Wednesday, July 12, 2006


* Like all great cities, Mumbai is instantly on its feet. We had a few moments of worry and suspense yesterday, when we could not locate and get in touch with my cousin sister who had started from Worli in the evening. Three of the seven blast point stations were on her route. Luckily, it turned out that she had started late and the trains were stopped even before she left Dadar. We kept on calling and finally reached her late at night. She rightly had decided to spend the night at a friend's place at Dadar.
I was impressed by and am grateful to the folks at the Mumbai Help blog, where I had left her number, my uncle's number, and my own number in Pune, asking anyone who could get in touch to finally contact my father in Pune. I was touched to see about three or four people repeatedly trying to contact these numbers in the next half an hour. Interestingly, my uncle's home number was not working; however, the people at the helpline who called that number all unanimously said that they had been yelled at at that number for calling so late. It would be quite a coincidence if all of them contacted the same wrong number! But many thanks to them (especially Saba and Rushina) for trying so hard. I finally got through to my brother before them, who told me that both he and my sister got in touch and spent the night at their friend's place in Dadar. It's these simple things that matter and make me hopeful.

* One system which I think we should really implement is a system of keeping accurate electronic records of suspected citizens or militants. I know that the whole issue of stifling civil liberties immediately pokes its nose through, and it's a very valid one. But I don't think we have instant electronic access to detailed backgrounds of even suspected criminals. Such information will help us instantly coordinate information about various past miscreants, and based on their past known locations and transactions, could help us try to predict at least who could be conniving to plot the next attack, if not exactly where. At the least, it could help us confirm suspects in the aftermath. I don't know if the government has such a system in place, and how good it is, but technology definitely can help us solve problems that inefficient human communication and analysis could thwart, even though the ultimate decisions need to be taken by human beings.

* In the aftermath of the blasts, we are getting the usual boilerplate from the politicians. Shivraj Patil was shown reading from a prepared speech literally in the tone of a fifth standard kid forced to read a chapter from a history textbook. All predictable, mundane, and dull. Manmohan Singh too failed up yet again to live up to his widely read and scholarly image and parroted banality from a prepared document. Mr. Prime Minister, are there not even a few heartfelt words in your soul, that could be brought forth spontaneously, especially when you are someone who can actually express himself in good English? I mean, if you can't talk extempore, at least pretend to do so. With all his egregious mistakes, even George Bush can pull that off.
Singh says that "we will not kneel", a line that would have sounded cheesy had it not been for the macabre context. Well, not kneeling is one thing, fighting back is another. Not kneeling is fine, but leading a life where we periodically kneel and then simply forget about things and go about our daily existence is stretching the proud tradition of 'non-violence' to the extreme. That's what the Jews did. They went peacefully to their deaths. They did not lose their dignity, but neither did they fight back. Need we say more about the consequences.
It's time that we started to actually fight back, and not simply not kneel.

* The common people who nurture these terrorists are given free rein in our country. Nobody dares to say anything against them for fear of inciting religious or communal feelings. Nobody wants to accuse them even in the face of evidence. It does not matter that harboring or supporting terrorism should have nothing to do with religion. And in a bonafide indication of the landslide decline in the law and order situation in our country, nobody wants to stop them from indulging in and bringing to fruition their personal grievances and irrational paranoias. Whether it is Rajkumar's death or Bush's visit, anybody can protest as violently as they want and they will be sure they won't be prosecuted. The politicians and police don't realise that it is exactly this gratuitous allowance for public flaunting of the rule of law, that actually brings about communal unrest. For example, if you fail to prosecute Hindus who violently protest because some Hindu leader is dead, then the next time, you will have to allow Muslims to violently protest for the same cause, otherwise they will accuse the government of religious discrimination. Who gives a damn about which community is protesting, if they are destroying public property or human lives? But for our secular sensibilities, the definition of being secular is not to prosecute everyone equally under the law, but to allow everyone equally to murder everyone else and to indulge in mass hysteria. And then we appeal to some perverse and warped notion of "freedom of expression". Unless the government prosecutes each and every criminal uniformly, irrespective of anything else but his deeds, religious dimensions to violence will never disappear, and every violent element would have achieved its mission in keeping the unending cycle of recrimination and rage thriving.


Blogger Vivek Gupta said...

Very nicely said. "Freedom of expression" and "secularism" have acquired completely new meaning in today's India. Instead of being the guiding principles for the rule of law and open society they have become open licenses for anyone to indulge in lawlessness and intolerance. Voilent acts of protests and destruction of property are being tauted as freedom of expression and secularism is invoked to let criminals of all religions go scot free.

India must act decisively now or risk being increasingly perceived as a soft nation, an easy target for the global forces of terrorism. For all the failings of Bush administration, nobody can accuse them of being soft on terror, they acted hastily(too hastily) that terrorism be brought down and the result is that for last five years US has been terror-free. India will do well to learn atleast some of the lessons from US experiences.

12:26 PM  

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