Reader Ila Bhat writes in:
I don’t know if this comment will ever make it to your blog but I’m writing it anyway in the hope more of your readers will understand that terrorism is not just that which comes from Kasab’s gun.
Someone I know was ill-fated to be at both the Oberoi on 26/11 and the Intercontinental last week, when the SS attacked the hotel. He recalled breaking out in a sweat thinking it was happening all over again. he thought he was the ultimate resilient Mumbaikar and was most gung-ho after 26/11, but after this latest incident landed up having to visit a shrink. He recounted the horrors of those first minutes when the Sainiks started their assault. He is a 3rd generation Marathi Mumbaikar and has voted in the past for the SS. Never again, says he.
In a city still scarred by 26/11, the Thackeray cousins have been granted taxpaid security to wreak havoc and terrorise. How different are they from Kasab?
On the one hand, I’d be wary of drawing a moral equivalence between the Shiv Sena and the Lashkar: The Sena doesn’t go around shooting people with machine guns, or setting off bombs in crowded marketplaces. (Well, not yet.)
On the other hand, let’s look at the definition of terrorism according to Merriam-Webster: “The systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.”
What else do these loony right-wing groups, the Shiv Sena and the Bajrang Dal and their offshoots, do if not this? In the last few days, we have had:
1] Women beaten up in a Mangalore lounge-bar because drinking and spending time with boys was considered un-Hindu.
2] Vandalism on the Mumbai University campus “over a perceived injustice to the Marathi language.”
3] An attack on a Pune theatre for showing a Kannada film.
4] An attack on North Indians in Nashik for daring to sing Bhojpuri songs.
5] The forced changing of a shop’s name from Karachi Sweets to Jai Shri Krishna Sweets.
Is this not “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion”? And in all these cases, some of the accused might get arrested, but are released in no time and are back in business. As I’d once written, mobs in India have the license to do as they please if they do it under the banner of politics or religion. If you and I go and vandalize a hotel lobby or beat up women in a lounge bar, you can bet we’ll be thrown into jail, and rightfully so. But if we do it under the pretext of defending our culture or our religion, then anything goes. The rule of law, in such situations, is a joke.
It has become clichéd to talk of the ‘Resilience’ of Mumbaikars. I think that’s the wrong quality to speak of. Shall we talk ‘Apathy’ instead?