"There has been a blast", I told a collegue of mine. "Where", he asked. "Outside Delhi High Court". "Oh, how many dead?" "9", I replied. "Bas (in Hindi). Normally blast count in India goes into double digits", my colleague replied. Well, the blast has gone into the double digits. Now it stands at 11. I wonder what many of us felt when we heard of the bomb blast. I would like to know.
My dad called me up from Jaipur and said that there has been a blast in Delhi. Call up Mausaji's house and see if everything is ok. On a normal day, nobody from my Uncle's family would visit the Delhi High Court. However, I can clearly see a custom forming. Whenever there is a blast, we try to remember if there is anyone of importance (in our lives) who lives in the affected city. We call them with a 99.99% confidence that nothing has happened to them. In my opinion, most of the times, it is that customary call you make so that you are not branded the black sheep of the family. It is interesting - to put it mildly - how even the remotely affected people have formed customs around bomb blasts. But then, formation of such customs reaffirms the fact that most of us (including yours truly) do not get enraged by such acts. We feel like an audience in a war movie. The action is happening somewhere far away. So far away that only TV Channels and Newspapers can reach such places. Ironically that does not stop us from pointing out things like "Hey, I was there last month for shopping. What is happening in our country?"
Once in while when the modus operandi changes, we are truly taken by surprise - like the Mumbai serial blasts or the Mumbai Taj/Oberoi Attack. One aspect that has got highlighted in the past couple of years is the fact that terrorists need not be Muslims. But the prejudices remain. One example is our very own (sic) Mecca Masjid blast in Hyderabad. On the basis of suspicion Muslim men were rounded up and imprisoned for years. It took Swami Aseemanand - one of the main people behind the blast - to wipe the blot of terrorism off the lives of these men. But that alone cannot repair shattered lives. Because once in prison, your life comes to a standstill but the world keeps going (round and round).
My motive behind the above observation is not to highlight the mindset that we have developed (which definitely is important) but to the fact that we do not really hold the powers that be accoutable for their actions and mistakes. We are happy to lap up what is served to us in government press conferences. I am not sure if everyone has noticed it, but after every railway accident (worth its weight in human blood), there are slogans asking for the Railway Minister to resign. They seldom too. In case of terrorist blasts, I do not see any such demands. In fact the role of the Home Minister becomes more important.
As one tweet reminded me of how things have remained the same with the politicians after the Anna Hazare movement. The High Court went on with its business after the first half. The Parliament however took off in the second half to express solidarity with the victims.
It is time we remember that pledge we used to make in our assemblies. "India is my country and all Indians are my brothers and sisters". If you think of the people killed in the blasts today, if you think of the mass graves being dug in Kashmir, if you think of the Naxalites (some real ones some made up) who are killed in encounters, if you think of the CRPF personnel killed by the Naxalites, if you think of that person who lies on the road but no one cares to pick him up, if you think of that boy at the tea stall, if you think of the rag pickers - young and old - who look for things of value in the squalor of the garbage bin - if you think of these people and face the fact that you are living in a society that, while accepting these as facts of life, goes about their daily job - you will realize that your duty as a citizen of this country has just started. I do not ask us to leave your jobs and enter into the field of social work or social development- there are people who are already doing it. I expect us to think of the overarching purpose of our being. Can it be to just go to our jobs, do our work, come back home, watch a movie, go shopping, curse the traffic, stay inside the AC. It defintely has to be something more....What is that something more?