Over the last few days, thanks to our news channels and journalist friends who risked their lives to bring us almost live pictures, the lines between private agony and public display of shock and sympathy almost certainly blurred. If not for this kind of coverage, it is hard to think whether world opinion could have been mobilized so much in our favor!
What Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Delhi could not do, Mumbai did this time around. It made the home minister step down and jolted the Government into some make-believe action. It is very difficult to stem a rot that has taken so strong and ugly a root. The people would be closely monitoring the new home minister who has his task cut out.
Stories of personal valor, escape and grief leave very impressionable marks. It is impossible to imagine the effect of these terror attacks on the lives of innocent children who have lost their parents. Our involuntary response would be anger and a desperate need for some revenge. As things stand, neither would help peace.
What we need instead is a reaffirmation of what has always been our nation’s core strength. When Kargil happened, there was a collective support for our army and outpouring of help. The same was the case with the Gujarat Earthquake and more recently the Bihar floods. Natural disasters certainly don’t mark out religion and caste and later hunt the marked. In a sense, even though in their brainwashed minds, the terrorists might have been looking for revenge, there were many Muslim brothers and sisters among the dead.
I am not in any sense suggesting that the public anger should not find any outlet. A colleague of my mother, born and brought up in Mumbai is deeply hurt and sad at the turn of events even though she has been living in Chennai for more than 20 years now. If such is her anguish, what would the Mumbaikar feel? It is instead crucial to canalize our energies on those things to which, we, the public can make a difference. Voting for the right candidates, electing people who’ll stand up and take responsibility and who’ll give a no-nonsense leadership is certainly one of those things!
The Taj, Oberoi and the Gateway of India symbolize the hospitality of this nation that has always welcomed and embraced different cultures. Indeed, Mumbai with its Anglo Indian and Parsi population bears testimony to this fact. The needle of suspicion is extremely dangerous when used inappropriately. The role of the print and the electronic media in times such as these calls for responsibility and certainly not exaggeration and minute by minute tickers of the dead and the injured. Bearing this in mind, we should have our hearts in the right place and not lose our encompassing spirit.
If we as a nation start viewing our brothers and sisters with suspicion and doubt, the terrorist will have won. We should constantly ask ourselves how we can in our small ways usher in a safer atmosphere. Words and terms coined by the minute shock me due to their spewing of venom on communities and sections of people. To call a spade a spade requires courage and it doesn’t help if certain political parties give the impression of protecting perpetrators of atrocities by sitting on judgments and certain others, use different yardsticks for spades of slightly different color!
What we need is a mature political class that doesn’t resort to blame games and which can provide unifying leadership in divisive times. All sections of a society cannot be pleased at the same time. If there are encounters, some sections question the authenticity, if there is a crackdown, some would protest the violation of privacy, if there is a drawn out trial, some would blame the justice delivery system. In short, as the axiom goes, a Government which spends time waiting to take the right decision will end up eventually displeasing some section or the other.
In these times, instead of blaming every Tom, Dick and Harry, let us get behind the central and state Governments, support whatever concrete steps they take, not forget the foundation of our nation and above all act and speak responsibly having the greater common good in mind!