Beyond Numbers: Dealing with terrorism in India
Lets start with a small exercise.
Trying searching for List of Sept 2011 victims or for List of London Bombing victims.
In each case, more than half of results on first page lead to a list of names along with the photos and life stories of those people.
Now, trying searching for List of Hyderabad blast 2013 victims, a few results like this and this list the names of the people but where are photos and their life stories?
Try another search fo List of Mumbai attack 2008 victims, what do you get? a partial list from Telegraph, another list of just names from two circles and mid-day.
One can try doing more such searches and the difference will be immediately obvious. As a nation, India has reduced the terror victims to numbers.
And that has lead to one of worst forms of desensitization towards terror attacks.
Few months back, women were on streets in New Delhi not because “one” women was gang-raped [such "one"s happen just too often in the country/world] but because they were able to relate to the [unfulfilled] life story of “a girl born in poor family whose father sold his land so that, she can study. And she dare break the New Delhi’s norm of women not venturing after sunset.” As humans we learn to relate to other humans based on their life stories.
Imagine this for a while, rather than reducing the deaths to numbers, what if media had instead wrote about the “engineer from a poor family background who got recently engaged” [yes, I am making this up but such a real story won't be impossible to find in say, Hyderabad blasts].
The lack of these stories acts as boon for anti-nationals like Arundhati Roy who write editiorials supporting Afzal Guru [hanged for 2001 Parliament Attack] – notice the implicit “life story” of Afzal Guru in the article.
These anti-nationals are able to create well articulated life stories of these victims to which [people claiming to be] liberal/open-minded/forward-looking relate to.
When victims are reduced to numbers, we don’t see them as humans any more, we don’t think about the difficulties their immediate family members have to bear. No wonder Narasimha Rao [ex-Prime Minister of India] once said “It seems in this country only terrorists have human rights”. As India loses the intellectual battle against terrorism, losing the battle on ground is a natural outcome.
This also hits back India in terms of diplomacy and international image since foreigners would know bad as well as [sometimes completely fictional] good life stories about the terrorists-who-were-hanged but the terror victims will be reduced to numbers and forgotten.
If Govt. of India or Indian media can start compiling life stories of these victims, it can target all the above issues simultaneously. Indians will become more sensitive towards terrorist attacks, anti-nationals will lose their clout and foreigners will know more about lives of who died.