Sunday, November 30, 2008

Terrorism in India

What has happened in Mumbai -- the attacks at hotels, train station, other sites -- disturbs me in one way that I'm not hearing mentioned in the interviews I've seen.

This dreadful assault is getting worldwide attention, apparently because there have been foreign victims and because the site is a world financial center.

But there have been many other outbreaks of communal violence, in India and elsewhere, that did not register more than a flicker on the world media screen.

I wrote about one of those rounds, which occurred in the Indian city Varanasi where I was living to research my novel Sister India.

Those events became part of the novel. Taking notes and writing are probably my major coping mechanism.

The street fighting broke out about a week and a half after I arrived, and the city of a million people was then shut down in curfew for 24 hours a day for most of the next two weeks. All businesses closed. Everyone to stay inside.

A bomb blew up an apartment building about a kilometer away from my flat. I could hear gunfire from my rooftop patio.

I had flashbacks for two years after my return about a grisly incident in a nearby street that I hadn't even witnessed, but only read about. A rickshaw full of Hindu women was hacked to death. I couldn't stop myself from re-imagining it.

But no foreigners were involved. I was in almost no danger, because being neither Hindu nor Muslim, I wasn't a target. And the news was barely a flicker back in the USA.

I can only imagine what it was like to be holed up in the Taj (where I once spent a few days) while terrorists were hunting people to shoot, with a special interest in those who looked like me.

Even so, it feels wrong to me that events of similar magnitude stir so little outrage when the targets aren't American. I do understand press coverage that focuses on a local angle; but I don't like that an event becomes a global outrage more often when well-heeled foreigners are involved.

(An aside: the most elegant party I have ever attended was a night-time torchlit reception in the gardens of one of the homes of the Oberoi family of the Oberoi hotel that was a target of these attacks. It was on my first visit to India in the late 70s with the Society of American Travel Writers.)

I am grieved by what has happened, hated seeing the grand old waterfront Taj ablaze.
And want, for whatever good it does, for every random violent death to get the same indignation.

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K.B. said...

What really got to me about it, what really got to me was that apparently they were searching people for their passports, and just wantonly shooting everyone else, as if to say, these other people matter so little to us that we can literally simply waste them. And these people are only good to us for anything because we can get more publicity for murdering them in cold blood.

I was very upset and couldn't sleep very well the entire time. It's just so not right.

Peggy Payne said...

I'm so hoping that India and Pakistan can work together on this.

And I wish that the Islamic religion could devise some form of excommunication, to separate terrorists from any appearance of mainstream Muslim support.

K.B. said...

What a good idea that is.

Peggy Payne said...

I was just thinking that most Muslims must be as appalled as I've been about some of my country's actions under W, wanting to run around disavowing.

Kelley said...

thanks for this perspective, Peggy.

Peggy Payne said...

Thanks, Kelley. I think what was so upsetting about Sarah Palin was that she was, like me, a woman. When the problem comes from one's own group, it's more galling. Because of the tarred-with-the-same-brush issue.