There is something specially symbolic about a terrorist attack on a major hotel, especially one which is a haven for foreign visitors.
Two months ago it was Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel that was hit by a massive truck bomb in one of the worst attacks to happen as the battle between the Islamic militants and the Pakistan establishment escalated. For years the Marriott – earlier a Holiday Inn – had been a symbol of some sort of normalcy in an increasingly dangerous country. No more!
Tonight the majestic and historic Taj Hotel on the waterfront in Mumbai has been besieged, and some of its splendidly gracious corridors and rooms set on fire, in one of several terrorist attacks on the city.
The Oberoi Trudent hotel, on the other side of the peninsula that constitutes south Mumbai, was also attacked along with other targets including a popular restaurant near the Taj.
There is the additional factor that foreign passport holders – especially American and British – seem to have been targeted, and some held hostage.
There is the tragedy of the deaths totalling over 80, with more than 200 injured, as I write.
This takes terrorism to a new level in India, which has been accustomed to various types of attacks for some 25 years – including the killing in 1984 and 1991 of prime minister Indira Gandhi and her ex-prime minister son Rajiv, plus attacks on the parliament in Delhi and Mumbai railway trains in more recent years.
There has been obviously careful and highly competent planning of the attacks, plus the combination of bombs and shooting in two of India’s most famous hotels, and the targeting of foreign tourists.
For Indians the Taj – now a favourite top price business and tourist location – has a special signficance because it was opened by Jamshed Tata in 1902 as a hotel where Indians could go and avoid British-only rules that applied elsewhere.
India has tonight become a much less safe place to be than it seemed just a day ago. That of course is what the terrorists intend.