Thursday, May 15, 2008

A word on Jaipur

When the bomb went off in Jaipur, at 19:25 on Tuesday, I was in Amritsar, hundreds of miles to the north, having Sikhism explained to me by Maninder Singh, a Rajasthani (of which more in a couple of days). What surprised me, although it shouldn't have, is that life went on as it did before. The streets thronged, while everyones' faces reamined glued to the cricket. My mind wandered to the motherland. If a bomb like the one in Jaipur went off in Beer-Sheva (another desert city), the whole country would be on the phone, checking that their loved ones were OK. Broadcast of a basketball match would be interrupte with live reports from the scene. Stupidly, I expected to see something similar in India. But then (how could I forget?), this is a land of over one billion souls, while Israel is home to a mere seven million.

There's a more interesting point to be made, though. Terrorism - in its rational form - is successful only if it can impact on the civilian population, to change their behaviour enough in order to draw concessions from the government. In a country the size of India this is a near-impossibility. To use the callous language of risk assessment, sixty dead in India is but a statistic. Granted, this was an attack on a tourist area (albeit in low season), but it is clar that none of the occasional bomb attacks here in the last year have affected the country's routine. From my brief experience of the travel system here, it is clear that there are many soft targets. But it is hardly worthwhile for the government to strengthen security to the degree that has been done in Israel, for example. This - from the amoral perspective of rational political considerations - is what makes terrorism in India even more inexplicable than elsewhere, and - I think - goes a long way to explain why th authorities have had such trouble solving similar cases in the past.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are so right!