Monday, July 28, 2008

Symptoms and Diseases

It was a bizarre weekend, what with aikijutsu practice and building a dojo bathroom and oh yeah, bombs blowing up Bangalore and Ahmedabad. Mercifully, nothing happened to anyone I know.

I came across this excellent post today by Greatbong. It's a well articulated post on the typical dikhaawa follow-ups to terrorist attacks and subsequent inertia. It powerfully expresses the frustration of having to see our countrymen blown to bits by fundie madmen day after day. And for the record, it is extremely disturbing that we got three major attacks in the summer, when you remember Jaipur as well (I hope).

I however, feel this is a symptom of a deeper problem, one that a lot of people who discuss national security and Islamofascism miss out on. The problem, to put it simply of a deeper apathy. Something that has simply become serious, since we now have an issue that can and has hit where it hurts.

To those who grew up in Hyderabad in the 90's, the Deccan Chronicle was a major source of news (back then it was merely a bad newspaper; now it's unfit to wipe asses with). The front page of DC had a side column bringing in news from outside Hyderabad. While rallies and dharnas featured every now and then, the real news was about deaths in the countryside. And what news it was!!

Every other day a couple of ryots or farmers committed suicide. Through the week, roughly 6 - 8 farmers were reported dead (double during the summer droughts, and half during the rains). Monday was special, as three days' worth of suicides were tallied in . Add to that the fact that whole families tended to commit suicide on weekends, and you could see it was particularly bountiful for the Reaper.

Not to leave out of course, the good work of the Naxalites. Naxalites wished to kill people faster than they wanted to kill themselves, and the suicides would vie with the good people of the PWG for who took more space in the side columns. If it was pesticided-up farmers on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, then it was gunned-down cops, landowners, zamindars and what not on Tuesdays and Thursdays. All in all, the people who wrote up that news had their hands full tallying up the body count.

Why am I mentioning this? Because I read it. Not for a month, a year, or even two years. It went on. From the time I started reading papers to the time I left Hyderabad (and hence was cut off from AP news) DC could be relied upon to deliver body counts that would put Bruce Willis and Sly Stallone to shame. But was any of this acted upon? Sure, the Opposition railed about it. Sure, the TDP made the usual noises. But at the end of the day it was the flyovers in Hyderabad that mattered. It was the fact that there was a new software city being built that the paper elaborated on. And who cared about dead Naxalites or cops when Krishna Oberoi and Grand Kakatiya were fighting it out over who got to host Bill Clinton on his visit to Hyderabad? This stuff was what made it to editorial and inside page articles, not the dead cops and farmers.

That was the paper's view. The view amongst people I knew was either yeah whatever, or "Deccan Chronicle is owned by XYZ, so they have a stake in publishing this bad news all the time". Sure, the Hindu printed deaths occasionally, but they put it in a tiny column in the Nation page, where it had to contend with who got killed in Kashmir, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and the North East for space. Balanced out coverage. Constantly printing out this bad news was simply depressing. Why did they have to do it?

Now, I am at no point commenting on the AP Government's achievements or lack thereof. I am commenting, however, on people's attitudes. Within the same state, people were getting shot up or killing themselves and their families. Yet, the city of Hyderabad remained blissfully unaware, more focussed on the international attention it was getting, and something new and awesome called IT. When Cyberbabu and Cyberabad were international buzzwords. All this other stuff, was, well unpleasant. Why hear about it. When that is a regional attitude, what can you expect at the level of the Nation?

Hence the deaths of Army men and cops at the hands of jehadis, naxalites and "Liberation forces" reported steadily. Hence the killing of farmers by terrorists or themselves. Hence the high-profile urban crime. Hence the increase in bomb blasts in various cities. And to put in my environmentalist two cents, hence the emptying out of an entire tiger sanctuary in Sariska.

And when we read about this in the news, what do we do?

To paraphrase Metallica, we "Turn the Page"

There's a Lakme India Fashion Week now, do you hear?

1 comment:

Anu said...

I agree with you completely about the apathy the Indian middle class has fallen into. The steady flow of bad news and deaths numbs us to the real tragedies behind them. I'm not sure what's to be done about it, but there it is.