Survival by a thousand bandages

Fighting terrorism or/by not fighting it

This op-ed by Brahma Chellaney (courtesy Amit Varma) reminded me of an interesting conversation in Bombay last week. Terrorism, the argument went, claims far fewer lives than say, traffic accidents. So why should fighting terrorism be a priority?

Not only is there no political will, the Indian system has also become so effete that the state instruments are unable to deliver results even on the odd occasion when the leadership displays a spine.

India’s stoic, forbearing approach is now embedded in the national psyche. It is as if the Indian republic has come to accept terrorist strikes as the products of its unalterable geography or destiny. That may help explain why India’s laconic response to the Pakistan-based jihadist groups’ strategy to inflict death by a thousand cuts has been survival by a thousand bandages. Just as India has come to accept a high level of political corruption, it is starting to live with a high incidence of terrorism. Turning this abysmal situation around demands a new mindset that will not allow India to be continually gored. That means a readiness to do whatever is necessary to end the terrorist siege of India. [Brahma Chellaney/WSJ]

So apart from a relatively small number of people who take it upon themselves to bother about defeating terrorism, are ordinary Indians sufficiently concerned about the matter at all? If not, paradoxically, isn’t terrorism itself a useless tactic?

It is evident that terrorism directed against even fairly large numbers of ordinary citizens won’t trigger the government to do anything more than making those buoyant speeches. But there is an exception — terrorism directed against politicians and parliament will evoke a response. Here’s a way to motivate India’s leaders to take counter-terrorism seriously. How about deep cuts in the expenditure on the private security of those VVIPs?

8 thoughts on “Survival by a thousand bandages”

  1. The comparison with traffic accidents doesn’t work because traffic accidents come about because of the voluntary actions of people: people choose to drive or commute knowing and accepting the risks of being part of an accident. Terrorism, on the other hand, is a deliberate assault on people’s rights. The comparison, thus, isn’t valid.

  2. Nitin,

    The guy who made the comparison between terrorism and traffic accidents at the blog meet should have been shot dead.

  3. Pankaj,

    On the contrary, I think it is necessary to address his misconceptions if we are to fight terrorists in the right earnest.

    It is undeniable that India faces a multitude of problems, many of which claim more lives than terrorism. Casualty statistics cannot be a yardstick to prioritise those problems, unless they all lie along the same dimension. As Amit points out, traffic accidents and terrorist attacks lie on different dimensions.

  4. Nitin

    But I find it rather disconcerting that it is tendency of certain percentage of educated set to make such statements.

    Here is my reasoning (call it naive or jingoistic)

    1) India is my nation. Further her borders are not open to questions, as it was accepted in 1947 by the concerned parties.
    2) I find it is my duty to see she and her citizens are protected.
    3) It is the aim of certain powers to see her sovereignity is compromised.
    4) Their actions and strategies are geared towards her destruction.
    5) Terrorism by causing physical and more important psycholigcal damage is one of such strategies.
    6) Therefore it is imperative to me as a citizen to propose and support any plan which eliminates the threat
    7) Further it is my aim to see as a citizen that hostile power which pose present or furtue threat are neutralized.

    Regards

    I am just relieved that you came out safe from the den of you-know-who 😉

  5. I had outlined a solution to this problem Terrorism–A Way Out where I had proposed

    After every terrorist attack, the Prime Minister, the head of the government (if not the same as the PM), the Home Minister (who is in charge of security), the police chief in whose jurisdiction the incident occurs, and the Defense Minister should be publicly flogged, with the number of lashes equal to the number of deaths, within two weeks of the incident. So for the Varanasi terrorist attack, Dr Singh, Ms Sonia Gandhi and the others listed above (I don’t know their identities) should be flogged by 21st of March in the courtyard of the Rastrapati Bhavan.

    Aside from the public flogging, the other measure would be to fine them 1 percent of their wealth for every 100 deaths. This means, after 10,000 deaths under their watch, they will have all their wealth confiscated.

  6. Nitin, based on the response to 12/13 attacks on parliament I doubt the establishment will wake up even with cuts in VVIP security expenses. There has got to be a syndrome of an apparent “brother” taking the repeated beatings of another “brother” without a murmur just to claim everything is okay.

    As long as terror is justified as done by a few misguided elements or because of revenge – as is the prevaling standard explanation – Brahma Chellaney can continue write op-eds with same message once every few years.

  7. Terrorism, kidnapping for ransom and like, should not be entertained at all. Then the other end would have to opt for something else. We suggest ‘peace’.

  8. Precisely. You will begin to see action against terrorism only when powerful people — politicians, media, the “beautiful” set — fall victims to it, as opposed to the poor goatherds of Doda.

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