17 July, 2006

Terrified Of The Aftermath

The evening the blasts took place, I sent frantic text messages to friends in Bombay. Most replied as soon as they could and said they were fine. One friend said he was all right, but was ‘terrified of the aftermath’.

I didn’t say this to him because he was clearly distraught, but I thought to myself cynically, that there would be no aftermath. Naturally not – Bombay had to display its famous resilience and it did.

But it takes a different degree of cynicism to know that though the aftermath did not take the form of riots, there is one and we see it all around us. After all, we’ve got used to institutionalised pogroms; we know which slums the cops will visit first. We’ve got used to segregating ourselves into our own little ghettoes. (After December 1992, when I was house hunting in Bombay, I was shown one unlovely flat on the ground floor with an open drain running sluggishly outside and a kitchen that doesn’t bear talking about. The broker enthusiastically extolling its virtues, pointed out to me that here there were only Hindus. “Not one single Muslim here, madam.”) We’ve got used to eyeing each other with suspicion and muted hostility. In the 60’s it was the Tamilians, then Muslims, now North Indians (and Muslims; I think we can take that as read). Everywhere we see enemies.

The aftermath of a terrorist attack is all around us, no matter how easily we appear to have recovered.

The most horrific thing about an act of terror is that you can only react. I’ve been trying to think of ways in which we could avoid or prepare for a future attack and I’ve come to the sad conclusion that there are none. Everything that one could possibly do is a reaction to violence with not strength enough or conviction enough behind it to remove the cause of it.

What could we do? Provide more security? Great. But where would we provide it? Have we accounted for every possible place the terrorists could have thought of? How much security is enough, so that we do not cross over the line from protection to invasion of privacy? How many of our freedoms will we willingly forego so that we might be safe?

We know where the camps are, people say. Bomb the bastards. Smoke them out. Like the US did in Afghanistan and Iraq, no doubt.

The trouble is, to destroy your enemy, you have to become like him. And then who will you destroy?

Introspection at a time when everyone is clamouring for action and results might seem self-indulgent. But I don’t see a way around it. How does one respond to terrorism except after the fact of it? And how does that help?

I don’t know. But I’m beginning to see how terrifying the aftermath is.


Blogger Abhishek said...

I liked a point that you have raised.
How many of our freedoms will we willingly forego so that we might be safe?
The problem is that to protect all, you will have to hurt atleast some. Take the example of blocking the hate-blogs. This is another thing that ISPs have blocked everything, but what do you think would have the result if only those blogs and sites were banned? Still the so-called champions of human rights and freedom of expression would have shouted themselves hoarse citing murder of their fundamental rights, wheras we all know blocking these will be good for everyone else. We must understand our responsibility on this point and understand the boundary between rights and responsibilities.

19/7/06 14:20  
Blogger Space Bar said...

abhishek, i am by no means certain that 'we all know blocking these will be good for everyone else'. for a start, you contradict yourself, because by your own admission, there will be champions (you say 'so-called champions') of human rights. so clearly, *someone* will oppose a blanket ban.

my point is, whose word do we take for it that some content is incendiary, hate-fuelling etc etc.? at the very least, one has to see what people have to say, hear them out, before we decide.

20/7/06 06:35  

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