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Rice Stops In India To Defuse Mumbai Tensions


This is Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited New Delhi, India today. She's trying to ease tensions between India and Pakistan. This comes after a terrorist attack on Mumbai. Indian authorities say that the attackers came by boat from Pakistani soil, and that has reignited difficulties between the two countries. That is not all that's happening with that story today. NPR's Philip Reeves is in Mumbai where a number of protesters have gathered on the streets. And Philip, what have you seen?

PHILIP REEVES: Well, let me paint a picture for you, Steve. It's night time here. It's exactly a week since the attacks happened in Mumbai. There's a crescent moon hanging in the sky. The Taj Mahal Hotel, which was of course one of the targets of the gunmen who came in here and caused such devastation a week ago, is beside the water's edge on the Arabian sea. And around it, in the plaza there, or close to it at least, there is a throng of people, a very large crowd of people from this city who have come out to express their pain, their anger, and their grief.

They've gathered here to protest a variety of different things. They do not have one single message, but they are here in large numbers. And they are, it seems from talking to them, largely from the middle class, the educated classes. Many of them are saying that they've never been on a demonstration before.

INSKEEP: Philip, you mentioned that there are a number of different causes being represented here, but I'd like to get a sense of what the main issues are. Are people most concerned about what we talked about at the beginning, Pakistan and its role in this, or is it something else?

REEVES: Look, Steve, we've heard people chanting against Pakistan, "Down with Pakistan." We've heard people recommending that the government goes to war with Pakistan, that it strikes particularly training camps that they believe the militants used there. But we've also seen many people who say they're on a peace march. If there was one theme that seems to sort of be edging ahead above the others, it's a theme about the government and the mismanagement of the government of India. Many people in this march feel that they have had short shrift from their government. They believe the government has failed to protect them. They believe the intelligence services failed to protect them. And that is what they are out here saying tonight.

It's interesting also, though - there's a subtheme. This is the city of Mumbai. It's the commercial and industrial capital of the country. It puts more money into the revenues of India than any other city. They feel here - and you can see that from the banners that we're looking at - that they are not getting their money's worth. And some of these banners are saying things like, enough is enough. And some of them are saying, no taxes. We won't pay taxes any longer unless we get good value from the government.

INSKEEP: NPR's Philip Reeves is on the streets of Mumbai where people are expressing frustration, among other things, about their government. And Philip, I know there have been reports in Indian newspapers suggesting that the government could have or even did know about these attacks in advance, suggesting that the government could have done something to prevent the attacks. And without trying to confirm those reports, I wonder if what you're telling me is that it almost doesn't matter to the people in this crowd. This is an occasion for them to express frustration they've had about the government for a long time.

REEVES: Absolutely. People often when you ask them why they're here, they say because of corruption. Well, corruption seems to be several steps away from the issues that are related to the attack that took place on Mumbai. But it is about governance, which has always been the bane of India's economy. It's always been the theme that has come up when people talk about whether or not India will be genuinely a rising global power, a rival to China. So they're talking about that. And that's given this event tonight a particular character, a particularly different sort of theme to it, which is, people say in Mumbai - we've talked to them - they say that's unusual too.

INSKEEP: NPR's Philip Reeves in Mumbai, thanks very much.

REEVES: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.