Salman Rushdie on the Mumbai Bombay terror attacks

December 28, 2008

Salman Rushdie, with a panel of distinguished others, discussed the November terrorist attacks on the city of Bombay in New York a few days ago.

Among other things, he had this to say about the re-naming of Bombay, the city in which he was born:

And by the way, I think we have all agreed before hand that we are going to call the city by its proper name, which is Bombay. It is Bombay that was attacked and not Mumbai. And, by the way, I cannot say, and this is the only time I will say it, the words “Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus”. This railway station is and always will be VT. And so, because these are the names of love, the others are the artificial names imposed by the politicians. But these are the names of the city that we love.

Here it is:


Rushdie is always worth listening to, and you can catch the video of the discussion here at Asia Society (it runs for more than an hour and a half), or read edited extracts from his remarks here at Outlook India.

It’s interesting that he has a swipe at Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy:

[Arundhati Roy in her article had actually written: “We’re told one of these hotels is an icon of the city of Mumbai. That’s absolutely true. It’s an icon of the easy, obscene injustice that ordinary Indians endure every day.”–Ed ]

I thought that particular remark in her piece was disgusting. The idea that the deaths of the rich don’t matter because they are rich is disgusting.

The idea that the 12 members of the Taj staff, who heroically gave their lives to save many of the guests, are to be discounted because they were presumably the lackeys of the rich — this is nauseating. This is amoral. And she should be ashamed of herself.

Roy was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in 2004.

Talking of the Bombay attacks, some chilling stuff here.

Disturbing photographs made available to this newspapers by police sources indicate that several of the guests at the Taj Mahal Hotel during the siege November 26 were sexually humiliated by the terrorists and then shot dead.

Police sources confirm that even as the terrorists were engaged in a fierce combat with NSG commandos, they were humiliating their hostages before ending their terrifying ordeal.

Foreign guests were their particular target. Eight of the 31 killed at the Taj were foreign nationals.

Photographs taken by a police forensic team after the hotel was sanitised yield a gruesome picture of some of the guests in the nude.

These bodies were found away from the hotel’s swimming pool which makes it clear that they were not those guests who were taken hostage from the poolside.

“Even the Rabbi and his wife at Nariman House were sexually assaulted and their genitalia mutilated,” said a senior officer of the investigating team, not wishing to be quoted.

We’ve seen some of these stories before, and I’m not convinced they’re not just rumours and gossip. I hope they are.


  1. Rushdie revels in the colonial past, and a lot of Indians have this mindset: everything British was stylish.

    The world would never have had a Rangipopo island, or the names Alaska, Oklahoma, Omaha and all those musical names would be repalced by anglicised European names.

    Thank god, for some common sense.

    Rushdie: you may have the attitude on the Mumbai attacks right, but your servility is atrocious

  2. Mumbai is city of British creation. Forgetting its past would be a huge folly. For instance, did you know about the connection between US Civil War and Mumbai’s growth?. Mr. Rushdie probably does. Did you know that Bombay Dockyard was the first dry dock in Asia? East India company had a lot to do with it.

    Forgetting the past can result in the current madness related to Mumbai being sole property of the native Marathi people.

  3. Nice gravatar, nice site, mumbaikar.

    I agree the period of Anglo-India is one to be remembered and valued. In fact, if the 21st century does turn out to be India’s, as many now believe it will (rather than China’s), I suspect the generations of close association with Britain will have a lot to do with India’s platform of economic and political ascension.

    Raj: that’s a little harsh on Rushdie. He’s had plenty to say about the colonial period and has been anything but complimentary about Britain in the past. In fact, I remember, at the time of The Satanic Verses fatwa, the then UK Foreign Minister saying, ‘We don’t like him very much either, you know’.

    However, his tone does seem to have changed in the past few years. Perhaps the fact that he (very probably) owes his life to the British establishment and is now the proud recipient of a Knighthood may have had something to do with it.

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  5. There was actually a period where BA (at that point still partly state owned) didn’t want to fly Rushdie anywhere on the grounds that some nutter would create a mile high incident of epic proportions, and the only guarantee of safe passage he could get was from Air France. Some of the protection he received from the Brits was a bit on the desultory side, too. If you dig back though past New Yorkers you’ll find a good piece by Julian Barnes on the whole business. But yes, not popular in Britain, and perceived to have bitten the hand that fed him.

  6. What’s your judgement of Rushdie as a writer, sl, if you don’t mind me asking and you don’t mind saying? I really enjoyed Shame, The Satanic Verses and The Moor’s Last Sigh, but his later works left me strangely cold. I’ve not read The Enchantress of Florence yet but I’ve read reviews that suggest (a) he’s completely regained it, or (b) he’s totally lost it.

  7. I’ve only ever read Midnight’s Children, Shame and Haroun and the Sea of Stories, all of which I enjoyed, especially the first. I have no ‘brand loyalty’ to authors, so only read a book if the plot summary on the back seems interesting to me. The plot conceit in MC is very clever — ie the closer to midnight on independence one was born, the more (and more interesting) ‘super powers’ one receives worked very well.

    Beyond that, I’m not really qualified to comment.

  8. Thanks, sl. I enjoyed Haroun as well – in fact, it inspired me to go out and get the whole ten volumes of The Ocean of Story (though I can’t claim to have read them all yet).

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