Sunday, November 29, 2009

One Year Later

The Nov 26 anniversary carried all the accouterments of the "usual" sort of tragedy that happens in India. Some people held candle-lit vigils, some people released press statements and the news channels carried interviews, doubtless with such security experts as Simi Garewal and Shobha De or prominent Mumbai-residents such as Salman Rushdie or Suketu Mehta. The importance, or lack thereof is highlighted by the absence of the PM himself, who was out on diplomatic missions.

Did we really learn enough from Nov 26 to prevent a second attack? I don't think so, considering pieces like this one by Vir Sanghvi. We are as vulnerable and likely to lose our collective shit as we were last year. But here's the thing. Is there a choice?

Consider India without the specter of Islamic terrorism. Are things quiet and peaceful? Hell, are people safe? Not in the centre and east, with the threat of Maoist insurgency. Not in the North East, with that of regional insurgency. Not in Bombay, with the threat of Raj Thackeray carrying on his Hitler-loving uncle's work. Not in Bengal, with either Mamata or Buddha sending goons to enforce party diktat. Not in Gujarat, where being Muslim can get you killed. Not in UP, where not salaaming Maya Memsahib can get you killed. Not in Chennai, where the same would apply for the Kalaignar. And forget these regional threats (if you could). There is nowhere in India where you can rely on the protection of the law if your words, expressions or actions (otherwise legal) anger someone in power. The fear of reprisals is something people have to face every single day (and I'm just talking city folk). When you're used to living with fear like that, what's the threat of someone storming your city with guns and grenades? A bolt of lightning, which you simply hope will not strike the same spot twice.

This is the big difference again between India and the US. It isn't the thought of their army that makes Americans feel safe. It's the knowledge that their police, their courts and their lawmakers are with them ever single day that makes them feel safe, which is why America lost its collective shit on 9/11. Someone slipped through all those barriers and carried out such an act of terror. Every other in India is a 9/11 or a Nov 26 in miniature, considering the reasons people get killed. So it is shameful, but we have no real instant response that can be given to events like the night of Nov 26. All we can do is change, individual by individual, bit by bit, till we are strong enough to feel fear and demand not to have to live with it everyday.