Logo SAVE - Sisters against violent extremism

03. December 2009

In Remembrance 26/11 © E.Kasbauer

Women travelling © E.Kasbauer

Veiled Women in Mumbai © E.Kasbauer

VT Station Manager © E.Kasbauer

The Stationmanager of the Chatrapathi Shivaji Railway Terminus in Mumbai

Poonam and Sanchin © E.Kasbauer

Poonam and her sun Sanchin

Vineeta Sharma Mumbai © E.Kasbauer

Vineeta Sharma

WwB with studetents in Mumbai © FoG

Edit Schlaffer and Elisabeth Kasbauer with students at the SNDT Women´s College in Mumbai

SNDT College Student © E.Kasbauer

One of the students at the SNDT Women´s College

Majlis e Shora © E.Kasbauer

Group of Nurses Cama Albless © E.Kasbauer

The group of nurses that was on duty in the Cama and Albless Hospital on November 26th 2008

Surviving Terror—One Year After the Attacks in Bombay

A Women without Borders SAVE trip on the occasion of the first anniversary

Women without Borders/SAVE travelled to Mumbai from November 23-27, 2009 to launch further local SAVE activities on the occasion of the first anniversary of the November 26th, 2008 attacks. Initial meetings with survivors, workshops in schools, and interviews with political, media, and civil society representatives already took place this past February. You can read more about those initial meetings here.

While the bombs and shootings were rocking India and the world one year ago, the first global SAVE - Sisters Against Violent Extremism conference was taking place in Vienna. Thirty-three women from around the world came together to form the world’s first counter-terror platform. At that time, we decided neither to ignore the victims and survivors in India nor to heap our pity on them, but rather to ensure that they are not forgotten.
One of SAVE’s central objectives is to work with mothers, schools, and university students. Mothers are ideally positioned at the heart of the family to prevent their sons, husbands, and other family members from falling into the trap of extremist ideologies. The young generation must work with the survivors to make their concerns visible and to give them a voice that will resonate with the next generation, and to enable them to stand up against violent extremism together.

It is both alarming and striking that the victims of the Mumbai bombings have no collective voice; there is no organization that represents the interests of the victims, such as “Families of 9/11” in the US or “Asociación 11-M” in Spain.
The survivors are isolated and do not have the possibility of developing a group identity to systematically gain government aid or legal and psychological help, nor can they exert pressure on the political system or the bureaucracy. They are the most visible contemporary witnesses of violence and terror, and the world may not fail to help them find their place both as authorities and as part of the global counter-terrorism strategy.

Mr Zinde, one of the station managers of the central train station Chatrapathi Shivaji Railway Terminus (which everyone affectionately calls VT station), saved countless lives that fateful night. He works in a small glass enclosure above the departure hall. He risked his own life to warn passengers not to move toward the departure platforms. He called his family to say goodbye to them, because he knew that he presented the terrorists with an easy target in his exposed office. But he survived.

Poonam and her then six-year old son Sachin were also at the train station on November 26th. They were on their way to a relative’s funeral and were waiting for their train. When they first heard the rapid fire of the machine gun, Sachin thought that people were celebrating the cricket match that was taking place that day. He ran towards the waiting guns and thus directly in the terrorists’ line of fire. He is still suffering from the consequences of the bullet that pierced through his hand. His mother, who ran after him, was hit in the shoulder by a bullet that travelled into her abdomen. Now she can barely walk.

Vineeta Sharma lost her 16-year old son; her family was on their way to a wedding when the attack happened. The 47-year old has since moved into a new apartment with her husband and her two daughters; the old apartment holds too many memories. She serves us Masala tea in front of drawn curtains and speaks quietly. She is deeply moved by the SAVE-team’s visit: “I never thought that so many people all over the world are affected. If we came together we could learn from each other, and the world could learn from us.”

Hamid Khan’s right eye was hit by a piece of flying metal from an exploding car. He accompanied the SAVE team to a workshop with students at SNDT Women’s College. After the young women watched the film “Surviving Terror”, heard Hamid’s story, and learned more about SAVE, a heated brainstorming session took place. The participants felt the need to take action and decided to form an organizational team that would coordinate future activities. “Woman can effect change; we’ve already proven that. We have to take a step back and take time to put together something meaningful,” says Samira. The students at Doshti Women’s College are also convinced: “We women will make sure that changes occur, we will start a movement and stand up against terrorism together.”

Farid Khan, the General Secretary of a Muslim Center in Mumbai, invited Women without Borders/SAVE to participate in a discussion with the Muslim community in the Majlis e Shura. Members of the Muslim community, survivors from the attack, and the Hindu nurses whose civil courage saved countless mothers' and babies' lives in the Cama Albless Hospital had the opportunity to come together and to share their experiences, views, attitudes, and ideas.

Major Indian media outlets extensively reported on the SAVE activities one year after the attacks. Please click on the links below to read a selection of articles from Indian newspapers as well as an editorial piece in the daily newspaper Die Presse.

´26/11 victims need to come together to tide over trauma´ - An interview with Edit Schlaffer in Hindustan Times (November 24th 2009)

Tapping into Girl Power - A report on SAVE workshops at universities in Mumbai, Hindustan Times (Nov. 25th 2009)

The Bloody Trail through Bombay - A commentary by Edit Schlaffer for the Austrian daily newspaper Die Presse (Nov 26th 2009)

"Women here are extremely isolated" - An article in the Indian newspaper DNA (Dec 1st 2009)


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