Friday, November 28, 2008

Terror attacks as a consequence of society?

What is so special about India, that despite repeated terrorist attacks the response of the Indian state seems 'soft' at best and apathetic at its worst? Is the Indian nation state and its heterogeneous society to blame for such a situation? I suspect the answer to that question is a resounding yes.

Even though Indian population is heterogeneous (a point harped on by hordes of commentators) it is still governed by the individual over the society principle. The world might have woken up to the 'its my life' syndrome just now, but we in India can claim to be the rightful owners of the legacy of 'individual'. We are incredibly focused on 'individual' salvation, so anything goes as long as it furthers the causes of the individual. Society be damned. Garbage - not in my house, electricity - i wont pay are just small examples of this behaviour. All the way through the educational system, I can hardly remember a focus to contribute to society. Most modern societies are clearly differentiated by the amount of time their members spend for the common good. We just don't understand that concept. To each, his own. So deep, so deceptive. So even this attack will be quickly forgotten, while the train blasts were targetted a the middle class - the rest did not care. The current attack is an attack on the elite - the rest wont care. So as they say, 'public' memory is very short. That is problem No. 1

Next in line, the standard comparison between Indian and western societies. Why does India not have a response mechanism? Counter-intuitive but the answer is to go slow. We as a nation have gone through change at such a mind boggling pace that different parts of the social fabric have been stretched in different directions. There is an urgent need to bring every one to the same page. You need leaders for that, and leaders will come. It will just take time. As we moved from a purely agrarian economy to a post-industrial information driven economy, large portion of the working class has been left behind. Industrialization was mandatory, because it would created a class of hard working blue collar workers whose children would have passed into the information stream on merit. Instead what we have is a few top class educational institutions, and vast tracts of the country still hit by partial employment (agriculture) and large scale unemployment. This problem is exacerbated by growth which has not trickled down across different streams. Very few Muslims make it to the main stream, they just don't have leaders who are willing to lead them to progress. We are a democracy which gives opportunities, but you need leaders who will lead the masses into progress (Martin Luther for example), else the democracy will not reach everybody. Muslims as a whole (who occupy 15+% of the population) surely don't occupy that much of the general workforce and hence are not included in the development. The rest of the country including the BIMARU states and the north-east have not been able to keep pace, but these states are characterised by hope at least. This can be clearly seen by the hordes of people who come to Mumbai to make a living. When you see everybody other than you growing, there is a tendency to blame someone (disagree, think of the last time you blamed someone in office?) and the majority is easy to blame. The minority could have been anyone, by here unfortunately the Muslims have been cornered into such a response. Kuch nahi to qaum hi sahi.
We need to urgently step back and think of how to provide inclusive growth. Thats problem No 2

Till we as a nation come around to facing these issues (of course my analysis here is purely touching upon a few issues and could be entirely wrong, the job is best left to sociologists) we are bound to be the victims of more terror attacks. In God we trust.

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