December 2, 2008

Cornellians React to India Terror

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This Thanksgiving weekend people all over the world were transfixed by the violence taking place in Mumbai, India, as terrorists went on a 59-hour siege of the city. The attacks, which according to The Times of India, killed 183 people and wounded another 239 at 10 locations, lasted from Wednesday to Saturday. Most of the killings occurred at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel. The Taj Hotel is owned by the Tata group, the chair of which is Ratan Tata ’62, who gave a $50 million endowment to Cornell in October.
The attacks have affected the lives of several Cornellians, including those from India and Pakistan and those planning to study abroad in the area.
Senthil Lingamoorthy grad, the logistics head of the Cornell India Association, is from Mumbai. He said, “I’m not there now so I can’t judge how exactly it feels … but things don’t really look good.”
Acknowledging other terrorist acts that have taken place in the country in the past few years, he said, “None were as serious as this … the uproar will last much longer.”
Lingamoorthy heard about the attacks on Wednesday and called his family even though it was 3 a.m. in India. They were fine since they live in the northern part of Mumbai and the attacks were in the south. However, what was most “frightening” to Lingamoorthy though is that he said, “I used to hang out at Café Leopold,” the site of one of the attacks on Wednesday.
Akhil Kuduvalli grad, said he was also “scared and worried” when he heard of the attacks. His father travels to Mumbai for business twice a month and he was not sure if his father was there at the time.
He called his father to check on him, and although his father was indeed in Mumbai, he was unharmed. Kuduvalli also made sure his other relatives in the city were all right.
Although none of Kuduvalli’s family was harmed, the attacks could have far reaching effects on the family. He said his parents had been contemplating a move to Mumbai for his father’s work, but they will most likely reconsider the idea.
The attacks could also change Kuduvalli’s graduation plans. Although one of his top choices for after graduation is doing research at the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research, the institute’s close proximity to the attacks might cause Kuduvalli to reconsider.
This might mean not returning to India, since he said there are few other institutes of the same quality in the country.
The chair of the Council of Management of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research is Tata.
The $50 million endowment Tata gave Cornell came from the Tata Education and Development Trust, a philanthropic entity of the Tata Group. According to the University, “the endowment consists of $25 million to establish the Tata-Cornell Initiative in Agriculture and Nutrition, which will contribute to advances in nutrition and agriculture for India; and $25 million for the Tata Scholarship Fund for Students from India, to help attract more of the best and brightest students to Cornell from India.”
While Cornell is trying to attract students from India, it is also sending students to the country to study abroad.
Julieclaire Sheppard ’10 will study abroad in Dharamsala, a small, remote mountain town in northern India, next semester.
She said, “My plans to study abroad will not be affected at all — I’m going to a really remote region in India. Even if I were going to Mumbai, I don’t think anything would change because the odds of another attack occurring there are very minuscule.”
However, she is worried that her travel plans will be impacted by the blasts.
“I had planned to go to a lot of the sites that were targeted this weekend … When I visit them they will be shrines, and not tourist attractions. One of the places that was targeted was Leopold’s Cafe, which is a backpacker’s haunt in India. I had planned to go backpacking around India. I think ‘That’s me. That’s what I would’ve been doing’ and it’s very unnerving.”
According to The New York Times, a group called Deccan Mujahedeen claimed responsibility for the attacks. Nine of the 10 shooters were killed and the tenth remains in custody; however, officials believe there may be additional shooters since the extent of the violence was so devastating.
Despite the Deccan Mujahedeen’s confession, Indian and American intelligence points to Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamist group from the disputed Kashmir region. The group has collaborated with the Taliban and Al Qaeda and received training and support from Pakistan’s intelligence services, before it was officially banned in 2002.
This has resulted in increased tensions between India and Pakistan.
Wasif Syed grad, whose parents are Pakistani said, “This is obviously very devastating … it is a global problem.”
Tara Malik ’09, president of the Pakistani Students’ Association, said, “We condemn these inhumane attacks and any form of terrorism. Everyone is keeping the victims and those affected by the attacks in their hearts.”
She also expressed her hopes for future relations between the two countries.
“India and Pakistan should unite and combat the same enemy instead of increasing their hostility to each other.”
Now that the violence has ceased, Indians are assessing their government’s response to the violence.
Lingamoorthy said, “I’m still worried. The government needs to take some action. They haven’t clamped down as much as they should.”
Kuduvalli echoed his concerns.
“I don’t think anyone was happy with [the government’s response]. I particularly was not … They haven’t really done what they were supposed to. They could have done much better in terms of reaction timing.”
Cornell India Association President Manish Agarwal grad, said one of his friends who worked at a bank was shot and killed. He said, “I hope something is done this time.”
There will be a vigil for the victims on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Anabel Taylor Hall Chapel sponsored by the CIA, the Society for India and other student groups. There will also be a vigil sponsored by Chabad and Hillel for the victims on tomorrow at 5 p.m. in the One World Room in Anabel Taylor Hall.