November 16, 2009 — "Sixty Hours of Terror: Ten Gunmen, Ten Minutes" – a serial blog running on the Virginia Quarterly Review Web site today through Thursday – covers the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, that happened a year ago, the worst terror attack in the country, committed by Muslim militants.
U.Va. alumnus Jason Motlagh, who graduated in 2004, made multiple trips to Mumbai, interviewed survivors, pored over pages and pages of police records, reports in the Indian media and transcripts of intercepted phone communications between the gunmen and their handlers, and watched video from closed-circuit security cameras. The online report is more than 19,000 words and features 24 unpublished photographs of the attacks and aftermath.
His work fills in the absence of "a single, thorough accounting of what exactly had happened on those fateful days," editor Ted Genoways writes in the introduction.
Genoways said publishing Motlagh's "amazing piece of original journalism" was a milestone for VQR.
"We soon hit upon the idea of something that would be closer to literary nonfiction than traditional journalism – or even 'new journalism.' This would not be the story of Jason's journey in the wake of disaster, but a straightforward narrative of what happened in Mumbai," Genoways said.
The first installment recounts the attacks at five sites in the city and describes the "Army of the Pure" behind these and other fatal incidents where dozens of people have been killed and hundreds injured. The Muslim group claims it wants to "liberate" Kashmir from India and expand an Islamist state, including Pakistan.
Motlagh is a multimedia journalist who covers conflicts around South Asia. He is a regular contributor to Time, The Economist, Frontline/World, The Washington Times, and other leading print and online outlets. Much of his reporting has focused on Afghanistan, where he recently co-produced a documentary for Al-Jazeera English on the return of the warlords. Another, long-term project, sponsored by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, explores the impact of civilian casualties on counter-insurgency efforts there. Previous Pulitzer Center-funded work on the rise of Maoist guerillas in backcountry India was featured on the PBS program, "Foreign Exchange," and in the pages of VQR.
We "offer this essential piece of writing in hopes that there is still an audience for something deeper than sound bites, more careful and humane than cable shout shows. We are hoping that there is still a hunger for original reporting and not just reaction stories," Genoways said.
VQR, a national journal of literature and discussion, was founded at the University of Virginia in 1925. Over the years it has published the work of such luminaries as H.L. Mencken, Bertrand Russell, Katherine Anne Porter, D.H. Lawrence, Robert Penn Warren and Marianne Moore. Recent issues have featured essays, stories, poems and art by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Rita Dove, Cormac McCarthy, Adrienne Rich and Art Spiegelman, among others.