Silence can signify different things in different situations. The early morning serene silence; a dignified, stoic silence; silence after a bitter verbal tussle; shocked silence after a bomb blast in a crowded market; and silence of the lambs, or the citizens.
India has seen at least 600 hundred of its countrymen and women die in terror strikes in the last six years. Today, on October 30, 2008, yet another incident has wounded our country. Thirteen bombs, which burst almost simultaneously at approximately 11:30 in the morning, have claimed 61 lives in Assam. The bombs were placed in crowded market areas of Guwahati and three other districts of Assam, leaving 61 dead and around 460 injured. Immediate blame was put on the ULFA, but the group has denied its involvement and condemned the blasts. Yet another day of blasts, yet another round of the blame game expertly played out by our concerned politicians.
What I feel right now, is a sense of déjà vu; this seems like the one million and sixty-sixth time that I’m hearing the same thing, the same words. What is the novelty in these blasts? Nothing, except that a fresh batch of people are dead and a fresh batch of families are scarred for life. Actually, everything is recycled. The shock we felt on previous occasions, the rants and concerns which we expressed vehemently on previous occasions, suggestions we try to put forth – it is all recycled. What is so new in our feelings, thoughts and opinions? Had we not gone through the same route a few months before?
The fact that we, the citizens are also to be blamed cannot be ignored. It is our silence, our selfishness and our apathy which ensures that things never change. The Indian Quest for brilliantly unethical shortcuts and power has ensured the fact that corruption and vested interests rule the country. All of us unquestioningly swallow whatever trash is doled out to us by the media and the politicians. Today, even after seeing that the possibility of dying in a bomb blast looms large, our greatest concern continues to be how actress X is hooking up actor A, B and C.
Now allow me to repeat the same rants which have been in circulation since, well, forever! Our government is exceedingly weak. All our political parties stubbornly refuse to look beyond their selfish interests. Any move taken is for the good of their party, not the nation. We must get our votes and black money; public safety can go take a hike! Even after so many blasts and so many deaths, it stubbornly refuses to come up with some hard laws. Accepted, POTA got repealed because it was grossly misused. But it has been far too long for us to not have any strong law at all. Even in other countries, anti-terrorism laws have been termed as “draconian”. We are in the middle of a war, a war against terrorism. Since terrorist attacks are attack on the public and society, and not on specific individuals, therefore extraordinary or anti-terrorism laws are bound to affect individual rights, autonomy and privacy. Furthermore, our intelligence agencies still continue to be entangled in the midst of political sluggishness. The war against terrorism requires adequate well trained and efficient manpower, state-of-the-art technology and more legal muscle. Does our country have all this? Do our intelligence and national security agencies have enough funds and autonomy to be effective?
The action taken in Jamia was temporary. We may have killed one or two terrorists, but this simply wasn’t enough to stem the influx of many others into our country. Surveillance in public spaces and national borders must be strengthened and proactive measures must be taken to ensure that bombers think thrice before wanting to bomb any small place in our dear country. Also, to help the previous victims, compensation and medical help must be swift and retribution and punishment even swifter.
But then, yet again I open my eyes and see what the politicians are actually doing. The blame game and opportunist actions started just a few hours post the Assam blasts. Soon compensations will be announced (whether or not they are given is a different matter). On paper, our war on terrorism means punishing anti-social elements. In reality, it simply means attacking the ‘Other’ party and looking out for vote-banks. Meanwhile, we click our tongues and change the channel.
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