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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Terrorism And Mob Fury

As a child I remember my mother telling me often about Mahatma Gandhi's assassination. "In one stroke, the entire society had turned anti-Brahmin. There was a mass slaughter of Maharashtrian Brahmins in Pune."This was mainly because, Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead by Nathuram Godse, a Maharashtrian Brahmin. She would then go on to recount how a group of 40 hooligans had landed one fateful night at my paternal grand-father's house in Raigarh District, with the intention of looting and killing everyone in the house. My aunt, i.e. my father's youngest sister had then delivered a baby boy, and it was impossible to escape. But, the family servant 'Dhondu' showed tremendous presence of mind. He managed to take my grand-mother, aunt and one of the uncles' to his small house just minutes before they arrived. And just when the armed men raised their swords to kill my grandfather, a Muslim small time trader, appeared from nowhere and saved him from dying. The story would then end with a moral-" It is your good deeds that help you in difficult situations." Like many small things, the words got registered in my sub-conscious mind. It was much later that I was to understand what it was to be saved by a Muslim.

I grew up and got married. I was in Delhi with my husband and 1 year old daughter in one of the rented houses in New Delhi. But, the story remained somewhere at the back of my mind. And rightly so, the entire narration came rushing to my mind on 31st October 1984 at 10.30 a.m. when the news started pouring in that Mrs. Indira Gandhi had been shot at by her guards. While the official announcement came much later, the general public had sensed the death of the dynamic woman. I had this terrible foreboding that something worse was yet to come just like the ''Gandhi assassination". Without thinking much I told my young part-time maid to go home without washing the utensils.

What happened was a dejavu. A replication of my mother's story. Only the place had changed. And this time, it was not the Maharashtrian Brahmins but Sikhs who were the innocent victims. Suddenly, everybody was everybody's enemy. The next 3-4 days, we witnessed smoke belching out from all four directions. Houses were being burnt without any sense. Suddenly, everybody was everybody's enemy. And that everyone had become a stranger. The 2 Sikh brothers who sold milk at the Mother-Dairy booth were now nobody's friends. Civilization was at the nadir. I am proud that my husband, who was then a young Lieutenant in the Indian Navy, offered to do rounds in the nights with a few more gentlemen in the particular area where we were put up. That was the first time I felt, that civilization was not moving ahead, but was moving backward. For those who don't know, Sikhs have played a major role in India's freedom struggle.

Several years have passed. But things are as bad as ever. Just 2 days ago, I experienced that helplessness again. I happened to enter the classroom, when the students of media told me of the attack on Sri Lankan cricketers. And all at once, I noticed one of my favourite students looking scared and utterly helpless. My stomach churned, when he said,"Someday, the police will take my friends' teasing seriously, and will whisk me away to the police station for being a Muslim."

The words haunt me even now, after 2 days. The boy is very nice. I want everything good to happen to him. I sincerely hope, that terrorism comes to an end fast. And only the guilty are punished. O Wise Men all over the world, please come forward and wipe out terrorism from the earth at the earliest possible. So that, the innocent people don't suffer. At the same time,I have just one point to make to my dear student-Rise. Rise, so high that no one will be able to raise a finger at you. You do have Dr. Abdul Kalam and several such illustrious men before you.