Monday, September 12, 2011

Shobhaa's Take on Recent Mumbai Blasts, by Shobhaa De

Yup. It happened. The nineteenth terror attack on the Capital in fifteen years. So far, the body count is 12 deaths and 90 injured. By the time someone takes the trouble to total it all up, India will have moved on (24 hours later, most people already have), and those who don’t live in Delhi will shrug and talk about ‘intelligence failure’, ‘security lapses’, ‘crisis in leadership’. Out-of-work movie stars will tweet away, offering prayers and condolences, and television anchors with grim faces will attempt to grill the usual suspects, embarrass a few and reprimand the rest. There it shall remain. Manmohan Tauji will tut tut ‘It’s a long war’ and beseech the ‘People of India to stand united’, to remain ‘calm’ . Chidambaram Chhacha will issue some more somber sounding statements (does he just recycle them from a master list?). And that will take care of the situation… till the next blast… and the next. And till such time as every Wednesday will make Indians fear it may be another Black one. There is something called immunity. Just as cockroaches, dog ticks, certain strains of bacteria stop responding to powerful drugs and pest control chemicals, human beings too develop a resistance to acts of terrorism. How many times can we go ‘Hai Hai’ and beat our breasts? Those responsible for the safety and security of the nation count on just that. This ain’t America, boss. Nor is it Australia. Or any other country that has declared zero tolerance for terrorists. Here, we keep those accused and convicted of terror attacks in conditions that are denied to a majority of God-fearing, law -abiding citizens. Even the Sri Lankan assassins of a former Prime Minister have been spared from the gallows so far. Afzal Guru? Let’s not even go there! Ditto for Qasab. So long as we play these dangerous political games in a clumsy attempt to prove something dubious to the world (“ Look guys! We are a democracy. Please be impressed.”) we shall have to resign ourselves to living with terror. And slippery, weak politicians whose sole objective in life is to hang on to their kursis and make money.

What does the average Joe do in such a desperate situation? I received a really dumb email with a request to stand in silence and pray for the dead. Respecting the memory of those innocent people who were blown to bits on 7th September is one thing. But the pointlessness of such chain mails makes me see red. There was another email which expressed outrage at the fact that not a single politician in the last 5 years was directly affected by terrorist attacks. It was as if the chattering classes would have felt a little better had a couple of netas lost their limbs or lives in similar attacks. This is just such a childish and churlish reaction! But one can understand where it’s coming from. There is so much repressed rage against the ruling class right now, that it would somehow appease the masses if those lofty politicos enjoying z-category protection at tax payers’ expense were as vulnerable as that poor Pawan Jaswal from Gurgaon who had come to the HC to attend a hearing on his employer’s case and was instantly killed. Increasingly, affected people are vociferously articulating their anger and contempt for leaders as was evident when Rahul Gandhi was heckled when he showed up at the RML Hospital. This is the bold writing on the wall that politicians need to pay close attention to. It indicates a shift in people’s attitude towards those in power. So far, the high and mighty have been insulated from such outrage because the cowering masses have grown accustomed to treating VIPs like ‘maap baap’, bowing and scraping in their presence. But, watch out! Nobody is likely to be spared in future, least of all bechara Manmohan Singh, whose kamzor position at present is encouraging dissidents to shout him down, when he trots out platitudes like, “Co-operation, not accusation, is the need of the hour.” Try saying that to 21-year-old victim Amanpreet Singh Jolly’s grieving father. Or to the wife of 54-year-old Vinod Jaiswal, who was blissfully oblivious she’d been widowed till much after 4.30 p.m. when the sad news was finally broken to her by Ashok, Vinod’s brother. Unfortunately, not too many people will remember these tragic stories even a week from now. Not even the media.

The government cannot hope to get away with alibis and excuses each time the nation is shattered by demonic acts of terror. The buck does stop with those in power. It is the primary duty of our elected representatives to protect lives of citizens. People don’t care if it is the ‘LeT hand’, or Harkat, IM or some other terror group’s ‘foot’ that’s responsible for the HC attack. 68% of people polled blamed the blast on ‘the lack of a political will to tackle terrorism.’’

Sharam karo, bhai, sharam karo. The mood of the nation is belligerent. Public anger is as lethal, as dangerous as an IED. All that’s required is a trigger. And such a symbolic blast can cause far greater damage than anything placed in an abandoned suitcase.

It’s ‘champi’ time for politicians. The smart thing to do would be to keep shut and get to work. Oh yes - netas should definitely stay away from the RML Hospital – we don’t need any more casualties there.

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