From India With Love

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On Terror

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I woke up in the morning and checked my e-mail along with a first cup of coffee.  I had an e-mail from my friend Scott that read “Hope you’re not in Mumbai…!” From the first line of the mail I already had an inclination that something fairly bad had happened in Mumbai.  I opened up the New York Times online edition and there was a picture of the Taj burning, a hotel that Michelle and I had walked past countless of times less than a month ago.

I kept reading updates throughout the day, needing to discover what had taken place and was still unfolding.   Reading that the terrorist’s had specifically asked for hostages with American and British passports was unsettling.   It set of a number of questions in my own mind: How safe were we in Bangalore? Could the same thing happen here?  Should I stay away from places that are frequented by other foreigners? Should I think twice when replying “Which country”, which is often posed by Indians that I meed on the street?   The fact that the attack specifically target locations frequented by foreigners what was so unsettling.  It made me wonder how people I meet on the street perceive me.  Am I hated for simply being a foreigner?  The thought that stuck with me for the rest of the day was, “someone tried to kill me today.”   At least that’s how it felt. I knew that if Michelle and I had been in Mumbai a month later rather than a month earlier we could easily have ended up on the casualty lists that are currently still growing. 

Since we arrived in India three months ago there has been a number of terrorist attacks across the country.  What I at times  found odd was how little these attacks came up in daily conversation with people that I met. If the attacks had taken place in the States they would continue to live in the national consciousness for weeks if not months on end.  With this most recent attack I can tell that everything has changed, India is waking up to that it has a serious problem on its hand.  What remains to be seen is how India will deal with.  From reading the newspapers and watching the news I have already come across the same rhetoric that was so prominent in the US after 911.  “We need tighter security, “Everyone needs to be more vigilant, India should stand united in the face of these attacks”.  

What is absent as usual are the larger questions:   What is it that makes a man pick up an AK-47 and start randomly firing it into a crowd of people?  Why do groups of young men spend months on end planning to take lives rather than save them?  How can we entice men away from the allure of the gun and have them solve their political grievances instead through negotiation and peaceful protest ? 

Though I myself may not have a good answer to these questions, “Three Cups of Tea”,a book that I recently read had one of the best solutions to the issue of terrorism: build schools.  The author of the book started up a foundation that builds in schools in impoverished regions of Pakistan, and Afghanistan.  By building schools that provide a balanced education for children, he keeps them away from the “Madrassas” or fundamentalist schools that are fueling the terrorist movements in this part of the world.   For anyone who hasn’t read three cups of tea. I really recommend it. 

http://www.threecupsoftea.com/

In the months and years ahead India will need to decide how it will deal with it’s own terrorist problem.  Will it tackle it in a more meaningful way by seeking to create harmony and peace inside it’s borders through discourse, education, and social justice,  or will it encroach upon the rights of its people like the US under Bush.  Will India engage in skillful diplomacy with its neighbor Pakistan, the country of origin of the Mumbai terrorists, or will it launch missiles instead?

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Written by tankstar

November 29, 2008 at 7:15 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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