On issues that matter …

Dishonoring the brave October 14, 2012


Mumbai City has come to signify why this country may never build a war memorial for its soldiers (yes, hard to believe, but it’s true that India does not have a dedicated war memorial, considering this country has officially been at war at least three times in the last six decades since Independence).

The City’s administration that seems to perpetually work at cross purposes to its citizens is all set to demolish a modest memorial erected by its police department to honor the memory of its men who died in the line of duty during the worst ever terrorist attack the country has seen – on 26/11, 2008.

The Mumbai Municipal Corporation in probably one of its most insensitive moves, has apparently sent notice to the police department asking why the memorial should not be demolished because it is not convinced the relevant permissions were taken before building it.

Now, even a casual visitor to Mumbai cannot miss the multitudes of illegal encroachments across the city that not only devour pedestrian sidewalks, obstruct traffic, and make planned expansion of roads impossible but also actually make the city look ugly; and to think that the municipal corporation, which turns a blind eye to all of them, wants to raze a memorial to heroic police officers is preposterous.

It’s not to compare but in terms of its shock value, the 26/11 attacks are to Mumbai what the 9/11 attacks were to New York.

Just as the world had helplessly watched the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center buildings in New York in 2001, many relived those horrific moments as they watched live on TV the siege laid by a bunch of terrorists on Mumbai over three days in November 2008.

It was not without the heroes among the Mumbai police force – those that laid down their lives in the line of duty and those that managed to nab one of the attackers alive – that Mumbai city managed to hold its head with pride for having salvaged a calamity that was fraught with some of the most glaring of systemic and administrative lacunae.

The modest memorial to honor Mumbai’s bravest outside the Mumbai Police Gymkhana on Marine Drive is innocuous enough without the city administration wanting to erase even that memory off people’s memory. It just speaks volumes of the utter callousness of bureaucrats.

No wonder, world over one sees memorials honoring men in uniform but never a bureaucrat.


Srirekha Chakravarty