December 15, 2008

How we view lives

The anger and outrage is everywhere, still palpable. Over two weeks since terrorists killed about 175 innocents in Bombay, we've seen people driving across the country to meet the Prime Minister with their demands. People holding accusatory placards up at large public demonstrations. At a gathering I attended last week, the speakers had all manner of abuse for our leaders.

And the leaders? There was a session in Parliament last week, where leaders of every stripe unitedly condemned the attack on Bombay. Here's some of what three men there said:

Rahul Gandhi said that the perpetrators "should understand very clearly ... not only do we hold lives of our people highly, but there is also a cost to killing innocent Indians." He also said that India will not simply tolerate people coming into her cities and killing ordinary Indians. (this report). "We have to change how we view the lives of individual Indians," he said, "and we have to decide that not a single life will go in vain." (this report).

LK Advani said the attack in Mumbai was an attack on the "civilisational ethos of India". "Even if there are some differences among political parties, the resolution by Parliament is meant to convey to the world we are united on the fight against terrorism." (this report).

P Chidambaram put it this way: "We have acted with restraint but we will take all action to protect our citizens." (this report).

All just right, as far as I'm concerned. After all, I'm angry over the attacks too, and these statements reflect my sentiments pretty accurately.

Yet I read them, I feel the anger, and I cannot help wondering. Why do so many great Indian crimes not attract language like this?

I mean, take the killings of 3000 innocent Indians in Delhi in November 1984. Have we had a Parliament session to unitedly condemn that tragic outrage? Had we said about that atrocity that "we will take all action to protect our citizens"? Or that it is an attack on our "civilisational ethos"? Or that those perpetrators must learn about the "cost" of "killing innocent Indians"? Did that massacre prompt calls to "change how we view the lives of individual Indians"? Did ordinary Indians get killed then, and if so, did their lives go in vain?

Or take the killings of innocent Indians in Bombay in 1992-93, or in Gujarat in 2002. Ask the same questions about them that are in the previous paragraph.

Why have Rahul Gandhi, LK Advani and P Chidambaram never come together to unitedly say of those terror attacks what they did in the Lok Sabha last week? Why the lack of a united Indian anger about those atrocities? Why are you, reading this, not angry about them as you are about what happened three weeks ago?

In all honesty and sincerity I would like answers. If you're willing to attempt some, I'm all ears.


Anonymous said...

I mean this is a classic dilemma...How far do we go back....Dilip stops at 1984 (just on account of his age , I don't remember 1984 at all as I was too young, I may go back to 1993) father may go back a bit further than Dilip...and my grandfather would back even a bit further...This is like Jarndyce and Jarndyce isn't it, this unwinding of liabilities. Makes it even more difficult as most of the times we don't get a correct and factual account of events.

I suppose we should start with with 26/11 and work backwards as far as possible....the other way round there is a danger that we may get lost in antiquity. I might sound cruel , and I don't blame you for thinking like that, but we need to start somewhere and it is best to start at the present.

The crimes committed by humans are too vast indeed.

Anonymous said...

...and all the while love's labour is being lost , literally in the thousands.

Anonymous said...

Probably because the events of 93 and 02 were preceded by equally disturbing activities. There was no signigicant and visibleprovocation for 11/26!? - Surya

Dilip D'Souza said...

the events of 93 and 02 were preceded by equally disturbing activities. There was no signigicant and visibleprovocation for 11/26!?

What were the "equally disturbing activities" that amounted to "provocation" for the slaughter of something like 1000 innocent people in Bombay in '93?

What were the "equally disturbing activities" that amounted to "provocation" for the slaughter of several dozen innocent people in a train in Godhra, then several hundred more across Gujarat?

Please do explain.

Besides, what about 1984?

Innocent Indians slaugtered, whether you take 1984, 1992-3, 2002 or 2008. Why does only one of these four provoke our anger?

km said...

The enemy within is no danger at all. Bad logic, but there it is.

Anonymous said...

Dilip...your article wanted some answers mate.. I provided one at 5.41 above..Looking forward to your thoughts before we go astray

Dilip D'Souza said...

Looking forward to your thoughts before we go astray.

It's not a question about going back, or an unwinding of liabilities. It's about what makes us angry.

I can see the anger around me today, on account of Nov 26. I saw nothing close to as unanimous anger in 2002. Why? That's all.

??! said...

Why? Simply perhaps because it's a feeling of 'us' versus 'them', this time. And because all the earlier times were about us vs us.

It's that old chestnut - I can insult my own, but if you insult mine, you invite my wrath.

A stupid way to see the world, but who said humans ever made sense?

Anonymous said...

Dilip, I'm angry about 2002 as well but am not able to push aside the fact that Godhra train and Akshardham were the triggers pulled by 'them' not by 'us'. the general populace goes by the gist...that 'us' is under the spell of 'them' ... Vicious chain isn't it.

Anonymous said...

Dilip, lets be honest. Nobody is angry. People are watching Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi in record numbers. Everybody's planning for New Year party. Celebrations are on in full swing. Who is angry ? Of course if you purposely go to some angry gathering you will find some angry people, but that is a tautology. By & large, Mumbai carries on just the same.

Karachi trains a person to kill 17 Indians on average. Send 10 such persons, you get 11/26. What if they sent 100 such persons ? Then also nothing will happen. People will watch Chandni Chowk to China in record numbers and get on with life.

Your city is beyond anger,cynicism, disgust, beyond all human emotions. Mumbai has achieved what Buddhist monks call Zen. Nothing or nobody can make you angry. Say Karachi sends 1 lakh persons tommorow on some Cruise ship to Mumbai. Each one takes on 17 Indians. 17 lakh Indians will be minus. The rest will watch Billo Barber.

Anonymous said...

us and us have a lot of things to reflect,brood and ponder..plenty of fogiveness to ask for, plenty to be offered....but only if 'them' can shut up...that's why we should start with 26/11 and work backwards.

Anonymous said...

...and us and us can begin to talk only if ??! can give way please

Dilip D'Souza said...

What was Akshardham a "trigger" for?

Who's the "them", who's the "us"? When it's nov 26th, "them" is the Pakistani terrorists and "us" is innocent Indians. When it's Godhra, "them" is apparently a whole section of Indians and "us" is the rest. Meantime, "them" should shut up too.

I don't get it. What unity are we talking about, in the wake of these attacks, if we can't see innocents killed as simply that much, innocents killed?

Were all those innocents who were killed across Gujarat really some "them" that pulled a trigger in Godhra?

Anonymous said...

Oh come on Dilip 'unwind' it man..
us and us is both sides of 'US' and them are the Pak and their lot.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

My attempt at an answer is here.

??! said...

Were all those innocents who were killed across Gujarat really some "them" that pulled a trigger in Godhra?
Of course not. But this is not about rationality, or sense. This has long (and perhaps, always) been about emotions and all its favourite hangers-on - prejudice, vengeance, idiocy.

Trying to make sense of a situation like this is like trying to calm a gale by shouting at it.

Clarifying my earlier comment. The internal nature of the earlier episodes (and what are they except episodes in this long-standing tragic series) by itself automatically removed the possibility of a unified condemnation. Because they were obviously supported by a slice of the country, and those slices would not condemn what they did.

This, however, allows the whole to vent at an external agent. There are no factions here, because it affected people of all the different segments.

It's that simple. In all the previous times, one community or the other was specifically targetted. So the ones that did the targetting did not condemn. In this, everyone was targetted, and so everyone's reacting.

Unknown said...

Just wanted to say that I am angry -- both about what happened in Bombay recently -- and the massacre in Gujarat. I agree with you completely. There ought to be more anger about such a state-sponsored pogrom. I am shocked at some of the statements that have come out of people's mouths. I sincerely hope that people realize that the loss of a human life is the loss of a human life whether at the hands of Muslim terrorists or rampaging mobs.

Nilu said...

Let's say I kill your wife and children tomorrow. You would still want to start from 1984, wouldn't you.

Thanks for the clarification.

Anonymous said...

nilu, what clarifiction you got from d3?? did you noticed, he never gives clarification, he always only complicates every issue!!

he is also big impersonnator. ohtee, jai-chorakoot, indian, if you see they are all made by him.

i agree, why to go for 1984? did kasab tell about 1984??

Nilu said...

Oh, I get clarified. Don't worry, you too can. Try harder. Or clearer. Clarity, as they say, has a clear bias.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Trying to make sense of a situation like this is like trying to calm a gale by shouting at it.

I couldn't agree more, ??!. But what choice do we have? After all, other countries have found the wherewithal to tackle their own criminals; therefore maybe a loud enough demand for justice will give us the same in India. Or we can hope.

Anu, I keep the faith that after this terror, more of us will come to see things like you do.

Dilip D'Souza said...

By the way, I'd like only to point out that it can't be "record numbers" at the Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi shows, because me and my extended family (Chunnu, Munnu and Pappu included) are yet to go see it. It's when we get off our collective butts and turn up that the numbers will really hit the roof.

Though I will say this, speaking of Billo Barber: I just returned from the barber. I went because my son's teacher, Abha, told the (long-haired) males of his class that they had better get their hair cut by next Monday. I decided to get mine cut too.

Though while we were getting our hair cut, it struck me: if Abha had sent the barber to our house, we could have shot the next Bollywood blockbuster: Abha Ne Bhej Di Barber.

Anonymous said...

My 2 paisas worth. Thoughts about possible reasons for why we don't condemnn previous attacks in the same vein as 26/11.

1. They're internal problems. We treat them differently compared to external ones. Historically, Pakistan has always been the enemy so it's easy to condemn them, even if their attacks result in fewer deaths. Analysing internal problems means pointing fingers at ourselves, and no one (read the ignorant) wants to do that. It's too tiresome and involves too much introspection (at least for our leaders). It's so much easier to advcate bombing a terrorist camp in PoK.

2. Events like Godhra were, to many people, justifiable. There are always people from various religions who will find an excuse to justify the murder of people from a particular communtiy. Genocide always has a defender.

3. Simmering religious tension in Godhra. With it being the outburst of a long continuing hatred between two communities (you can say it was waiting to happen), it just lacked the shock factor. 26/11on the other hand was unprecedented. We thought we were safe at C.S.T and the Taj, so being attacked was a shock.

4. We're too used to being killed by our own. No one talks about the number of people killed by Naxals. We take it for granted. Not so for external attacks. Frequency of attack is directly proportional to the intensity of reaction by the masses.

Anonymous said...

By asking India to follow other countries in their efforts ( mind you there is no guarantee that it will work but it is still worth trying) to tackle terror, Dilip may have just, only just, shown us the path to Universalism that goes thro nationalism.

After all we need to keep our house in order before we can even ask others to do the same

I'm putting my foot firmly on the idea that we should start with 26/11 and carefully unwind as far as possible backwards..all the while carrying out the painful dialogue for national reconciliation.

We need to reinvent ourselves, change the way we do poitics, the way we do business with each other and the way we do business with government.

For this to happen Indian National Congress should recapture the spirit of 30s and 40s. We have done it before guys and we can do it again. It's in our DNA.

I can see a common thread in all the postings against this topic.
This , my dear freinds, is an example of the dialogue, albeit painful, that we should have on a bigger scale.

Anonymous said...

If I'm kicked out of London, I'll head to New York. If kicked out of New York, I'll head to Bombay. If kicked out of Bombay, I'll head to Chennai. If kicked out of Chennai, I'll head to Cuddalore..

Now if I'm kicked out of Cuddalore..where do I go?.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Surya: your choice of words makes it clear that you think all hindus condemn riots, while only "right minded" Muslims do. So are you, here and now, without equivocation, willing to condemn the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002?

No, I didn't think so.

Archana said...

Hi Dilip,

I've been thinking on the same lines, but not just on the lines of past pogroms. I think as a people, we tolerate a lot of crap from our government. We see potholed roads, ****all government schools, a redundant bureaucracy and we just lie back and tolerate it.
I think everyone has witnessed at least one friend/relative make that arrogant speech about they would do if they were PM. And yet, how many of those people have contributed even 50 bucks to an NGO that educates slum kids, builds schools, promotes liberties etc. Its become a very Indian thing to diagnose what's wrong with India and then let someone else find the cure. There's no sense of ownership among citizens anymore. Thats explains we spit, urinate and dump our litter on roads.
And in all this complacency, the politicians, the terrorists, the corrupt have have had their way.
If you look at the recent spate of terror attacks, their targets grew progressively richer. What began with the death of everyday nameless citizens ended with the death of corporate honchos. And I guess that it finally became too close for comofort. You can send your kids to a private school, bribe the bureaucracy, tackle the potholes with yor Mercedes suspension, hire security guards and look down your nose at Sarojini Nagar shoppers but when its the Taj being bombed, it hits you that no matter what you could be next. Maybe that's what different.

Anonymous said...

Rahul,are you and you're acolytes willing to condemn the terror unleashed by Islam over the centuries, that which subjected Hindus to tax, that perpertrated by the Portuguese in Goa, the terror that foreigners subjected us thro rape and plunder.Are you?

Please explain your sense of outrage on the above in a few words atleast,..and then I'll condemn Gujarat.

Be brave enough to open your eyes and see the whole picture. Not just the parts that you can critique easily.


Anonymous said...

As much as it sounds ironical, I think we as a people feel safer protesting against the terrorists (who are outsiders in this case) than against a group/party/leader who is one of us.

Personally speaking, the events in 2002 and 2008 were bewildering, but what made it worse was that you had well educated people who thought it was fine to defend their actions in those cases.

Manan said...

This is a wrong question...its baseless arguing. If you had asked this question just after 2002, n compared it with 1984, 1993 u would say why are we angry now in 2002 and not then...Do u see relative difference? I guess it may not make much sense but thats the truth. People were angry then and thats why they still dont forget it after so many years. Same was case of 1984, 1993, etc.

Also, it was a divided opinion, some indians in favor, some against so there was no united voice but there were people who were angry but unfortunately there were people who were happy too which is sick. But yes that is what is more baffling. I am still angry at mute response to killings of kashmiri pandits, may be the response was not united coz it was done for a long time that we got used to it (same as naxalite terror).

But 26/11 was something new. It was shocking to people that someone from outside can enter india so easily and spread terror. There are terror acts b4 but this was more symbolic of an outside attack on india. B4 this people were divided in opinion if terrorist were extremist from india or from outside and all dat crap. This was more clear - don't get it wrong but if kasab was not captured alive and there was no clear picture, the outrage would have been less, coz there would have been pseudo-secularists with political agendas ready to put doubt that were terrorist from outside or inside or muslims or hindu and stuff. I think masterminds who planned the attack never imagined somebody would be caught alive. They thought they would get away coz of lack of clear evidence but thanks to our brave soldiers (army, NSF, police) we not only reduced the damage but caught one alive.

Do remember if kasab was not alive, we would be still in debate mode as to who did it and wat was the motive and wats right and wats wrong and all that crap, which is wat happened before in all incidents you point out.

I don't understand one thing - why people keep referring to past events. No i am not saying we should forget it, I am saying we should remember them as a lesson. "Who did what" theory will only give rise to more events like this. The lesson is to make sure this thing never repeat. Oppose all kind of extremism with one yardstick. Thats the key. Dont look at it as "It does not concern me" coz you may be next in line...

Anonymous said...

Manan, very good point Sir...if Kasab were not alive God knows what pusedo secularists would have come up with. They would have swarmed TV stations with their spin. Ah...Kasab and co have ripped apart their masks.

Psuedo Cong has tabled 'draconian' FIA in parliament. This from a party that until 26/11 opposed such measures. Out of genuine and electoral considerations has forced their hand...another mask exposed.

If FIA does its work well, many more pseudo masks will be torn.

Anonymous said...

If Kasab had not been caught alive?...very creative line of questioning from Manan...appreciated.

My question, certainly not creative and highly partisan, if Kasab has struck elsewhere?...the chatterati would have continued as if it were business as usual and unruffled

Anonymous said...

Mumbai is a cesspit that gave us gang wars and Dawood Ibrahim. Mumbai doesn't 'feel'. And just a short time ago it was proud of the fact. 'Enough is enough' is another meaningless slogan coined by the shamelessly fame seeking glitterati. It means exactly nothing.

So Dilip, taking an innocent life is taking an innocent life, nothing more? Great, lets just go home then. Forget there's a whole religion there whose proponents are so amenable to hatred and violence and they hate EVERYBODY, not just Hindus or India. The most important thing is to be politically correct. That is an oxymoron. How can you be political and correct at the same time? Lets call a spade a spade instead. Something is wrong with this all too common extreme form of Islam and it needs to be stopped.

Anonymous said...

Extract from an interview with IBNLive with Arundhathi Roy...

Question : Is Pakistan is responsible?

Ms. Roy: Having closely looked at the Batla house encounter and Parliament attacks, I am not ready to believe what anyone says. I have to see and think for myself. I am not prepared to believe anything. On the other hand, I am prepared to believe anything.

Anonymous said...

...another psuedo mask torn but refusing to accept the fact...

Anonymous said...

Rahul S,

Here's wishing you more energy if you wish to keep up the debate with the Suryas.

To keep their bias going they need to do that "if you condemn this and that, we'll think about gujarat" thingy. the idea that some ppl can be revolted by all violence is just not going to map.

if you feel the need for some past hurt to be acknowledged, there is Dilip talking about the civilizational sense of loss or national memory way back on some post.

Example: I myself felt the pain, almost tangible, when I read about some Shivling lopped up and carted off centuries ago and built into a mosque in Afghanistan; I have commented on this before. I also expect Dawkins club types wont 'get' that hurt quite the same way.

1. You need to dissociate today's Muslims from any such act centuries ago.

2. Actual history can be more complicated, eg. shivling itself: turf wars between the ruler of the border province and the afghan kingdom were common. it was kind of the done thing to destroy places of worship back then. i traced this on wikipedia and some other resources.

3. pls expose and examine your dearly held beliefs to enquiry on the lines above.


Dilip D'Souza said...

Please explain your sense of outrage on the above in a few words atleast,..and then I'll condemn Gujarat.

Hundreds of innocent people get massacred. You'd think that alone would leave people sick to their stomachs.

You'd think wrong. For there are actually those who will say "First you please say this other thing, then I'll tell you I'm sick to my stomach."

This may be one of the few times I got the title of a post exactly right.

Sana said...

Hi Dilip,
I'm wondering if you ever did a study with CEHAT back in the 90s. I couldn't find your email address anywhere to confirm, so I thought I'd just comment on your blog.

I'm sorry that I'm asking such a mundane question in the comments section of such an incredible post :)

Do get back to me.

Anonymous said...

Hundreds of innocent people get massacred. You'd think that alone would leave people sick to their stomachs.

Only if one has a high opinion/ expectation of humanity, our modern civilization or our system of governance. Innocents have been dying since the beginning and will continue to die in the future too.

So it all comes down to managing one's expectations.