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Page last updated at 17:37 GMT, Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Rulers bear brunt of Mumbai anger

By Prachi Pinglay
BBC News, Mumbai

Rally in Mumbai
The protesters made their point forcefully but peacefully

"I expect the government to exit en masse. I feel as if someone has broken into our homes. We have lived in Mumbai all our lives and we feel violated," said Khursheeda Mody alongside her friends, Gita and Reshne.

The three women were among thousands of people who had gathered for a peace rally called to protest against the recent attacks.

The message calling the protest was widely circulated by texts, with no one group organising the event.

At the Taj Mahal Palace hotel - which was under siege by suspected terrorists for nearly 60 hours last week - there was no sign of apprehension. Thousands were unafraid to join the gathering from late afternoon.

Candles

Twilight is the time when south Mumbai normally witnesses an exodus of people who live by the tick of their watches and head for their suburban homes. On Wednesday, it was the other way round.

Ismail Patanwala
I hope the government takes action and respects what people have to say
Ismail Patanwala

People came in groups or on their own - college students, professionals, retired citizens, religious groups, activists, celebrities and scores of other ordinary men and women. There were hundreds of candles, placards and signature campaigns.

Several groups sang the Indian national anthem.

Urban educated professionals demanded that citizens should not pay taxes until there was a serious security plan.

Some demanded the resignations of all political leaders in power, advocating a "no-vote" option in forthcoming elections so that people could register their lack of faith in existing political representatives.

Others called for a separate city-state status for Mumbai, India's financial capital.

There were demands for compulsory military training for youngsters, "so that they can at least save themselves in such times of crisis".

'Ruined'

While there were calls for military action against Pakistan, others pointed out that the media should exercise self-control while covering sensitive army operations and events that could create panic.

However, everyone wanted the politicians to improve their act.

"Politicians have ruined this country," said Naina, who proudly wore an "I love Bombay" T-shirt.

Khursheeda Mody (left) with her friends Gita and Reshne
Khursheeda, Gita and Reshne: Anger at government

"Politicians have divided people for their benefit," she said. "We need to bring good people to govern this country."

TS Anklesaria, who attended the gathering from a distant suburb with his wife, said that "perhaps the time has come to adopt what Jinnah said and not what Mahatma Gandhi said".

"Jinnah said that if someone slaps you once, you must slap him harder. That is what we need now."

Amid this plethora of demands and slogans, there was also support for systemic changes to the Indian political structure.

"This gathering shows the strength of people. It is really nice that all of them have come together to make a point. I hope the government takes action and respects what people have to say," Ismail Patanwala said.

Parul and Supreeta, who both have backgrounds in the defence industry, said that it was "not acceptable that anyone can saunter in with an AK-47 and shoot people".

They argued that there needs to be "a serious security plan not for a few months but forever".

But it was lack of faith in the political governance of India that seemed to sweep away other emotions.

As one female college student succinctly put it: "I don't think anyone can do anything about this situation. I do not expect anything from the government. Whatever we have to do, we have to do it ourselves."

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