party spokesman Rajeev Prataap Rudy said.

In a related development, Brinda Karat, the leader of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), criticized the Singh government and said the Mumbai terror attack illustrated a failure of the intelligence system.

The gunmen, who investigators said came from Pakistan, opened indiscriminate fire and lobbed grenades in locations in southern Mumbai, including a major railway station, a hospital and areas popular with business executives and foreign tourists.

Hundreds of people were trapped or held hostage from late Wednesday through Saturday in the Taj and Oberoi-Trident hotels as well as at a Jewish center.

The siege of the city ended after 59 hours of gun battles when Indian commandos killed the last three of the 10 terrorists at the Taj Hotel.

Officials at the Mumbai control room said that 187 people were killed and 313 were injured.

"The death toll may further rise as more bodies were found during the search operations at the Taj Hotel," said an official by phone.

The victims included 28 foreigners, who hailed from countries including Israel, Germany, Japan, United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, France, Italy, Singapore and Japan.

Mumbai meanwhile was limping back to normal on Sunday. Shops and other establishments reopened after three days, but the shadow of terrorism still hung over the metropolis.

The fashionable Leopold cafe, among the first targets of the terrorists, also reopened on Sunday amid patriotic slogans and huge crowds outside.

Bullet-riddled glass panes and walls, splinter marks and a small crater from a grenade thrown by the attackers was still visible inside the cafe, a favorite with foreign tourists.

"We have to open the place at any cost. We have to show them (terrorists) that we have won and not they," Farzad Jehani the owner of the cafe told reporters.

Buses and suburban trains resumed operations in the southern parts of the city. Police were still deployed in huge numbers as investigators continued probing who was behind the attack.

Residents said they were trying to avoid crowded places such as shopping malls and cinemas. Roads leading to the two hotels remained sealed.

A previously unknown group, calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen, claimed responsibility for the attacks. They are the deadliest attacks in Mumbai since 1993, when a series of bombings killed over 250 people and wounded 700.

Indian security agencies suspected Pakistan-based militant groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba. One of the militants who was captured was identified as Azam Amir Kasab from Faridkot in Pakistan and admitted to being a member of the group.

The audacious attack could jeopardize New Delhi's ties with Pakistan after the Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee claimed the attackers had Pakistani links.

Islamabad was quick to deny the charge and offered full cooperation with India in its investigations.

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