In India, Anger Grows At Response To Attacks
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris. And first this hour, to Mumbai. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to arrive in India tomorrow, and diplomats are trying to defuse tensions between India and Pakistan. India is blaming a Pakistani extremist group for the devastating attacks last Wednesday. In the meantime, the mood has shifted in Mumbai. NPR's Philip Reeves spent today out on the streets of the city, and this is what he found.
PHILIP REEVES: They say life in Mumbai is returning to normal. That can't be right. Mumbai is a crowded, frenzied metropolis crammed onto an island beside the Arabian Sea. It was never normal. There's certainly nothing normal about what's going on in Leopold's Cafe today.
This was one of the places the gunmen attacked, mowing down guests and waiters. Today, it's packed. Young Indian women with their boyfriends, old, tattooed western hippies, grizzled men coughing beer, all are here sitting at the tables side by side. They've come to make a point. They won't be intimidated by 10 men who arrived by boat, swooped into the city, and killed more than 170 people.
There's another message flying around this city today. OK, it says, the real terrorists are not only those who have come through boats but also those who have come through votes. We can change the system. If America can, why not India? Please pass it on.
Dr. PRADI PAVA: I have to pass this SMS to at least two person.
REEVES: And you're going to do that?
Dr. PAVA: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah.
REEVES: Doctor Pradi Pava's holding his mobile phone and standing in the doorway of a tiny damp clinic where he tries to provide basic healthcare for the multitude who live here. This is Dharavi, a gigantic slum in the middle of Mumbai.
Many, many Indians were delighted by the election of Barack Obama. The onslaught on Mumbai has jolted some of them into demanding change of their own and an end to the widespread corruption and incompetence within their own elected governments. Bad government has long been a source of frustration here.
In Dharavi, you can see why. About a million people live here, crammed into huts and hovels along squalled alleys that are sometimes so narrow, you can hardly walk along them. A group of women is sitting on a sea of trash surrounded by goats, stray dogs, and chickens.
(Soundbite of cooking pots)
REEVES: Some are washing pots. One is nursing a baby. Dr. Pava says anger about the failure of the government and its intelligence agencies to protect the city is felt even here.
Dr. PAVA: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 100 percent, 100 and 101. Personally, I'm angry about the politicians.
Mr. PERSHANT YANKY: Actually, government not do a well job. And we are really so angry, government - they very lazy now.
REEVES: That's Pershant Yanky(ph). He's standing in the slum beside his father, Latchman(ph), a retired civil servant. So you would say people of Dharavi are very angry about this all.
Mr. LATCHMAN YANKY: Sure, sure. Sure, sure, sure. That is correct.
Mr. LATCHMAN YANKY: Because why they act so slowly. All that they are - that peace officer...
REEVES: So you're saying that the anti-terrorist people are acting far too slowly.
Mr. PERSHANT YANKY: Yeah.
Mr. LATCHMAN YANKY: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Mr. SHISHA JOSHI: I look so many of these messages, it's so funny. I can assure you that I must have got hundreds of those messages.
REEVES: A few miles across town, Shisha Joshi(ph) is in his spotless new office spooling through his telephone's text messages. He got the same message as Dr. Pava, the one about changing the system. He's received plenty of other messages, too, as you might expect of the editorial director of a big Mumbai media group. They're all about the same thing, the city's only topic of conversation.
Mr. JOSHI: Why was the state government unable to prevent it? How could something like this happen to us? How safe are we?
REEVES: Joshi's got a message about a rally to be held in Mumbai tomorrow to protest the government's handling of the attacks. Joshi thinks the rally will be big.
Mr. JOSHI: Every tragedy in Mumbai brings people together, the rich people, the poor people, corporate heads, high society, they're all going to be there. There's Bollywood turning up in big numbers.
REEVES: Sanjana Ahuja(ph), a student staring into her mobile phone. Its lunch time, and we're back outside the bullet-scarred Leopold's Cafe. She and her friends show off their text messages.
Ms. SANJANA AHUJA: We've been getting messages from our friends. So we are rotating those messages.
REEVES: Let's start something, guys, something to show we are not taking this lying down.
Ms. AHUJA: Something that can tell the leaders and politicians that we want our safety. Let's show them how many we are and how angry and tired and frustrated we are. Let's all come together, gateway of India. Come Wednesday, December 3rd, 6 p.m.
REEVES: You're going to go?
Unidentified Woman #1: Yeah.
Unidentified Woman #2: Yeah.
Unidentified Woman #3: Yeah.
Ms. AHUJA: All of us are going to go.
REEVES: We don't know how many people will turn up at tomorrow's protest. But remember, Mumbai isn't a normal city, and right now, this city has something to say. Philip Reeves, NPR News, Mumbai. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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