Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Mumbai Blasts

After coming so close to an incident of terrorism last december in IISc, my sensitivity towards these events has surely
increased somewhat. Earlier, it was no better than callousness. Like millions others, I used to think that these are
events of some other world, which affects me no more than events happening in a movie. Now, things matter at least a bit
more than that.

Mumbai blasts this tuesday was again rather close. Three of my bosom friends, and many BE classmates are in Mumbai. I
called them up, messaged them, and did all that usual lot to ascertain their safety after the blast. If at all, my use of
the wireless network was one more contributer to the collapse of the communication network immediately after the incident!

...And one would again wonder why Indians are so quick in getting on with their lives after such incidents. IISc was back
in its usual laid back way within an hour of that shootout. The terrorist escaped. A professor died. Prof. Vijay Chandru
got hurt badly. And yet, we were sipping tea at tea board within an hour, within 50 yards of that place.

Mumbai too is back into its usual hustle bustle. There's hardly any sign of anything having happened.

On the other hand, we hear about the aggressive ways of Israel in recovering that one soldier who was abducted by the
palestineans. And the memories of Russia's response to the Chechen hostage drama about two years ago is still fresh in my
memory. They killed every single terrorist. In turn they lost more lives than they could have saved by kneeling down to
the demands of the kidnappers. There's that way of responding to terrorist threats. Super-aggressive ways which make it
an issue of national pride when terrorists try being aggressive. A good sign to make it clear that the government can be
as aggressive and cruel as the terrorists. So they shouldn't bank upon the pacifism of the normal public. Quite opposite
to India's ways. The whole nation doesn't fight back. Rather they take it as if it's a matter of disgrace that should be
hushed up as soon as possible.

A rather queer parallel pops up in my mind at this point. Incidents of sexual-harrassment are dealt with rather strictly
in other places. In India, there's a strong tendency to hush up the matters. As if the disgrace is more with the victim
than with the perpetrator. Nothing can justify this. Yet, as far as I am aware, events of sexual harrassment are not any
more common in India than elsewhere. I also am not confident that women in India are indeed looked down upon as inferior
to men, any more than anywhere else. And yet, that hushing up thing is unjustifiable.

Acts of terrorism are like molestation of a complete society. And to incidents of terrorist violence, India responds like
its women do to incidents of sexual harrassment. By pretending to ignore it, or at least by not creating a hue and cry
about it. It's not justifiable. There are parallels even in the consequences. India is not any more marred by terrorism
than any other more aggressive nation. Yes, if you count the number of lives lost in various terrorist incidents elsewhere,
it would come nowhere close to the eighty thousand lives lost merely in Kashmir in the last decade and a half. And yet
India moves on. India, so frigid that she doesn't as much as groan when she is being gangraped!! Like an inanimate
automaton, she just gets up and keeps walking.

Our long tradition of non-violence might prompt us to believe that this ugly act of ignoring the wounds and disgrace others
inflict on us stands as a great weapon of survival in the long run. It's true that a handful terrorists will reach
nowhere close to even creating an twitch in a massive body of one billion people by sounding a few crackers. Yet, a long
life earned out of cowardice? Is it the main reason of our civilisation having survived so many millenia? Is this
longetivity worth having? Will the bane of terrorism ever lift from our head? Will we lay ourselves down to be raped
everytime waiting for the day when our violator finally just gets sick of our frigidity and loses interest in us?

Is my writing an angry blog any proof that I too am not one of those frigid Indians?

Postscript: Just watched a documentary in Discovery which talked about the psychological phenomena involved in turning a
person into a human bomb. Some notes from that:
* They are normal humans. Not ferrocious born terrorists as we think.
* Many of them aren't even strongly religious. Some even booze and party. That's contrary to the usual belief that religion
has anything to do with becoming a human-bomb. For instance, there's no positive suggestion in either Quran or Bible
about suicide attacks.
* Such groups originate as small local groups of 4 to a dozen young people and later on merge into bigger and bigger
terrorist outfits.
* All these start in a feeling of strong friendship. Often this feeling becoming so strong that the other relations,
including blood relations, go weaker. Social sequestration happens.
* Mob psychology is strongly at work. The strengthening bonds of friendship finally give place to a strong urge to be
accepted in the fraternity, even if the life has to be laid down.
* Victims don't appear as human beings, but just targets. Bringing into mind that humans are going to be killed could be
disastrous for the execution of their plans.
* 85% of the members of Al-Queda are second generation emigrants. People whose parents had relocated out of their country
are subject to certain unique psychological developments which might prompt them into becoming human bombs.

1 comment:

Sujit Kumar Chakrabarti said...

This is a nice article ... do read it at leisure
Dear all,

Today's Mid-Day edit begins by saying that you don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand that the chain of events starting from the Bhiwandi riots to the desecration of Meenatai's statue and what happened as an aftermath, to the serial blasts on the trains yesterday, means s omebody somewhere wants Mumbaikar's to spill out on the streets and grab each other by the throats.

Incidentally, these same somebody-- the faceless outcasts that they still are-- have at least succeeded in one part of their plan. Mumbaikars have actually spilled out on to the streets.

The catch here is that they have failed to succeed in the second and most important part of their plan: that of getting Mumbaikars to grab each other by the throats. Mumbaikars spilled ont o the streets-- in a collective show of the middle finger to those who proposed otherwise.

I know very well that you are already aware of how Mumbai stormed onto the streets to help the injured, the stranded and soothe the injuries that were still gaping along its life line.

There were capsules and capsules of streaming video that showed them offering water and refreshments to people stranded on SV Road and the Eastern and Western Express Highways.

There were captures of students of Sydenham and SNDT college, who camped at Churchgate station with the sole purpose of offering a bed to those stranded at the starting node of the life line.

And there was also that memorable grab of people standing patiently in front of KEM Hospital-- all in a serpentine queue, to donate blood. A result of which has been a no-shortage syndrome, when it comes to blood at all the hospitals where the injured are being treated or are recuperating.

But this is not about all that. And yet, it is about all that and more. It is about the sights I saw and the people I met with, while travelling along the Western Express Highway to Kandivali yesterday, between 7 in the evening and one in the morning.

It is about that little kid and his grandfather near Dadar, who, perhaps in the absence of anybody else in the household, took to the streets with bottles of water and packets of biscuits to contribute in whatever way possible in manag ing the crisis. "Uncle, you must be thirsty," the kid told me while offering the bottle. A parched me drank gratefully. And I saw in those eyes no fear. So what did those terrorists think while planting the bomb? That was at least the silent way of making one statement-- "Terror, my foot.!"

It is also about those housewives in front of a housing society near Santa Cruz, who were standing with pots of piping tea, water and God only knows what else to help those passing by. And they had this board beside them which read "Beyond Borivli, Can Stay'. I was lucky to get a cab, but there were people who were trying to make it on foot. And they needed succor. Rest. Shelter. It was raining.

It is about the autorickshaw driver, who finally reached me home in the interiors of Kandivali at 1 in the morning. And refused to take the night fare, despite being legally empowered to charge extra. "Nehi saab, aaj ki baat alag hai. Aap thik thak ghar pohuj gaye, yeh hi kafi hai," he bade me goodbye at my doorstep.

It is also about the dabbawala who provides me with my dinner everyday. His shop is near the Borivli station, where there was one of the biggest blasts at 6:34 in the evening. Yet, at one o clock in the morning, the dabba was there wai ting at my doorstp to be picked up. It didn't need a note. The piping hot food at such an unearthly hour said it all.

The terrorists succeeded in synchronising a series of blasts that stopped the Mumbai lifeline for somewhere around seven hours. That was all that they achieved on 7/11. The trains were back on track by 1:30 in the morning and they plied all through the night. I wonder if the masterminds will consider this before planning their next attack. I would urge them to-- if this reaches any one of them-- to rethink. After all, what did a year of planning, six months of smuggling dangerous explosives, extensive netwroking and crores achieve at the end-- arond 200 lives and just seven hours of disruption? Bus! I won't budge for that . In the deal they united more than they dreamt to rip apart.

And by the way, I did not spot any member of the celebrated Readers' Digest survey team yesterday on the roads. Or perhaps they were there-- reconsidering their statement.

I request whoever receives this, to forward it to as many people as possible. At least that way, we will build an opinion against these faceless faces of terror

Sudip Ghosh
Deputy Editor
Times of India, Mumbai