The year was 1984. Operation Blue-star was carried out in Amritsar and Ms Indira Gandhi was assassinated four months later. As a result, anti-sikh riots shook India. The trial is on even today! I still remember the pictures of shambled pieces of Mr Rajiv Gandhi’s carcass on the front page of major national dailies. He was killed in 1991, by a human bomb in Perumbudur. The politics of ceasefire and peacekeeping has lingered on even to this day! The same year in Bangalore (Bengaluru today), I witnessed one of the most intense non-religious riots ever, which happened over the issue of river water sharing between two states. The episode is better known as the Cauvery (Kaveri) Riots. The relationship between states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu has remained bitter ever since. The cauvery tribulnal has unsuccessfully met innumerable times. Both leaderships (not the affected farmer) want conflict. Both need riots and section 144. Fortunately, the source of Cauvery in Western Ghats has not dried up. I dare say, if the same trend continues, she may stop flowing in both states!
I can vividly recollect the disturbing video footage of Babri Masjid demolition, telecast in 1992. The same year the city of Mumbai bore the brunt of religious riots. It was followed by the 1993 Mumbai blasts. An image of a stone filled deserted street in Mumbai was preserved and placed under a table glass by one of my college professors and he could not forget the incident even after 10 years and we were in Bangalore and not in Mumbai. In 2008, there was a 3000 page long judgment on the 1993 Mumbai blast case and it took fifteen court years to arrive at that!
There were riots in Malegaon of Maharashtra, in Orissa, in Gujarath after the carnage in Godhra and in West Bengal. There were bomb blasts in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Varanasi, Bangalore, Delhi, Jaipur, and not to forget the ‘no-news’ Jammu and Kashmir. There were riots and bomb blasts, and riots and bomb blasts…no time to heal and no time to move on. Mumbai’s 7/11 (11th of July 2006) and 26/11 (26th of Nov, last year) are named after the infamous incident in USA, the 9/11 (Sept 11th 2001). The names sell well, don’t they? They have become talking points on every news forum in India, and I remember almost all the reactions from almost all key people. It is simple. You do not have to be a memory champ to do that. All of them had a simple reaction, “We condemn this horrific incident”.
It would be a great service to the nation if all of us stop condemning (offer lip-service to) such heinous acts of crime. There is ample evidence to show that a majority of those who publicly condemn an act of crime (call it ‘terror’ or anything) are invariably accused (not convicts, which is very important, and you know why) of an equivalent crime. Condemning them in public forums does not help.
In India, we have people who have strict religious upbringing and have firm religious beliefs. However, as you and I know that, a majority of them also respect other religions and practices. They are neither supremely educated nor rational thinkers. They are common people with a common sense. They are people who can curb their anger in moments of weakness.
Riots, domestic violence, street fights, strikes, corporate lobbying, public sector loop holes and corruption, and many others are all part of our own thinking. Some of us show them and some of us don’t. “Terrorism” has evolved from violent thinking within human society. It has become more and more sophisticated as our lives have since 1984.
Unfortunately, ‘terror’ will continue to take place in India, perhaps with more intense and unpredictable manifestations.
It is true that I also belong to a particular religion in India (I cannot escape this for many reasons). Relevance of religion in our society is a debatable issue. It is true that they exist, and will exist for some time to come. Whenever anti-religion riots have hit this country, I was tempted to develop hatred towards all religions in India, with a soft corner for the one I belong to. However, sanity has prevailed probably (at least partly) because I was introduced to India’s pluralism very early in my life. I had my schooling in a local government school that represented plural India, where students from all religions cutting across social strata were my class mates. It became amply clear very early that religion was an excuse for rogue elements within our society with no exception.
We just have to make sure that ‘normal’ thinking remains a majority (and not majoritarianism) and always outnumbers viciousness. There are too many occasions where we are tempted to take unlawful actions. And that is the real challenge. We have to fight the demon (terror) within us, which will crop up once in a while (more often in future). The challenge is to remain sane and considerate.
I wish there will be a day when two farmers from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka go to their respective fields (water or no water), wishing each other good luck. They should not yield to their make-believe circumstances. Deep inside, they have always wished each other well. Because, rivers hate boundaries and farmers in India are not violent beasts.