A huge crowd gathers to cheer some of the commandos as trucks drive them away from the scene. They chant "Bharat Mata ki Jai!" ("Victory to Mother India!"), mobbing the vehicles. The TV news channels go wild, running instant specials "Saluting India's Bravehearts". When a leading Mumbai intellectual, Gerson da Cunha, asks on a news panel if "Operation Black Thunder" really was such a wonderful victory, the anchorman screams at him for his lack of patriotism and all the other guests join in.
The enthusiasm for the security forces is in stark contrast to the hatred being expressed for politicians of all parties. The English-speaking elite that was targeted at the hotels, and which has until now been mostly untouched by terrorism, is looking for someone to blame. The Hindu nationalist BJP would like to exploit the situation. However, it will be hard for it to don the mantle of toughness on terrorism. Recently, it has been campaigning against Maharashtra's anti-terrorist squad over the arrest of a Hindu extremist army officer. The squad's leader was killed on Wednesday and has been hailed as a martyr.
Back at the hotel, the news is saying that the terrorists came by boat from Karachi. There's a kind of irony to this if it's true. Karachi looks and feels like a mini-Mumbai. It is Pakistan's great trading port, the locus of its film industry, its most Western, modern and outward-looking city. The story is that they hijacked a trawler up in Gujarat and that it was boarded by two coastguard officials, who were kidnapped and murdered. However, none of the stories includes a confirmation from the coastguard that any of its people are missing, and like so many rumours reported as news it evaporates in 24 hours.
The terrorists on the trawler are said to have landed just down the street from my hotel. The newspapers and TV show a picture of a semi-inflatable dinghy seized from a nearby fishing village. The police say it is one that the terrorists used. However, the police have a talent for "discovering" evidence at politically convenient moments, just as they are adept at getting confessions from unlikely suspects.
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