It was a nice cool evening, that day. A respite, I might add, from the irascible afternoon heat of Delhi. One of those post-monsoon pre-autumn days, which pass by without much notice. I trooped to the Metro Station which stands at the brink of Delhi University and boarded the train to Central Secretariat. After changing trains, I got off at Barakhamba Road Metro Station, and it was then, that the fun began – for some people at the expense of others. Fatalists say that everything is predetermined and shall take place regardless of what we may do. For the ill fated people at Barakhamba Road junction, fate had been strategically placed in a dustbin, by certain righteous, emancipation seeking people, who had sent an email to press offices, notifying them of this ‘predetermined’ event. Those bluish green dustbins that we so often find at irregular intervals on most roads of South Delhi and the CBD (which are generally ignored by trash throwing people) made themselves quite important that day. Yes, an explosion took place, which rocked the entire placid late evening atmosphere of the CBD and cost some people their lives, and some, their limbs. I did not sustain any significant injuries. However, the word ‘significant’ acquired interesting connotations that evening. A woman, despite severely injured her right leg, was screaming at people to search for her daughter, who could not be seen.
In retrospect, speaking as a ‘blast victim’, it is quite interesting to see how our minds function. After my experience there, I now firmly believe that a harsh practical experience can effectively jolt one out of one’s theoretical thraldom. We look at newspapers and watch television, and we see celebrities, intellectuals and politicians condemning terrorism unequivocally and in the harshest terms possible. Whatever these people might disagree on, they agree on one thing – that terrorism should be obliterated from the face of the earth. Heads of nations meet at conventions and pass resolutions to combat terrorism. The average Indian citizen nods in agreement. Yes indeed, terrorism is awful. We must all work together and condemn terrorism, the citizen thinks, with perfect abstractness and calm.
However, it is only when a dustbin explodes at your face, that you realise the gravity of the situation. Those meaningless statistics which are waved about in national debates suddenly become potent with meaning. It is then, that the average citizen, lying on the ground in a pool of blood, barely conscious, asks himself that, of course terrorism should be condemned and ostracised, but what are the country’s politicians and the executive doing to prevent these attacks? A victim of the blast thinks to himself that if so many nations are committed to fighting terror, if so many resolutions banning terrorist organizations and condemning these ‘enemies of humanity’ have been passed, then why have I lost my sister? Why is my right leg lying five yards away from me on the ground?
What is most inexplicable, to a citizen who acquires a firsthand experience of the terror threat, is the post–blast politician expressing condolences scenario. Everyone rushes to the press, ‘to condemn these blasts, ‘express their sympathies’ and ‘vow to mow down these inhuman fanatics’.
Another explosion takes place, and the process repeats itself.
This facade of abstractness is destroyed, when one actually witnesses such an incident taking place, and it is then, that reality comes into sharp focus. It is only then, that one realizes, that terrorism is not a phenomena, it is actually a monster, loose in the streets, waiting to strike when we are most vulnerable. It can reach us, and take away from us everything, including our life. It is only when this individualistic fear takes root, does reality come into focus. The blast victims can tell you this. Terrorism is not something to be discussed. It is potent, and it is here, right in your neighborhood.
We might criticize the USA in many ways. However, one aspect must be noted. It took one 9/11 to jolt out the USA from the realm of abstractness and aggressively mount a campaign against terrorism, in the course of which, it has been ravaging a war in the Middle East. In contrast, there have been 1,093 successfully orchestrated terror attacks in India, in the year 2007 itself. And still counting…