Sunday, September 14, 2008

More blasts

Another day, another set of bombs going off and killing the innocent: this time in Delhi. Several thoughts come to mind.


  • As I wrote a little over a month ago, preventing bombings of open markets in a free society is pretty near impossible. These particular bombings prove the cowardice of the attackers, and nothing else. But that won't stop magazines like India Today from raving about our being a "weak state", and the BJP-ites demanding draconian laws like POTA.
  • The attackers are probably a small outfit (the authorities claim they are linked to the banned SIMI). Finding them will require intelligence (in various senses of the word. What will not help is demonising the Muslim community as a whole -- most of them are as revulsed by such things as anyone else, and victimising them will only enlarge the numbers of those willing to throw bombs. (Say there are about 200 million Muslims in India. You alienate 10% of them, that's 20 million. 1% of the alienated ones become radicalised, that's 200,000. 1% of those are sufficiently radicalised to throw bombs, that's 2,000. Not nice.)
  • Everyone is agreed that this is terrorism. Why isn't everyone agreed that what has been happening recently in Orissa is also terrorism?
  • Many of the bombs are in garbage cans. I was in Paris when 9/11 happened in 2001; immediately after, the opaque metallic garbage cans in the city disappeared, to be replaced by transparent plastic bags hung from a ring. We in India have hardly begun to get used to public garbage cans, and will now be wary of them.
  • We live outside city limits in Chennai, so the municipal garbage collection service does not reach us. Rather than dump our garbage on the open mounds where the local panchayat periodically collects it, we tend to pack it in a bag and drop it in one of the garbage cans inside city limits, about 1 km away. But dropping a bag into an opaque container with unknown contents may make me nervous now. Moreover, other people seeing me drop a bag into a garbage can may get nervous too (who does that sort of thing around here?)

There are more thoughts, but I'll stop at that...

8 comments:

km said...

Some of us probably still remember the wave of transistor-radio bombings in Delhi in the 1980s. That was a scary period and this feels like a return to that period.

But unlike that period (in which the bombings were restricted to the Delhi/Chandigarh/Punjab area) the attacks are now spread over a larger area and are also made more visible by television. I wonder if this will make more citizens openly challenge their government's ability to protect them.

One hopes the government doesn't respond with a POTA/Patriot Act-like law. After all, the bombings in the 1980s did not end because of a new law.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

km -- well, TADA (the predecessor of POTA) was enacted at that time. Of course the bombings did not end because of it, but try telling our wingnuts that.

Space Bar said...

this is what i'm afraid of: the calls for pota have already begun and modi is all triumphant with hi 'i told you so'.

Aam Insaan said...

Say there are about 200 million Muslims in India. You alienate 10% of them, that's 20 million. 1% of the alienated ones become radicalised, that's 200,000. 1% of those are sufficiently radicalised to throw bombs, that's 2,000. Not nice.)
-----Islamophobia

Why isn't everyone agreed that what has been happening recently in Orissa is also terrorism?
-----Hindumania

AMOK said...

Thanks for speaking out, Rahul. The continued violence is very sad. The thought about "200 million muslims.." etc could well apply, if the following were also true: "A fraction of the earth's crust is made of radioactive materials, therefore a nuclear explosion could happen". It's a vacuous statement. However, you are right in observing that demonising any community is silly and only feeds the fringe.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

AMOK - the radioactive elements of the earth's crust can't use the internet to contact each other and get together. If they could, I wouldn't rule out an explosion.

AMOK said...

Good point Rahul. One could extend then, the same internet logic to the majority population in India, with the same radicalisation partition function, and it would spell disaster for all minorities. However, something prevents this. The same thing that prevents the minority uprisings. The radical elements on both sides must be controlled and disallowed from reinforcing each other to the point where there is a transition to the violence phase, with long range disorder.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Are you sure something prevents this? I think what has been happening in Orissa and Karnataka is every bit as bad, or worse, than what happened in Delhi. I did not predict "disaster". I predicted not-nice things like what happened in Delhi.

Of course, one does not actually need the internet to spread hatred and rumours (and indeed I'm not sue how much the internet contributed to anti-Christian violence), but it helps. My original point was that injustice or perceived injustice drives relatively normal people into the hands of bigots. (Look how many terrorists turn out to be well-educated, with good jobs, etc. True of the naxalites too.) My allied point in my comment above was that bigotry is reinforced by the grouping together of bigots (the internet is not the only medium but it has made things much easier).