By Sanjay Jha in Mumbai
Seething with anger, frustration and in sombre mood, tens of thousands of people descended on Mumbai’s streets, close to the site of last week’s attacks in which at least 188 people died.
It was touted as a peaceful rally but the mood at India’s biggest spontaneous and leaderless march was combative rather than peaceful. The outrage and anger was directed at politicians and neighbouring Pakistan. A sea of humanity had gathered to protest against last week’s violence as well as against an apparent repeated failure to stop such attacks.
Wednesday evening’s impromptu protest was dominated by young people, professionals and common citizens of Mumbai, all huddled together in solidarity. The crowd started gathering at six in the evening and rallied until nine o’clock.
For the first time there was no leader, no organizers and no speeches were made. People had come together, reacting to messages via SMS, email, blogs on social networking sites. This event marked the beginning of tech-driven protesting in India. The internet has emerged as a phenomenal organizing tool to bring youths together. Most people had heard about the peace rally from their friends or through sites like Facebook.
Wearing white T-shirts with “I Love Mumbai” slogans, people carried candles and placards in memory of the victims of the attacks. They reached the Gateway of India, near the Taj Hotel, one of the terror sites, and paid tribute to those who had fallen to the terrorists' bullets and grenades.
Most of the angst was directed against India’s politicians and people were seen shouting slogans against them, blaming them for the state of affairs. They expressed their anger in the banners they were carrying. A youth held a banner that read: “There are some more terrorists in India. They are called politicians.”
College student Rriddihima Savkar was holding a placard and chanting slogans. "Politicians should be more accountable and we want to awaken them and tell them it is now or never,” she told NowPublic.
Holding a candle, another student, Dexter Rodriques, blamed Pakistan for the attacks and said it had even backtracked on its promise of sending its intelligence chief. “For this brutal action we require an equal and appropriate action against Pakistan,” he said.
Mumbai businessman Biren Thakkar wanted army rule for five years and an attack on Pakistan to combat the problem.
“Politicians should become answerable for their actions and shouldn’t shirk from their responsibility," said Sonia Sahwney, a young professional who was taking part in her first ever rally.
Protesters wanted to know why officials had apparently ignored initial reports of possible attacks on Mumbai.
They also wanted to know why compensation to victims’ families was low especially when people had died due to what they saw as gross negligence and lethargy on the part of the government. Why were illiterate people and prisoners being allowed to contest elections, they asked.
In a show of solidarity, Muslims held a separate rally the same evening demanding Pakistan be declared a terrorist state. They are going to organize a much bigger rally along similar lines on December 8th.
Angry Mumbai residents rally against politicians
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By Sanjay Jha in Mumbai