A man with short hair jumps a queue of litigants waiting to enter the Delhi High Court, places a brown brief case near the reception and disappears. In the queue are: an 87-year-old man who had come to seek bail for his grandson; a 21-year-old lawyer herded with the litigants because he’s forgotten his robe; a 69-year-old citizen fighting civic authorities in public interest. These men, and eight others, die as the bomb explodes a few minutes after 10 in the morning on September 7, joining the ever-growing list of casualties of people who are blown up just for being Indian.
In the not-so-distant past, the reflex Indian reaction to an attack like this was predictable: starting at the top, everyone would blame Pakistan. There would follow long debates on the futility of talks with Pakistan, dreams of dismantling the ISI would be dreamt, Kashmir would be discussed.
And what of the actual investigation? Well that would lumber along until the next blast, when an update would be published, as in September 8 papers. In the last year-and-a-half, there have been eight bomb attacks of different magnitudes in India, the last one being the Mumbai serial blasts in July. Arrests have been made in just one of the cases — investigators in cities all around the country have drawn a blank with the others.
For terrorists who operate in India, there just isn’t enough disincentive. This is shaping the trend of reactions we now see: Indians seem less inclined to see a conspiracy abroad (which may well be there) than incompetence at home (which is a certainty).
September 7, blast took place as you’ve been reminded ad nauseam, ‘a kilometre from Parliament’. In the House, the home minister made a statement that could be summarised as ‘we did our best, but the attack happened anyway’. His early comments on possible culprits were so vague that he’d have been better off not making them at all. These could be summarised as ‘we don’t rule out anything’.
The Indian public is tiring of this. It also knows from recent experience that claims made by the government on terror-lists and such submitted to Pakistan have had embarrassing consequences. One gentleman sought aggressively by India after serious investigations was attending court regularly in Mumbai.
Indians are tiring of all the drivel that drips empathy, solidarity and appreciation after each of these incidents. (Say ‘spirit of Mumbai’ in that city to laud its resilience and you’re likely to get clouted with a vada pao nowadays.)
Indians have also seen the word ‘Indian’ added to the list of the usual suspects: the various ‘Harkats’ and ‘Lashkars’ and the like now have an ally in the ‘Indian Mujahideen’. Somewhat less competent ‘saffron’ terror groups have announced their arrival as well. There is something else they have seen: inside Pakistan, there is an assassination or a suicide bombing everyday. The understanding that a state can at once be a victim of terrorism and a sponsor dawns with every clipping that says ‘24 killed’.
In Quetta, the home of a senior security official is also attacked on September 7. The officer survives, but his wife and child die along with 22 others. They join a list of people who are blown up daily because they happen to live in one of the world’s roughest neighbourhoods.
Indians are aware they are part of the same rough neighbourhood, but seen by most as its relatively decent if self-righteous residents. They know that each time a terrorist attack takes place in India, Pakistan is obliquely, at the very least, brought into the frame by analysts and politicians at home and abroad. But this isn’t good enough anymore.
It doesn’t help people trying to go about their business — in markets, courts and trains — in any apparent way. Indians are realising that the problem in the neighbourhood has come home. They are demanding a solution that starts there.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2011.
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