Dipankar De Sarkar: Love of freedom will see Mumbai through

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The Independent Online

While the horrific terrorist attacks on Mumbai left me dumbstruck, sadly they are by no means unique.

India has lived with terrorism for decades. It has known for many years what others are now learning: that what happens in one country – sometimes a far-flung one – can impact on events elsewhere; and that defeating terrorism needs both political and security solutions. Most of all it needs stamina, and cool heads to prevail.

Mumbai and its residents will once again rise above a night's mayhem wreaked by cynical terrorists. Hundreds of innocent Mumbaikars have been killed before in terrorist attacks before.

Yet, after each attack India's commercial capital has bounced back. How annoying and frustrating that must be for the merchants of death. And how naive of them to expect a people in love with freedom to submit to their violence.

Like the rest of India, Mumbai is a surprisingly resilient place. Its cosmopolitan flavour and mad passion for life reminds me of London and New York – two other cities where not only the rich can enjoy and express themselves.

It wasn't a coincidence that the perpetrators of the attacks struck at night – Mumbai is a city with a charming nightlife. Nor was it a coincidence that they struck two well-known hotels: not only are the Oberoi Trident and Taj Mahal Palace frequented by foreigners, they are also the symbols of cosmopolitan India of which Mumbai has long been the flagbearer.

And it wasn't a coincidence that the terrorists targeted Mumbai's busiest railway station. Once known as Victoria Terminus, with its close resemblance to St Pancras, it is now the Chhatrapati Shivaji, named after the 17th-century king who founded the Maratha empire, present day Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital.

As India shakes off decades of poverty, embracing economic reforms and integrating with the global economy, Mumbai remains a magnet for migrants – the hope of millions of poor. It is these hopes of freedom and prosperity that terrorists want to tear into.

But as in New York after 9/11, and London after 7/7, India's response must rest firmly on the rule of the law. Yesterday, the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, spoke of the terrorists' "use of other territory" for launching their attack – a clear reference to Pakistan. But moderation and cool heads must be allowed to prevail.

After 7/7 local authorities in London worked closely with the Government to ensure that there were no significant reprisal attacks. Mumbai must now do the same, without reprisals on defenceless innocents – for that surely would give terrorists the dark victory they so covet.

Dipankar De Sarkar is the British correspondent for IANS, the Indian news agency