Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Value of Blood

The dreadful terrorist attacks on the city of Mumbai has left everybody stunned and outraged. Immediately after the successful conclusion of the three-day operations against the terrorists, one could see waves of public anger against the political establishment and sympathy for those killed sweeping across the city. News channels made hay as they flashed pictures of the gun battles between the terrorists and the commandos and images of the Taj hotel burning continuously over days. Notwithstanding all the outrage both on the street and on TV, one could sense a certain apathy for human life coming through rather conspicuously as the debates and the public protests rage on. If this tragedy is a test of character for our politicians, our citizens and our journalistic media, they have all failed the test insofar that human life has not been treated with the respect that it deserves. The terror attacks on 26/11 has once again brought one fact to the fore - there is a definite disregard towards loss of human life in India in some form or the other.

There is one group of people we call the politicians who seem to have absolutely no empathy towards human suffering and loss of life. They are completely unconcerned as to who is getting killed so long as it is not themselves or their kin. Their appalling attitude often spills out through their words and actions, although inadvertently. Nothing epitomizes this fact more than the remarks of R R. Patil, the former deputy chief minister of Maharashtra on the Mumbai carnage. He said “these incidents are common in big cities. There is nothing to be worried about”. The then chief minister of Maharashtra, Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh, went a step ahead of Patil in showing his disregard for all the people killed in the attacks. He went on a “sightseeing” tour inside the ravaged Taj hotel along with his son and one film director, that too in full view of the country.

The public and the journalistic media too have been guilty of being “selective” in their show of concern for victims of terrorist violence. During the latest terrorist attack in Mumbai, the majority of the television channels focused on the attacks on the Taj and Oberoi hotels while very little space has been devoted to the massacre inside the CST railway station. It is as if the media is very much concerned at the loss of “elite” lives in 5-star hotels and is relatively apathetic about the death of tens of “not so important” people in the CST station. Images of people lighting candles near the Taj flooded our TV screens day after day but the scene at the CST was forgotten almost as soon as it was over. There have been a number of terrorist incidents in various cities in India in the recent past. However, the media fumbles in even recounting specific incidents. For example, in most of the TV programs on the issue, the deadly serial blasts that killed about a 100 people in Assam on September 30th were not even mentioned in the list of terror attacks. The legendary playback singer, Lata Mangeshkar, came out with a statement full of emotion that she cried a hundred times for the victims of the Mumbai attacks. But the rest of the statement revealed her true feelings. She said that after Jaipur, she had inkling that the next target would be Mumbai. She forgot all about the Assam blasts that took place shortly after the Jaipur blasts. This reveals her actual sensitivity towards human life. She apparently feels that human lives in smaller towns and cities have absolutely no value.

Today, India is faced with the threat of external terror in a big way. Yet, the shock and outrage of massacre of innocent civilians fade out with time each time. It has taken an attack on two five star hotels for the government and the people to realize that it is high time to act against the evil of terror. It is only after “5-star” blood has been spilt that the government has woken up from its slumber to rev up the security systems in the country. Is the value of the lives of the rich more than the common man? Are the people living in small towns more dispensable than those in metros? The government and the people need to heed these questions and ensure that they never crop up again. India cannot expect to protect its people from the scourge of terrorism unless it gives equal respect to the lives of all its citizens, irrespective of their class and region.

Trapped in The Web

With the turn of the century, I graduated from inland letter cards to email; from landlines to mobiles; and from social visits to socia...