The electronic media is going to town with stories about the palpable anger brewing among the Mumbaikars and the nation at large. What is this anger about? Who are they angry at?
Most of the people are outraged because their lives are not secure. That is perfectly understandable. It is the answer to the second question that is disconcerting. Most of the people are angry at the government, at the system and at the nation at large. It is very easy for people to turn cynical and despondent when they are still emotionally fragile and are being constantly bombarded by disturbing TV images.
At this point each one of us should ask this question — finally, what do the terrorists want? They want to undermine the Indian state and destroy the “idea of India”. They want to demoralise the nation, instil fear in each one of us, disrupt our daily lives and force us to doubt our fundamental premises, our cardinal beliefs. They want us to start questioning ourselves.
Should we, as the public, play into their hands by training all our guns on the instruments of the state? The post-mortems and the blame-games have already started. Indian politicians are venal and nincompoop. India doesn’t have an internal security policy. The police is worthless. It is an intelligence failure. We are doomed as a nation.
Politicians are the easiest targets, the softest ones and they rightfully deserve a major share of the blame for the mess we find this nation in. But can we wait a wee bit longer before going all out against them?
Can these TV anchors turned arm-chair experts suggest the way ahead rather than merely decrying the system and the nation? Media acts as a force multiplier for the terrorist. A similar incident in the heartlands of Bastar would have achieved little except a byline in the inside pages of a national newspaper after two days. If this kind of media coverage provides oxygen to terrorism, then the electronic media and the society needs to introspect about the role of media in the Indian society today. It is about TRPs and revenue figures for the media while it is about pandering to voyeuristic tendencies in each one of us.
Comparisons to the US during 9/11, although not very exact, will continue to be made. Let us look back at another famous siege in India that happened nearly a quarter of a century back. Was Operation Blue Star less gruesome or worse than these Mumbai attacks? The terrorists inside the Golden Temple had even laid mines and shot down army tanks with anti-tank weapons. But it wasn’t a media spectacle and the mood in the nation was not of despondency and vexation. The nation then said — let’s fight and eradicate terrorism. What is the feeling in the nation now — let’s berate the government and eradicate this system of governance.
If that be true, then the terrorists and their ideology have already won. Let us be cautious and careful in venting our emotions. Each one of us has a right to be angry, but at the right target — the terrorists and our countrymen who, wittingly or unwittingly, further the terrorists’ agenda for their petty, selfish gains.
The immediate goal of neutralising terrorists inside Mumbai has been met. There is an urgent need to identify and lay out a short-term plan for ensuring internal security, along with a long-term vision for restructuring the internal security system in this country and a medium-term strategy that bridges the short-term plans and the long-term vision.