Thursday, November 26, 2009

PAIN and JUSTICE - 26/11 & 2009 - Mumbai & Rest of India

Is only that pain “pain” which others can empathize with? Is a person’s pain any less if he suffers alone, minus the prying eyes of TV channels and mags and newspapers that want to attract more eyeballs?

Or has pain something to do with justice, or the lack of it? Has it something to do with ensuring that others are not subject to that kind of pain?

It’s exactly a year since 26/11 shocked the world. And as with most anniversaries, the media is busy making a spectacle of it, pressurising my tear-ducts that are already dry reading a million accounts of bravery, courage, resilience…… I shed my customary tear, but as I dig deeper, I encounter a sickening stench that talks of the rot in this thing we call “civilisation”.

Why? And how do you arrive at the truth? Simple: take a pot full of facts. Add a pinch, full of intention. Stir it well in the broiler of the present. And let it explode into your consciousness, like a moment’s fraction stolen from god.

This is what I get when I take refuge in facts. Between 26/11-2008 and 26/11-2009 i.e., 1 year, close to a 1,000 people have lost their lives in Kashmir (40,000 in the last 2 decades), 500 odd people have lost their lives in the North-eastern part of India, at least a 100 villages have been burnt and destroyed in the tribal belt of India (average taken by available statistics that says 644 villages burnt in the last five years), a staggering 15,000 farmers committed suicide (average estimate made from available numbers i.e. 182,936 farmer suicides between 1997 and 2007)… why, if you want a statistic closer home, over 4,000 people died in rail accidents in Mumbai alone, and another 1,000 died in road accidents in the city.

Yet, look at any newspaper, TV channel, magazine or any popular form of media, and what you see is nothing but 26/11. Is the death of 200 people more important than the death of 25,000 odd people, most of who died in worse tragedies than 26/11? Is their pain, their tragedy any less because it did not play 24x7 across the world for 60 hours? Is their anguish any less because unlike the high drama of 26/11, there was no melodrama in their story, no final rescue by brave commandoes, no teary-eyed survivors recounting how they survived 60 hours? Drive an hour outside Mumbai and you’ll have thousands of people – farmers, mill workers, common man… recounting how they have survived 60 years in more pathetic conditions. Pick up a child on the street of Mumbai, ask him his story and see if you can stop your tears. Or talk to the thousands of mill workers of Mumbai left to lead a life of immense struggle after mills unjustly closed down.

Yet, 26/11 happened and it would have been a success had the city, if not the nation or the rest of the world, become more empathetic to the pain of others across the city, state, nation and the world. Sadly, that didn’t happen.

Can pain and suffering be so selfish? Can suffering of one be so apathetic of another who has felt a similar kind of pain? Can empathy be so non-inclusive?

In such a scenario, should one really feel pain for those who suffered, or angry because all that their own pain has done is blind them to the pain of others across the world? While they prostitute their own suffering before a voyeuristic media, they turn a blind eye to the pain of others.

Can’t one’s pain make one empathize with another’s? Can pain be so blinding? Can the truth of life as it really is, be so limiting?

At least in this case we know that the perpetrators were foreigners. What do we do when they are our own countrymen? When our own armed forces kill, rape and plunder, the perpetrators are our own people -- be it in Kashmir, the north-eastern part of India, or the tribal belts of Andhra, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Bihar, MP and Maharashtra.

I cannot help but realise that this 26/11 anniversary “business” is merely a means to fool us. I can imagine, having myself been a part of such media enterprise and meeting, a group of journalists and editors sitting together where the boss thunders, “Get me the saddest story. Get me the most painful photograph. Get me something exclusive. I don’t want to miss a single story and read it in our competitors’ paper. Go get it for me, or stay home from now on.” 

Truth be damned, raking up empty emotions is the order of the day in the media, for if one really wanted to report the truth that could make this world a better place, one would have found a million ways to do so. There are a thousand little and large corrupt practices being fructified in this city every second, all of which are interlinked to this terror attack. While we talk of the terror attack by 10 terrorists, we are strangely blind to other terrors.

The demolition of Babri-Masjid was the end of a fragile peace build over decades after the horrific partition. The ball of hatred and communal violence had been set in motion. The inability to stop it, indeed the complicity of everyone, from the bureaucrats and the governments to political leaders, allowed that one incident to take place that has snowballed into 26/11, which was not a one-off incident; but if we look at history, it’s a history of violence. The only difference was that it was much better and heinously planned than rest of the terrorist attacks.

Can’t we see that there are a 100 other 26/11 we are brewing with our apathy, antipathy and deliberate ignorance of what is happening across the country? Those that have been pushed to the brink because of our actions (direct or indirect) and have nothing to lose (the urban poor, the rural poor, the tribals, the people of Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland, etc.), have everything to gain by standing up against us. The next big 26/11 will perhaps not be by foreign terrorists, but by our own frustrated citizenry. What will we do then? What do we do now? Kill them all? Like Mama Kansa, kill every potential threat before it really becomes one? Dispatch the army and air-force on it as the government is doing in the name of flushing out Naxals?

The Indian security agencies – the police, the army, the paramilitary forces, the vigilante agencies supported by the state – Salwa Judum, and the Naxals and Maoists… all these are exerting tremendous pressure on the tribal populace. They are being pushed to the brink, out of their natural habitat. They are poor and uneducated today. But everyone has a tipping point, even the poor, oppressed and the uneducated. A point after which they will refuse to take any more shit and we, the city folks, would find ourselves at the receiving end, for their numbers far outnumber those of us ‘civilized’ folks. What can we do then? What can we do now to avert that day? Can we do anything indeed?

The point to consider is also this: does the government give a damn about its people? Has the ruling elite, ever – historically speaking – given a damn about the common masses? Think about it. From the point of view of terror, after the Babri Masjid demolition, in retaliation, many extremist groups have targeted the country for terrorism. Thousands have lost their lives in the same. Yet, how many convictions have taken place in its name?

Ajmal Kasab is a scapegoat, who, like a hangman, cannot entirely be blamed for his actions. The one who deserve punishment, the true masterminds, will never be punished. Take the case of 9/11 (on which the name 26/11 has been sickly lifted). Did the US nab Osama Bin Laden? And mind you, this is a country which spends the world’s two-third military spending single-handedly, a whopping $1 trillion on defence. Did they not nab him, or do they not want to? Because, if they do, who will they go after later? With whose name will they convince their citizenry about an enemy? Every government needs a scapegoat. Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are the US’, while the Maoists are for the Indian government.

People, you and I, have always been ‘collateral damage’. We don’t matter because we are not rich enough. If we were, we could build the world’s most expensive house for our family of only four costing Rs 8,000 crore ($2Billion), next to the slums of the malnutritioned in the city, and yet be compared to a minimalist Mahatma Gandhi, not by an Indian paper but by New York Times (check this sickening piece out, and have a family-feud play out in the open where the Chief Justice plays the ‘compromise’ maker while a million other cases lie pending in the courts.  

Throughout history it has always been such, under any form of governance – monarchy, communism, fascism, democracy… And perhaps it will always be. Not because it needs to be so. Everything can change but only if we want to. But each one of us spends our energy so much in the hatred and fear manufactured by different groups (government, religious fundamentalists, etc.) against another group of people (Muslims, Hindus, low-castes, Maoists, Naxals, etc.) that we are blinded.

And it is for this reason, for the fact that there is no true democracy – not because the government does not want it (it never will) – but because we don’t shut down our TV enough to go out and cry ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it any more’, that 26/11 is merely the beginning, unless each one of us contributes practising true democracy and raise our voice against the smallest of injustice and hurt, especially others.

A poor man feels pain as much as a rich man. We are all bound by a bond of pain. Let us extend this to Justice. A poor man has as much right to justice, as a rich man… If you have truly been hurt by 26/11 can you bring justice to someone who has not got it? Can you at least try?

I’ll shudder less in my sleep if you do. 


Post a Comment

Blog Information Profile for satyenkb