By Parag Khanna
Who is to blame for the Mumbai attacks?
The Indian news headlines, never shying from dramatic language, blazed the words "Terrorists Take Over Mumbai" across television screens. For the first time, it didn't seem like an understatement. Even by the standards of a country which, to many people's surprise, is the No. 2 target of terrorism worldwide (ranking only behind Iraq), the simultaneous attacks on multiple civilian targets—including Victoria Train Station, two hospitals, and the city's two most prominent hotels, the Taj and Oberoi—took terror to the next level. In a plot that could have come out of the country's beloved Bollywood film industry, armed attackers dressed as Mumbai police launched sophisticated strikes, assassinating two of the country's leading anti-terrorism officials alongside at least 100 other civilians at the various sites. Executives, elites, and Western tourists were taken hostage while terrorists allegedly lobbed grenades from hotel rooftops onto onlookers below. If the group claiming responsibility, Deccan Mujahadeen, was indeed involved, then some questions need to be answered. The group swears to avenge the repression of Muslims within India, and recent police tactics—enthusiastically rounding up Muslims from deprived areas for interrogation—clearly inflamed tensions. But then why go door-to-door in the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel looking for Americans and Brits? Some say to divert attention from Pakistan, India's neighbor and in most people's opinion the front line of the global war on Islamist extremism. With two hotels still involved in active hostage situations, it's too soon to get full explanations. (A group of hostages was reportedly freed early Thursday morning, EST). The bigger question is what options are available for the Indian government, whose commandos have beefed up to fight a fresh round of violence in Kashmir and growing Naxalite terrorism in the country's east, but whose politics remains deadlocked on the issue of affirmative action and special privileges for the country's 150 million Muslims. In Kashmir, India always has the Pakistan foil, as it also did for the brazen attacks on India's parliament in 2001. But in this latest and most gripping attack on India's open society, it's not clear yet who is to blame.