Only a month ago, Mumbai was under the attack of terrorists. Almost all people, from my maid servant, to our building sweeper and my colleagues at the school were glued to the news channels or reading newspapers as never before. All were unanimous in condemning the dastardly acts. All expressed shock at the indiscriminate violence, sympathy towards the affected people and pride in the brave efforts of the rescuers.
But although angry, we were more upset at the mismanagement of the authorities. The purported callous remarks of insensitive leaders aggrieved us more than the actual attacks. We worried that the corruption in our bureaucracy and the inefficiency of our defence systems would one day be the cause of our fall. When it was time for disaster management, our so called leaders fled from the scene. Every school child observed that the Raj Thackereys of the city are only there when the going is good. We had students, corporate bosses, media personnel, actors and eminent personalities expressing their outrage along with the common man on the road. Talks of electoral reforms, bringing accountability into our leadership were hot topics of discussions. We had talk shows, candle marches, black ribbon protests, but ask the common man if we should declare war on Pakistan in retaliation, and he will say, "Usse kya hoga sahab? Wahan ke begunaahon ko maarke hamare sipahi thode hi wapas aayenge? Marne wale to chale gaye. "
Note that WE DON"T WANT WAR. If our neighbours had the openness of a free society, and if they asked the common man in Islamabad or Karachi, they would probably get the same answers. War does not solve problems, it adds more of them.
Does that mean that we accept all that the perpetrators of terrorism heap upon us?
Should we take this lying down?
Hark friends, do these words not seem instigating to you? Am I not suggesting that we SHOULD not take it lying down? That we SHOULD DO something about it? We are also aware that there are devious ways in which remote control operators get their things done 'through popular demands'. Again the winner will be the politician. So there is really no sense in following such adrenalin -pumping speakers.
Is there no solution to this problem of terrorism then? Born out of frustration, bred in poverty and led by fundamentalism, this modern day social evil is as complicated as a hopelessly tangled ball of wool.
Lets try to figure out some things.
- Who becomes a terrorist? a normal human being is a rather peace- loving, getting-along-with-each-others type. To commit actions as base as taking hostages at gunpoint, raping brutally, disfiguring and killing, needs training in a special kind of desensitized zone. It is said that youth from poorer sections of the society are picked up for indoctrination. This seems like the masculine answer to poverty. The women are trafficked into the brothels!
- Who creates terrorists? The society has to take the blame squarely. All of us have a role to play. The powerful for neglecting the less fortunate, the caretakers for being careless, the parents for failing in parenting well, the teachers for allowing the youth to take a wrong turn..... We are all responsible. When a child is going astray, he shows it in so many ways. His attitude changes, his role models get replaced, he speaks a different tongue. How is it that in a sub-continent as densely populated as ours, all these signs are missed? How come no one notices these changes, but jerks into shocked attention when an AK-47 jumps into his hands?
- What breeds Terrorism? One can understand the rise of the militia in the strict regimes of communist countries or under unfair dictatorships. But why does a group of people take to these desperate means when they are in a democracy? If a democracy is indeed a government of the people, by the people and for the people, why do some people feel left out? Is it not a failure of the democratic principles if people loose faith in dialogue as a means of communication and resort to the violence of grenades and guns to express themselves?
- Is our system of Law and Justice not efficient enough to weed out the problem elements of our society? We speak of giving even Kasab a fair hearing. What had he thought was fair in gunning down people by the dozens? Are such 'pathogens' of society the cause of terrorist strikes? But then Kasab too must have had a mother, a father, some friends, a special girl friend.... yet how did he become so anti-social? What went wrong? What created this monster? Religion? Politics? Indoctrination? Scorn and hatred....
If the destroyer is full of hatred, perhaps we could destroy his mission by spreading words and deeds of love. But if the destroyer is simply indifferent, how can we combat his indifference?
Actually, are we not propagating the same kind of indifference ourselves when we see a wayfarer in trouble but refuse to stop to help? If a child is seen being rude to his elders, we used to have people around admonishing him not to do so. Today we choose not to interact. If a student misbehaves at school, the teacher is more worried about the time that the issue will eat out of her own personal time, and chooses to turn a Nelson's eye.
In doing this we are giving out messages. Its we who teach them that its okay to be rude, that its not wrong to be domineering, being destructive attracts attention. By not showing them good manners, courtesy and not taking time to show how satisfying constructive things can be, are we not failing in our own duties towards our society?
Why is it that GOODNESS is always silent and so goes unnoticed whereas BADNESS/EVIL shrieks out loud and is highlighted everywhere? I wonder what effect would the terrorists have if there were no TV / Newspaper reporters to lavish such undivided attention on their activities? So does this mean that the devil of terrorism is created by the media? Worth investigating.