We are victims of our own experience. I am unable to see the events that are happening in Mumbai through any filter other than my own experience. It may serve me badly or it may serve me well. But I’m not trying to write as a journalist, or as a serious commentator.
I have no sense of what Mumbai looks like on a good day, so it’s hard for me to judge exactly how bad the damage is on the streets of Mumbai. Vinukumar Ranganathan’s photo collection is remarkable. I was struck by the faces of the crowd, by what appears to be a locally-organised cordon keeping the crowd back. But what struck me most was the images of the police.
As I said, everything I see, I see through the filter of my own experience. In their light-coloured uniforms,they bring to mind Trinidadian police inspectors. All the more I am reminded of Hansley in his police inspector uniform from Flight of the Ibis – it wasn’t a real uniform, it was a copy cut from a cheaper cloth – one that wrinkled. Which made me realise that police uniforms never wrinkled. Anyway, the thing that strucke me about the Mumbai police were there in riot helmets, armed with antique rifles. Probably more than adequate for crowd control in the city (although, again, I was struck by the fact that the face plates were mesh, not plastic), but no match for AKs and grenades. And once again I was reminded of the coup. It wasn’t that the Jamaat had modern weaponry either, but I remember the policemen in Gasparillo during the coup who were similarly armed with antique shotguns. Everything changed after the coup – there was a major upgrade in the weaponry carried by the police. But eighteen years later, the police in Mumbai appear to be equipped for a kinder, gentler time.
I’m not about the criticise them for the way they reacted to the attack. I rather doubt that they have been trained to deal with something like this.
Another thing that struck me was Barbara Starr’s comments on CNN about the level of sophistication of the attacks, that this was something that terrorism experts found noteworthy. Granted, it takes some doing to coordinate ten separate attacks, especially when you are arriving by boat in a foreign city. But again, I think of the coup. The Jamaat was able to attack the Police Headquarters and the Red House at the same time as they were attacking TTT and Radio Trinidad. On the other hand, had they coordinated things a little better they would have gotten control of the Guardian building, the other radio station and, far more significantly, Piarco Airport. Still – I had never thought of the coup as an especially sophisticated attack, or the Jamaat as an especially sophisticated group. Reactions to the Mumbai attacks makes me wonder. On the other hand, of course, this is just speculation by (unnamed) terrorism analysts who are simply watching TV like the rest of us. Perhaps they deserve no more credence than political pundits during elections…