July 14, 2006

It's not us

The morning after the blasts on trains, DNA had a small front-page item titled "Reign of terror." Thinking this must list previous terror-stricken times in Bombay, I scanned it. Sure enough, it was indeed such a list, and here it is:
    March 12, 1993: Series of blasts rip through 13 places in the city, killing 257 and injuring 713...

    December 2, 2002: Two killed, 31 injured in explosion in a BEST bus outside Ghatkopar station.

    December 6, 2002: 25 injured in explosion at Bombay Central station...

    January 27, 2003: 30 injured as crude bomb planted in a bicycle explodes at a shopping complex outside Vile Parle station.

    March 13, 2003: 11 killed, 65 injured in explosion in a ladies' special train at Mulund station.

    August 25, 2003: Two successive blasts occur at Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazaar killing 46 and injuring more than 160...
OK good. A fine list of terrorist attacks.

So now you tell me. If a "Reign of terror" goes back 13+ years to start with March 12, 1993, why would it not go back just three months more, to December 1992, when weeks of godawful violence erupted in this city? That violence killed about a thousand people and drove 150,000 people (source: When Bombay Burned, UBSPD, 1993) from their homes. Why would that violence be excluded from this list?

I really want to know. In all honesty and humility, I want to know.

Did those weeks not qualify as a "reign of terror"? Or does a "reign of terror" mean only bombs?

Well, the blurb on the back of the same When Bombay Burned says of that time: "Citizens witnessed, with growing horror, people being killed on the streets, their homes and property destroyed."

What do you think those citizens felt? What did those people being killed feel? What would you feel if you witnessed those things? Would you call that feeling terror? (The blurb calls it "horror"). What would you feel if you watched it happening in your city, lived through it like I did, for the better part of two months? Would you call it terror?

I would. I felt that terror for weeks as I wandered my city. Countless other fellow-citizens did. What else was it but terror?

For that matter, turn the clock back another 3+ years, to the end of the 1980s. That's when many Kashmiris were killed and many more driven from their homes solely because they were Hindu. Would you call what they felt as they died, what the others felt as they fled, terror? I would. What else was it?

For that matter, turn the clock back another 5+ years, to November 1984. That's when many people were slaughtered in Delhi solely because they wore turbans. Would you call what they felt as they died, what those who survived felt, terror? I would. What else was it?

Or let's ask the more uncomfortable questions. Is it terror only when we can point a finger accusingly across our Western border? Is it terror only when we can point a finger accusingly at people of one particular religion?

Is it terror only when we can tell ourselves complacently that it's not us, but them, doing it? (Whoever you want "us" and "them" to be).

When we are selective about what we call terrorism -- when we say "this massacre is terrorism but do not bring up that other one, it is not terrorism" -- we thoroughly undermine any fight we mount against terrorism.


Anonymous said...

your self-righteousness is always a big bore.

delhi, kashmir are not in mumbai. bomb blasts are different from riots. that is a compilation of bomb blasts that is associated with terrorism. that is what they mean.

bomb blasts do not wound just people from one religion. therefore dna is not pointing at one religion as victim. all these prejudices are in your own mind that you are projecting onto others. you never condemn kashmiri seperatists. you defend them. you're an apologist for them. the problem is you, not the rest of the civilized world.

Anonymous said...

also, you never condemn incompetence, nepotism, corruption by congress politicians. why?

Anonymous said...

there was also a reign of terror in the 70s by criminal gangs. and in the 80s due to gang-war.

and last year's reign of terror by the rains. i believe it rained more in muslim dominated areas than in hindu. why doesn't dna bring that up?

Anonymous said...

i remembered the reign of terror unleashed by 'the exorcist'. we will make a comprehensive list, by god!

Anonymous said...

Hah! How the saffron tainted minds are springing to their defence. To kill innocents obviously is terrorism. But they use different yard sticks for different people. Polarity of the highest order

Anonymous said...

Hey Dilip,

You talk about '84. But why not '83? More Muslims were killed on one single day of '83 than all other riots combined.

I trust you haven't followed recent riots of past 12 months in say Mau or Lucknow either. Right? I say it's pretty darned convenient.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Nazim: exactly right about the yardsticks. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

How about listing some incidents in the NE too while you are at it ? I think around 6000 people have died in Assam alone in last 15 years under various governments. Do any of those incidents qualify as either of these classifications ? Or perhaps they are not fashionable / hep enough to write articulate posts about.

Anonymous said...

Actually, yes. It's "terror" when it happens to you and yours. It's collateral damage when it happens to them and theirs. "Gotcha!" vs "Oops". Ask the victims if they care.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dilip,

No, we should not forget 1992 or 1984. It is however a mistake to equate ethnic/religious violence with terror attacks. The 1993 bombings were a responce to the riots in Bombay. The 2002-2003 bombings were a responce to Gujarat riots of 2002.

We have a lot of hard thinking to do about what is terrorism, but at least in this case I have to differ with you.

Anonymous said...


Where were you when that muslim mob cracked open the skulls of two ordinary policeman, say two weeks ago?

Offended by the yardstick I used. Good. You see this sword cuts both ways.

Anonymous said...

Basically, any type of killing is terror - so if a newspaper were to list such 'terrors' that the list will actually never end.

Ofcourse, killing mosquitos and insects would not be included

Sunil Shibad said...


Here is a list of communal riots off the cuff:

1. New Delhi 1984.

2. Mumbai 1993.

3. Gujarat 2002.

Let us also add

4. India/Pakistan Partiton 1947.

No one condones riots; we condemn it.

However you have a knack of turning the story to your slanted point of view.

There is a difference between terrorism (attack by an outside power) and communal riots (internal strife).

You have lost all sense of objectivity with your Thackeray fixation.

Seek help.

Best wishes,