Beyond Numbers: Dealing with terrorism in India

Let’s start with a small exercise.
Trying searching for the list of Sept 2011 victims or for the list of London Bombing victims.
In each case, more than half of the results on the first page lead to a list of names along with the photos and life stories of those people.
Now, trying searching for the list of Hyderabad blast 2013 victims, you would get a few results like this which lists the names of the people but where are their photos and life stories?

Try another search for a 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 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 of New Delhi not because “one” woman 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 a poor family whose father sold his land so that, she can study. And she dares to 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 these deaths to numbers, what if media had instead written about the “engineer from a poor family background who got recently engaged”. 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 editorials 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 we reduce victims 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, it loses losing the real battle on the ground as well.
This also hits back India in international diplomacy since foreigners would know bad as well as good life stories (sometimes completely fictional) about the hanged terrorists 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. Indians will become more sensitive towards terrorist attacks, anti-nationals will lose their clout and foreigners will know more about the lives of who died.

3 Replies to “Beyond Numbers: Dealing with terrorism in India”

  1. A very good observation. Its high time we started treating victims as people… rather than statistics.

    But, if we have to learn humanism and sensitization from the west, it cannot be selective. If we want to stop our society to stop producing killers and rapists, their story has to be told too. We might not agree with Arundati Roy on everything, but name-calling and ranting is needless to making a valid point.

  2. For what it is worth, Roy’s “argument”, if it can be called that, was ably demolished in a piece in the same newspaper:

  3. bloody indians .always seeing cricket.they only in our world getting entertain of fellow indian see israel if any attack occured in their territory immediately would retaliate.they are cult people. indians are slowly lossing war against islamic militants.they only bow to seems all indian politicians are ready to sacrifice their citizens to terrorists for their safety and luxurious life. no self respect.what the good indians they are. aren’t they?

    Read more at:

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