The intrusiveness of the press at the hospitals was nothing short of offensive. At Lady Hardinge, I was standing next to a small van getting my bearings amidst the utter chaos all around, when the doors to the Emergency flew open and several hospital attendants came rushing out with a patient on a stretcher. The van, I realized as they bore down on me, was an ambulance. Blood and bandages on the patient, which made the scene attractive to the dozens of cameras of every type present. Even before the attendants reached the ambulance, photographers and cameramen had rushed up, shoved me aside sometimes with the business end of their cameras, and had so crowded the gate of the ambulance that the attendants had a hard time getting the patient in.
The same basic scene repeated several times through the evening, though with less intensity as the inflow of patients slowed. I got shoved aside twice more. There were even several flareups between attendants and the photographers, once nearly ending in blows.
What's the solution here, in this age of instant pictures and 24/7 TV? How do you balance the need to get the news against giving badly injured men and women a measure of dignity and privacy?
As seems now routine when these outrages happen, we get news items about Muslims condemning them. Typical was the one in the Times of India (Delhi, Oct 31), with this headline: “Killers have no religion: Muslims”. (Today's Times has a picture of a massive rally by Muslims in Bombay saying similar things).
And by now, I also almost routinely wonder, why should Muslims have to prove this every damned time? After all, I don't recall headlines saying “Killers have no religion: Keralites”, or “Killers have no religion: Buddhists”. Why have we made this something Muslims in this country now feel they must do, and the press feels it must report?
Simple: because every time one of these terror attacks happen, we get a tired accusation trotted out even before the victims make it to the hospitals, and it goes something like this: “Not one Muslim has condemned these blasts.” (My inbox filled up with them in the hours after the blasts). No matter how many Muslims do condemn them, the accusation gets made.
What will it take to simply assume that your fellow citizen feels as horrified and outraged by the blasts as you do, and her religion has nothing to do with it? What will it take to build an India where we are willing to make that assumption?
“All Wounds, No Balm” is the title of a table in the Times, Oct 31. It lists several 8 different terrorist attacks in the country, giving the number of dead and injured. Listed are: Mumbai blasts, 1993 (257 killed, 713 injured); Mumbai train blast, 2003 (11 killed, 70 injured); Mumbai Gateway blast, 2003 (52 killed, 100 injured); Kolkata USIS attack, 2002 (5 policemen killed); Ayodhya attack, 2005 (2 killed, 7 injured); Akshardham, 2002 (34 killed, 40 injured) and blasts the same day (2 killed, but it says 15 arrested – no “injured” figure).
A good enough list, as far as it goes. But I wonder ... Not mentioned are: Delhi massacre, 1984 (3000 killed); Bombay riots, 1992-93 (1000 killed); Godhra train attack, 2002 (60 killed); Gujarat carnage, 2002 (2000 killed). [All figures approximate]
No balm in any of those cases either. Why are they not mentioned?
How will a country fight terror, as its leaders of every political stripe claim it must, if it simply overlooks its worst terrorist incidents? If it pretends they never happened?
The Hindustan Times (Oct 31) has a news item that says “Experts also see similarities between the Delhi serial blasts and the killing of J&K minister of State for Education Abdul Ghani Lone”.
Ah. And what are these “similarities” that these unspecified “experts” saw?
“In both cases, soft targets were chosen.”
You say something as banal as this and you get called an expert?
Times again: Urban planner KT Ravindran had an interesting explanation for the “powder keg we are sitting on”-- the way that the crowded marketplaces the bombs went off in both increased the carnage and hampered rescue efforts. He said: “These market places have grown out of market forces rather than planned development. These were just corner shops – like Sarojini Nagar – that have now become north India's largest retail textile market. There has been no regulation of any sort.”
Market forces turned these into powder kegs. What an interesting idea.
Finally, from the Hindustan Times again: an Israeli tourist called Moy plans to stay on in his Paharganj hotel. He says: “This has nothing to do with religion. This is about hatred.”