Politicians trying to gain mileage from attacks: Gulzar

Mumbai, Dec 4 (IANS) Prolific writer-director-lyricist Gulzar, who has made two films on the issue of terrorism, blames laxity on the part of the Maharashtra government for the Mumbai terror strikes and says politicians are trying to gain political mileage out of the attacks.

"Why are politicians trying to gain mileage out of this gruesome incident? Our home is burning, we don't have ample security to protect ourselves," Gulzar told IANS.

"I believe the Maharashtra government had information as late as 24 hours before it happened. If no one wants to act in spite of loud warnings, what do we do? An individual can't pull the administrators physically out of their homes," he remarked in anger.

"I don't see politicians talking to the victims of terrorism, giving them courage. To divert attention, they start talking about Pakistan," said Gulzar, who has made films on terrorism like "Maachis" and "Hu Tu Tu".

He was also against comparisons between the attacks in Mumbai and the 9/11 terror strike in the US.

"9/11! Why are you comparing our situation to that? Don't we have enough reference points of our own? It's like calling our film industry 'Bollywood' just because they've their 'Hollywood'. What about the storming of parliament? Is that a smaller reference point than 9/11 for 26/11? Stop resorting to clichés," he said.

Excerpts:

Q: Do you think the Mumbai terror strikes have put your efforts to build a cultural bridge between India and Pakistan back by many steps?

A: When such attacks happen in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore we ring up our friends there. Don't we have family and friends across the border? I've received at least 25 phone calls from Pakistan in the last four days, and from my Pakistani friends in New York.

Why are politicians trying to gain mileage out of this gruesome incident? Our home is burning, we don't have ample security to protect ourselves. And you are just saying Pakistan, Pakistan! Our intelligence agencies have been constantly getting warnings of an attack. What more evidence did we need to take precautions? We've under-equipped and under-paid all our administrative services.

Q: How does the situation look to you?

A: This is not the first time we've faced such a situation. I was as concerned about the attacks when they happened in Jaipur and Delhi... now Mumbai. First, I feel angry, then I feel helpless and depressed. It's a familiar cycle by now. What do we do? I believe the Maharashtra government had information as late as 24 hours before it happened. If no one wants to act in spite of loud warnings, what do we do? An individual can't pull the administrators physically out of their homes.

The minute it (the attack) happened, politicians started talking the language of politics. No one is addressing the seriousness of the situation. I don't see politicians talking to the victims, giving them courage. To divert attention, they start talking about Pakistan. Tell me they blew up the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan and they destroyed the Taj (Mahal Palace and Tower) Hotel in India. What's the difference?

Q: None at all?

A: None. This is total terrorism. It's not a war between India and Pakistan. There are fatal casualties on both sides. Pakistan has to think of its security. We've to go way beyond the tug-of-war of party politics. Is even one politician really concerned?

Check the newspapers and television footage - their statements after Mumbai's attack are the same as after Delhi. The same spirit that they wanted the country to show. Dammit, what spirit are they talking about? Do they know how the common man's spirit is broken? They aren't concerned. It's a total sham. And changing the government doesn't help. The politicians are safe because they are never anywhere near the scene of attack.

Q: Millions and millions are spent on protecting politicians...

A: And look at the equipment used by our policemen who fought the terrorists in Mumbai - they were using obsolete guns from the World War II times! Look at the helmet and bullet-proof jacket (Anti-Terrorism Squad chief) Hemant Karkare was given! What sort of priorities are these? It's very frustrating. The politicians' attitudes have to change. Didn't they say 'Enough is enough' the last time also?

Q: After 9/11, there were no terror strikes in the US.

A: 9/11! Why are you comparing our situation to that? Don't we have enough reference points of our own? It's like calling our film industry 'Bollywood' just because they have their Hollywood. What about the storming of parliament? Is that a smaller reference point than 9/11 for 26/11? Stop resorting to clichés.

Q: Do you think cinema has any power to eradicate evil?

A: Not at all. No fine art can do it. Can film violence ever equal the brutality and impact of the real violence? Cinema holds up a mirror. Don't expect it to reform society.

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