Dozens of my fellow humans, blown to death in Ahmedabad. I am numbed with the images on my laptop screen -- on the road as I am, it's my only contact with the news -- and sick with thoughts of what that hour or so must have been like. What must it have been like, in those crowded Ahmedabad neighbourhoods I have walked through in years gone? What must it have been like, in those hospitals?
Yet as much as those questions consume me, some others burrow deep into my being: How do you stop horrors like what happened in Ahmedabad? How do you cut short a list that lengthens by the month? Consider: Bombay 1993 and 2003, Delhi 2005, Varanasi 2006, Bombay trains 2006, Malegaon 2006, Samjhauta Express 2007, Hyderabad 2007, Uttar Pradesh courts 2007, Jaipur 2008, Bangalore 2008, Ahmedabad 2008. Where will it end?
There's one answer to those questions, and it's this simple: you go after the scum who kill, whoever they are, with everything you have.
This seems so simple to me, so obvious, that I have to pinch myself to remember that plenty of others appear to think differently. So here you are. Whether it's bomb-setters in Jaipur and Ahmedabad, or sword-wielders in Baroda and Bombay, or train-burners in Godhra, or lynchers in Delhi and Bhiwandi, I don't care, neither should you and neither, certainly, should those who administer our laws. Call them whatever you like -- thugs, criminals, terrorists -- yes, call them whatever you like, but they and their masters who drive them must be punished. Period.
I also don't care whether you have on your mind a perverted idea of Islamic jihad, or a twisted redemption of Hindu honour, or a crazy Christian crusade, or a topsy-turvy quest for Sikh revenge, or some other religious sickness altogether. I don't care, because when you kill people, your claims of religion mean zero -- you must be punished. Period.
No two ways about it. No equivocation about what is and what isn't terrorism, no convoluted rationalizations for why one particular variety of killing can be safely ignored, no empty arguing about what caused what. Punishment, that's all. Justice, that's all. Period.
See it that way, address it that way, start today.
Let's find the courage to squarely face the truth before the next set of blasts. This truth: Terror spreads in my country because we have never cared to punish it. Terror spreads because for all our aspirations to the world stage and superpowerhood, this remains a country with far too little justice done and far too many killers who roam free. You know it as surely as I do.
Yet it's not too late. Let's bring justice swiftly to bear, even now, on every outrage that has taken innocent lives: Godhra and Jaipur, Bombay, Ahmedabad and Delhi. Do that, and we will have paid some measure of homage to the memory of two little girls killed in their car when a bomb exploded in Jaipur last May. And the others, suddenly dead there and elsewhere in that city. And in Bombay before. Godhra. Hyderabad. Bhiwandi. Baroda. Delhi. Ahmedabad, most recently.
Your fellow humans all, suddenly dead. Justice to their memory. Think of it.