Vantage point

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Make It Personal

In 2001 our parliament was attacked. A few gunmen tried to enter it and take some leaders hostage. The attack, in that sense was a failure because all the terrorists were gunned down before they could come near any MP or Minister.

And yet it pissed off our government enough to amass troops on the border for several months. Our politicians were angry enough to go to the brink of war. Was it because our countrymen were that pissed off? Or was it because this time it was personal for our leaders?

As I wrote yesterday, politicians in India have no electoral benefit to be gained out of being proactive in fighting terrorism. No one has lost an election because of terrorism, and no one most likely will in the near future. So was the escalation in 2001-02 a result of the attack being personal? Imagine what the reaction would have been if the attack had succeeded. If they had bumped off a few MPs and taken some Ministers hostage. For all we know, the government would have taken it personally enough to actually go to war.

As long as we remain apathetic to our own safety, I think only such "personal" attacks on politicians by terrorists can bring about any action even remotely resembling the one taken by Israel and America. If terrorists start killing politicians on a regular basis, like the Khalistani terrorists did. If politicians start fearing that the next target may not just be some commuters in a train, but they themselves. A terror attack on 10, Janpath or Racecourse Road... and a vastly successful one at that, is the only thing that will make India a "hard" state. Look how Punjab was taken care of efficiently.

Let me cite a slightly different example. The Mumbai-Pune highway (NH4) was the deadliest stretch in the country for several decades. There were at least a couple of accidents daily. If I recall correctly, there were some 2000 deaths on the highway annually. But these deaths were not enough for the people to get pissed off by. No politician saw the need to make it a poll issue.

Then Bindumadhav, the son of Bal Thackeray died in a road accident on the highway. And shortly, the Shivsena-led government put a safe Mumbai-Pune expressway on their agenda. It was completed in good time by Indian standards. Can anyone deny the personal element in the Sena's decision to construct an expressway? There sure as hell wasn't any electoral gain from it.

So as sadistic and pessimistic as it sounds, one can only hope that terrorism makes a strike on politicians that makes them go, "This time, it's personal!".