18.7.06

The Entrails of a Blast

It isn’t brave; it is numb. Stop counting figures. Mumbai is dead. All it can hear are the sound of the wheels on the railway tracks, the rush of bodies to enter train compartments, the pushing, and the shoving. People die on these tracks all the time. They too are innocent. Women are raped in these trains; they are terrorised.

So, do you still want to define terrorism? Do you want to start blaming again? Do you want some pretence once more?

As one who has lived all my life in Mumbai, I have witnessed the Bombay riots and the following blasts at close quarters. I have been to homes in anorexic lanes where ceilings were open to the sky and walls had gaping holes, as did bullet-ridden bodies. Blood had congealed and so apparently had points of view. Today I do not feel like crying. Not even when I watch scenes of pain and perseverance. For I have realised that we seem to need a crisis to become Calamity Janes and Johns.

The worst honorific that will be bestowed upon the commuters who died in the July 11 blast is ‘martyrs’. They did not die for any cause. They were innocents. Innocents are always killed – during supposedly legitimate wars, by occupying forces sanctioned by the United Nations, by security agencies in encounters, by the establishment, by jail wardens who need to chalk some points and find in undertrials ready targets.

The most ridiculous photograph of Tuesday’s incident showed a bunch of bearded men holding banners that said “The Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind Karnataka strongly codemens (sic) the terrorism and killing of innocent people.” Forget the fact that they cannot get their spelling and grammar right (poor little madrassa types – what did you expect, eh?), they looked like a group of defeated people. Why the need to reiterate it? Why have Hindu, Christian and other groups not gone around condemning what to any normal person is a condemnable act? Because they don’t have to.

Why do the Muslims have to? Here is what a Shiv Sena official said a day after the blasts: “Hindus and Muslims walked hand in hand yesterday. When you read a newspaper you always find that a Muslim terrorist is alleged for subversive activity. But these people have shown what brotherhood is.”

Amazing. Two days before these blasts the Shiv Sena goons had gone on a rampage because someone had thrown mud on the statue of their leader’s wife. They burnt buses with civilians in it, they broke things, they disrupted the daily routine of innocents. Would these not qualify as subversive activities? Where is their brotherhood?

A Reuters report stated, “Muslims queued for hours on Wednesday to donate blood to their Hindu neighbours wounded in the Mumbai train bombings, in a show of harmony in a city with a long history of rioting between the two communities.”

Did no Muslim die in the blasts? Are there no wounded Muslims? Donating blood is a humane act and has nothing to do with harmony. These days every little gesture has to get stamped by the ink of high morality.

It is from this high moral ground that Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Navtej Sarna, was appalled by what Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri said. The latter was candid: “…If you have these disputes, it enables negative forces in both the countries to blame the other country and exploit the sentiment and one cannot be certain.” Is this not a fact? How does Mr. Sarna conclude from this that, “His remarks appear to suggest that Pakistan will co-operate with India against the scourge of terrorist violence only if the so-called disputes are resolved. Terrorism cannot be tolerated on any ground whatsoever and no cause justifies the murder of innocents.”

Perhaps our officials ought to be asking how mass murders were committed by establishment bodies during the Bombay riots of 1992-93 and the Gujarat riots of 2002. Why were they tolerated? Why are those people still considered valid authorities and hold seats of power?

Regarding the “so-called dispute”, it is a pathetic case of eyes wide shut to ignore Kashmir. If we wish to point fingers at terrorist outfits that are operating from the Valley or training militants there, then there is a connection. If we give publicity to such organisations everytime they take credit for bloodshed, then we are doing exactly what they want us to do.

The idea is not to condone militancy, but to understand it.

They want to make a point, like any group does. It is difficult to define a backlash – sometimes it is an impulsive act, sometimes a well-planned move, sometimes political expediency.

But the moment you try to over-humanise the victims, it becomes a victory for the predators. Mangled bodies, flesh sticking to parts of twisted bogies, blood splattered around do convey reality. But let us not overdo it.

Every single day in some part of our country people are dying of basic lack of food and medicine. No one weeps for them, because the opponent is the System, a system of ennui and corruption. In both cases, terror prevails. The enemy, as always, lies within.

1 comment:

  1. People of Bombay will recover from this tragedy, because they have no choice. Symbolism has value, too and should not be criticized. Bombay remains a beautiful city. (My friend “Russ” recently returned from there (just prior to July 11) and had been seriously talking about moving there.)

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