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Can We Afford to Forget Those 60 Hours?
|by Pramod Khilery|
Could anyone have held tears back at the sight of an inconsolable mother? Whose heart would not choke at seeing blossomed lives being cut short? As the macabre carnage in Mumbai unfolded before us leaving us whacked and wimp, we, the citizens of India, the subjects of our corrupt, weak-kneed and inept rulers, feel not only helpless but leaderless as well.
Does terror look into eyes before striking or eyes go blind when terrorized? I would say yes as it had been looking into our eyes for so long, spasmodically even wounding us, maiming us and we, like pigeons looked other way. We were not struck all of a sudden. It wasn't a bolt from the blue. But yet like parrots, our rulers, poker faced, parrot certain crammed dialogues and some clich'd phrases every time civilians pay with their lives for no fault of theirs and then try to milk the gravity in their own inimitable way and put these gems of words and phrases aside for next carnage. And yes, eyes go blind too. Eyes don't want to see what is horrifying, what is hideous truth and just bide their time to concoct their own visuals and prevaricate us that what is being seen by them is real. Our rulers are the champions of this poisonous prevarication.
As a nation, it seems we have become expert in how not to deal with anything that poses a threat to nation whether it is divisive politics or terrorism. Somewhere the very idea of 'one nation' has gathered the dust. Terror terrorizes us, shatters families, sends panic waves and our leaders who have forgotten being leader and deem themselves only as rulers flashes on TV screens only to tell us how strong we are. How many times have we been taught this lesson that we can bounce back? Yes we will bounce back but have we to spend our lives bouncing back from terror strikes? Its Mumbai today which is reeling under an attack whose unprecedented nature makes it nothing short of an war but neither it was unexpected and nor unfortunately, we all know, lets face it, is last. We don't expect everything to be left to those who are meant to look after us but at least we yearn to see somebody, anybody who professes to represent us, we can repose our trust in, who we could say that yes this is the man who would strain every nerve to make our life secure and safe. Yes, this is the leader who holds our life in esteem and gives it the due respect it deserves and considers himself accountable without being told so.
Don't take it to be a blind expectation. Nor do we expect a U-turn in the tainted characters overnight. But we demand them to be seen concerned about the precious life of their every single subject. We have seen and withstood terror strikes before and we have also seen normalcy coming back. Unfortunately that normalcy which our rulers mistake to be our 'resilience' is nothing but part compulsion to earn bread and butter and part simply passage of time. So more than our rulers it is the 'need' and 'time' that heals our wounds. But we want to clamor and cry that every time, time may not come to our rescue, every time needs may not be the priority.
Over 185(official figures) are dead and death toll is likely to rise. More than 250 will have to live with signs of the terror on their bodies, minds, hearts and souls. A much larger figure will have the picture of this deadly nightmare etched on their minds for good. Yes, we still will go to markets, travel in buses and trains, stay in hotels and work in our offices. We may be spirited but our loved ones will constantly be on tenterhooks about our whereabouts. Every time we will step into cinema to have us entertained we will be doing it at our own peril. Even as trifle a job as buying vegetables will have to be done with utmost care and vigil. When I, as a customer, have become so cautious what about shopkeepers, vendors and all those who can't avoid going to a place which feeds them but one day may take their lives as well. Is this spirit? Is this resilience? Yes it may be spirit or resilience but this resilience is not another trait in our character as our rulers wax eloquent, it is our oxygen. We just can't do without it.
With a bated breath we see brave officers laying down their lives for the cause of nation. They are aroused from sleep at the drop of a hat to come and throw terrorists out or kill and they do it. They serve the nation and how does nation serve them? Don't we have any duty towards the martyrdom of these brave hearts other than paying their families pension and jobs? Their martyrdom feels cheated and hoodwinked and sorry, I have to say this, even squandered away. When we will realize that when a life is cut short at the trigger of a gun or in the explosion of a bomb it leaves behind a barrage of questions which clamor for answers. Unfortunately we are so soulless as a nation that we pass by these questions with a smile and an abashed smugness on our face only to meet another more scary raft of questions at the next corner. Everything has become so predictable.
We may not have the most modern technology and intelligence measures to counter the terror as does US or Europe but yet most often it is not the infrastructure but the lack of proper execution that becomes a cause of terror strikes. In Mumbai carnage, the conundrum of terrorists sailing past naval head quarters and guards at the port without undergoing any checks rings in everyone's mind. The question that intelligence reports did insinuate the possibility of an attack and yet Maharashtra government did fail to wake up from the sleep takes many of us aback. To add insult to the injury the Chief Minister's statement that 'intelligence was not complete' does seem to suggest anything but political acumen. And above all which left shell shocked even those who claim to be the most frigid was what Mr. Patil, deputy Chief Minister said. His statement that 'stray incidents like this' keep happening in big cities left us not only angry but shamefaced.
Admittingly, all our problems are not only of our making. Historical baggage, too is costing us dear. We have an almost rouge state as our western neighbor and another, on our eastern front, a powerful one which derives perverse pleasure in our pain. We have ample evidence that POK is regularly being used by terrorist groups to foster and transport terror to India, often with the tacit or overt support of infamous Pakistani spy agency ISI but our neighbor shields them right under our nose. Our roguish neighbor which is almost on the state of bankruptcy and distress too derives some satisfaction and solace out of UN reports on India's malnourishment and poverty but gnashes its teeth at India's rising clout in international arena. India may have a stake in a stable Pakistan but Pakistan, like a disgruntled and failed brother, would hate to see a prosperous and shining India notwithstanding diplomatic rhetoric and political spinmeisters. This is writing on a wall and we had better stop leaving under any illusion. A stable and terror free Pakistan is the dream we also should see but not at the cost of the reality. In the wake of Pakistan being a nuclear weapon, any impetuous and knee-jerk response would only akin to playing into the hands of the terrorists and belligerent and basket neighbor. So the need of the hour is to have a 'shrewd foreign policy' in place coupled with resurgent intelligence and an honest and intense respect for the value of every single life on part of Indian polity.
On the home front Muslim backlash will have to be taken care of. Unfortunately divisive forces have worked their way up to the top hierarchies of politics. This is the one tactics they wheel out to deviate attention from the issues that need urgent addressing. Our anger is not misplaced but the times of today longs for an introspection on our part too. We hold the right to demand absolute security scenario but we too will have to avoid violate security measures and killing each other at the slightest of the provocation. It is incumbent upon us not to let our rulers get away with their hobbling on issues of utter importance but at the same time we can't escape our responsibilities as ideal citizens. If we really want to breathe in a safe and secure ambiance we can't allow ourselves falling prey to divisive politics and corrupted civility.
Will we forget what we saw rolling into almost 60 hours? Will the superficial normality which is bound to come and manifested through busy roads or working offices or engaging markets be an excuse, once again, to be at ease? Today at this time, when our hearts are still stirred and our eyes are still moistened, let's be really spirited and take a pledge that we won't let this tragedy go into the annals of past that easily. We will have the heart to remember it and draw lessons and demand measures to preclude any repetition. Let's make it the watershed moment for us to begin something new, something bright from here. It was a dark cloud which rained acid but let's look for a silver line now. Today we are saying we all are Mumbaikars on the lines of a French newspaper which on 9/11 said,' we all are Americans today' but let's ask ourselves will we able to say this even three months from now. People say, 'forget bad times' but sometimes forgetting begets more bad memories.
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