The book launch event for 26/11 UNFORGIVEN was held at Mumbai on 16th Dec with eminent author Amish Tripathi as the Chief Guest.
HERE’S TRANSCRIPT OF MY SPEECH AT MUMBAI BOOK LAUNCH EVENT, AND FIRST FEW PAGES OF MY BOOK ’26/11 UNFORGIVEN’.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Mumbai is a city of a million dreams. People from all over the country come to this city with stars in their eyes to fulfill and live their dreams. Many of them succeed too. The locals and these people from outside have together made the city what it is today, a flourishing mega-polis. It’s because of their efforts that the city has a unique identity of its own, not only within the country but even around the world.
However, sometimes this identity itself becomes the problem. The enemies of our nation feel that if they harm this identity of Mumbai, it’ll harm the entire nation. And they’re right on this score. Delhi may be the political capital of India but its Mumbai which is the financial and commercial capital. Any harm on this city reflects very poorly on the nation as a whole.
And that’s exactly the reason why this city has been targeted over and over again in the last couple of decades. It began with the train blasts of 92-93, train blasts again in 2003 and yet again in 2006. It saw bomb blasts in 2003 and 2011. And we had 26/11 attacks in 2008, all of which are a scar on the soul of this beautiful city. In all these attacks we lost hundreds of innocent lives.
That raises the question, why is that the terrorists were able to successfully target the city over and over again? Why were we not able to stop the perpetrators from carrying out their nefarious designs? Why did the terrorists also succeed not only in targeting Mumbai but many other places in the country as well? Well, the most important reason for their success and our failure is that we did not hit back effectively enough to make the perpetrators pay for their heinous crimes. We also failed to give a suitable reply to Pakistan. Had we done this whenever there was a terrorist attack in our country, the enemies of our nation wouldn’t have succeeded in carrying out so many blasts. It’s true that we’ve managed to punish some of those involved in these attacks, but those were petty foot soldiers. The ones who’re actually planning the destruction in our country are still roaming around free in Pakistan. Be it Dawood Ibrahim, Tiger Memon, Zaki-ur-Rehanman Lakhvi or Hafiz Saeed, so far we haven’t been able to punish them for their crimes.
It’s a well known fact that all these terrorists are supported by Pakistan which too needs to be punished suitably for perpetrating terror in our country. If you see, there’s a very small window of about a month after any terrorist attack when we can give a befitting reply to those responsible for it. We did that after the terrorist attack on Uri, when we launched our surgical strikes on Pakistan within two weeks of the attack. America too after 9/11 attacks launched a full-fledged offensive against Taliban within three weeks of those attacks.
After this small window of time is over, we can only provide justice to the next of the victims by bringing those responsible to face the law. Sadly, even after ten years of 26/11 attacks we haven’t been able to do so. Forget about taking revenge or giving justice, there’re newspapers and media commentators who’re now talking about ‘FORGIVENESS’ and ‘MOVING ON’. Even in Mumbai, there was a program held on 26/11 just a few days ago which also spoke about ‘FORGIVENESS’ and ‘MOVING ON’. What needs to be asked is whether we’re talking about these things at the personal level or at the level of our nation. Does this also mean that nation should also forgive those terrorists and move on? Yes, one can understand that there might be some individuals who lost their loved ones in 26/11 but now believe that it has been a long time and should therefore forget/forgive and move on. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s an individual choice, and we need to respect that choice. But I don’t think we as a nation can say that we should forgive people like Hafiz Saeed or Dawood Ibrahim? That would be a sign of weakness and invite ridicule. The nation ought to keep pursuing the goal of bringing these criminals to justice, whichever way it can.
Moreover, forgiveness is given to those who accept their faults and say that they won’t repeat it. Has Pakistan
apologized for 26/11? Has Hafiz Saeed apologized for his actions against India? He hasn’t. In fact, he’s plotting to carry out more attacks in India. There shouldn’t be any doubt about that. And therefore, what is all this talk of forgiveness and moving on? By the way, it was Ajmal Kasab who had apologized for his actions. But we didn’t forgive him, and correctly so. After killing so many innocent citizens, asking for mercy or being merciful to someone who has, is both ridiculous. Truth be told, hanging Kasab was the right thing to do. It did give some sort of solace to the next of kin. There’re some people who’re still looking for a closure to their wounds. It’s not easy for them to move on. And that’s exactly the reason why I wrote this book. The fauji inside me cannot digest this fact that we’ve just let the incident linger on for so many years without any closure. This book is my attempt to find that closure for those who lost their loved ones in these dastardly attacks.
And therefore it remains 26/11 UNFORGIVEN.
This is a story about a man who lost his wife and daughter in these attacks and is waiting for the govt to take revenge and give him justice. But that doesn’t happen. So, what does he do????
I’ll now read out a few lines from my book for your listening pleasure.
This would to be the first kill of his life and Vikrant was prepared for it. He had waited for more than two years for this day. But that was only partly true. For the most part, he had waited for the government to do something about 26/11. He had hoped that it would take the Mumbai attacks to its logical conclusion. He had hoped that the government would make the perpetrators of these barbaric attacks pay for their heinous crime. The government had disappointed him, to say the least. Apart from sending some ceremonial dossiers to Pakistan, it had done nothing which could be construed as seeking justice, leave alone taking revenge. Proud nations wreak revenge, not just seek justice. Nations that only seek justice are cowards. Besides, since all the perpetrators of the attack were living in Pakistan, rendering justice to the victims of the attack in India was Pakistan’s prerogative, not ours. What an irony! For a nation of our size, justice should flow from the barrel of a gun, not from diplomacy.
It hurt Vikrant to see the burning candles, bouquets and the multitude of dejected faces offering obeisance to the victims. Such scenes were enacted in many cities in the country to show solidarity with the Mumbaikars after the attacks. For Vikrant, the whole atmosphere was contrarian. On the one hand you had the citizens of the country extending their sympathies to the next of kin, and on the other the government which had done practically nothing to bring solace to the victims. He felt that we as a nation had somehow begun to romanticize being victims.
Mumbai had lost more than a hundred and fifty innocent citizens on that fateful night. After the initial outcry, most people in the country had gone back to their daily routine, till the next attack was unleashed. Then they would emerge again, stricken and saddened, to offer more flowers and candles. Media anchors and commentators lavishly lauded the ‘Spirit of Mumbaikars’ who had returned to work just after the attacks, as if the citizens of Mumbai had any other choice other than to carry on with their lives. Nobody was talking of vendetta anymore.
Vikrant knew that while people may be sincere in offering condolences, it was only the near and dear ones of those killed who would have to live with the pain and the inability to exorcise the pervasive ghost of grief. Nobody really understands what a person who has lost his loved ones goes through. The emptiness of the home, the eerie silence and the pain of being left behind can only be felt by those who lose their loved ones. The gaping void lives on within them and it hurts the most when time and again it dawns on the victim that their loved ones were brutally killed in a game in which he or she had no role to play. They had paid the biggest price for the callousness, and possibly criminal negligence, of a government that had been caught napping even as a bunch of radicalized, trigger happy barbarians held the city to ransom. Their grief was inconsolable but the government was in a state of dazed inertness emanating from confusion over the right sort of reaction.
Tragedies have this uncanny ability to turn even the most stupid and ineffectual into a treasure chest of wisdom. Strange theories originate from their enlightened heads, and the strangest of all facts is that these doctrines find enough subscribers during such times. The country had no dearth of such wise men, and one of the theories that found ready takers even in the political establishment was that the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) were the perpetrators of this heinous crime. Even as Ajmal Kasab had spilled the beans on the involvement of Pakistan’s ISI, some politicians were still adamant on believing the malicious theory of linking the attack to the RSS. One such enlightened soul even went on to write a book on this illusory conspiracy theory. Had Kasab not been caught alive, they might’ve even succeeded in exonerating Pakistan.
Vikrant wondered why they would do such a thing. Was the whole drama premeditated? How did a book suggesting the RSS’s involvement come out even though the investigators were clearly pointing towards Pakistan? Apart from the revelations made by Kasab, even the terrorist David Coleman Headley, aka Daood Sayed Gilani, in America’s custody, had admitted to being part of an ISI plan to execute 26/11. He had categorically stated that he had carried out a detailed reconnaissance of Mumbai on behalf of LeT for the same attack. If all this was in the public domain, why were some Indian politicians from the ruling party trying to implicate the RSS for 26/11? Was all this part of a plan? He had no way of knowing whether this was the case or not. If it indeed was, then it was futile for him to believe that the government would do anything which would quench his thirst for revenge. It was then that he had decided to do what ought to be done. He had trusted the government to act in right earnest. He had hoped the government, at least symbolically, would do enough to reassure the citizens that their safety was the government’s prerogative and responsibility. Blaming organizations within the country was a ploy to cover up the government’s failures.
But, Vikrant was not the government. He wasn’t tied down by the biased agendas or diplomatic niceties a government was expected to follow. He was a free man, with no strings attached, free to follow his own convictions. And follow he would. He had decided to exact revenge for the loss of his loved ones. The people who had done this to him would have to pay for their crimes.
He had meticulously planned his response to the outrageous violation of his right to happiness. He was a man of average build, touching forty and had worked hard on his physical fitness. His five feet ten inch frame was now quite muscular with not a trace of flab. He had also worked on his appearance to look the part. He had tonsured his head and got himself a natural looking wig and beard. As he surveyed his figure, the pathan suit making him look a little bulky, he reflected over the fact that religion had made it easy for people to disguise their faith through what they wear and how they speak. The skull cap he wore now seemed to fit him perfectly.
Now his impatience was beginning to give way to annoyance. He had been waiting for more than fifteen minutes since the call had come. His mark should have reached Nawab Masjid by now. It should not have taken him more than ten minutes to make it there from Taj Palace. He tried to reassure himself that the delay was due to the heavy traffic and nothing else.
Mumbai is humid during August. Sweat streamed down his face. He wiped it off and looked around at the milling crowd. Bhendi Bazaar is a Muslim locality. Since it was the month of Ramzan, quite a few of them were out on the streets at that hour. It was time for them to break their fast. The Nawab Juice Corner near the entrance to the masjid was teeming with customers. There wasn’t any place to sit. You had to have your juices and shakes standing. Vikrant had chosen the place and time discreetly. He knew that during Iftar hours, the place would be full of people. More the number of people, the louder the message would be.
Vikrant held the glass of juice in his left hand. That made it look like he too was there to break his fast. His right hand gripped the khukri neatly concealed inside his kurta.
And then he saw his mark come around the corner.
Vikrant emptied the glass and placed it on the counter. Then he limped slowly towards the direction of his target. He wondered if anyone would recognize him in this disguise with the limp being an improvisation he had made at the last moment. He was not nervous, his right hand still gripping the khukri under the kurta. He felt his face muscles twitch. He had come a long way from being the helpless man who had wept hysterically clutching on to the lifeless, bloodied bodies of the two people who had meant everything to him.
So who is the target? Is he the only target? How will he evade the cops who have come to know of his plans? And who helps him to take his revenge????
Find out more in the book.