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Violence and its victims

by Mustafa Khan, 2 January 2009

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Mumbai and Malegaon have many things in common. Bomb blasts and communal riots make them almost unique in India. There is so much of violence and tension that the people genuinely wonder how to overcome it after the initial daze and fury of it are over.

The passengers who survived the attacks at the CST railway station as well as the widower manager of the Taj are at a loss to understand how swiftly they have been bereaved. Kavita Karkare’s anguish boils down to logic of her academic pursuit of a PhD degree in sociology which would help her search for the sociology of crime and suffering. The heart may not agree with the mind in her for sometimes to come. But this is at least a solace.

On the other spectrum of the same are the victims of frequent bouts of violence in Malegaon who try to grapple with communal violence and blasts. They have what is called hilarious imitation of the Bollywood films, the spoofs. Such imitation films in the town are simply overwhelmingly popular. They not only caricature the politicians, the communalists but also the officers involved in violence.

Says the pioneering film maker Shaikh Nasir: "There is no other entertainment in our town. We are mad about movies. After 14 hours of backbreaking work in power looms daily, the workers want to wear wings and fly. My parodies help them escape." One such film is a burlesque of Sholay and is dubbed Malegaon ke Sholay. The famous heroine Basanti rides a tonga and her paramour rides a bicycle. Malegaon spoof producers cannot hire horses as that is very costly, they prefer bicycles which are easy to come by. Heroes and villains alike ride the bike because that also is the mode of their own transportation to the site of the shooting and back. The bike may make many laugh at the cheap make-do-with imitation of the costly cars that Bollywood actors drive. But that also is a way to overcome the angst surrounding the bicycles which carried the bombs that killed 37 people in a grave yard mosque and a public square on September 8 2006 or the motorbike of Sadhvi Pragyasingh Thakur’s which killed seven in Bhiku chowk on September 29 2008. Most of the people are so poor that they never think how they have been deprived of a city public bus service that should have been given to the town because of the sheer size of population. Encroachment is so obtrusive that even if the bus service is sanctioned the drivers would go crazy how to pick their routes through the intractable meandering maze of the town.

That was what the parents of the bomb blast victim complained to Sonia Gandhi and the home minister of India: lack of infrastructure and absence of public facilities. Rupees one hundred and sixty seven crores allotted to the state for Minorities Development Department have remained unused till the end of 2008. As a result the roads are crowded and impassable what with potholes and encroachments. A frequent source of communal tension is cyclist bumping into a pedestrian from the other community. Temperature is so frayed that it leads to outright brawl. Let alone buses in Sankli streets of Madanpura of Mumbai or Mohammad Ali road of Malegaon even a two wheeler is difficult to negotiate through the thick slow moving casual crowd. Unlike Kavita anyone doing a PhD will have to forego his philosophical bent of mind to first overcome the traffic hurdle.

The dingy lane now named as Shaheed Hemant Karkare street is simply impassable for a pedestrian during the festival days as it is impossible for straight riding for even cycle on other days. Sadhvi Pragyasingh was naturally wondering why so few were felled by the bomb her Ramji had planted.

Mukkaram Pasha’s dare deviltry in wheeling riding or drag riding proved fatal in Bangalore. He raised the front wheel and rode on the rear that made the police whistle and then chase. He allegedly entered a brigadier’s residence and climbed up on the terrace. The sentry shot him for what he told afterward that the boy was speaking in Urdu and he thought him to be a terrorist. As other such violent cases the bullet passed through

his heart. Even then he climbed over the fence wall and escaped to die in hospital later. The most mentionable feature is the fear of the police what would they do when they catch a victim that too from the minority community. Equally notable is the language in which he spoke. It is strange that Urdu the most mellifluent language in the subcontinent should produce such misfortune in violence.

The Mumbai attacks of November 26 had shifted the focus of attention of the world from the worst scenario in the Middle East. But the Israelis attack on Gaza has again moved the attention back to where it usually has been for decades. But this time the death toll of Palestinians has gone to nearly 400 for 4 Israelis killed.

There is a notable difference between India and the rest of the world including the Middle East in terms of the nature of violence. The suicide bomber has still not arrived here. For example a suicide bomber blew himself up in Afghanistan on December 28, 2008 at a place where American soldiers were present but among the eight killed there were five school children. On the same day another suicide bomber blew himself up as he rode his bicycle in a protest march in Mosul, Iraq, against the Israeli attack on Gaza. In the most pictorial and moving demonstration of violence a car driver pretending that his car broke down in Buner around the Swat valley, Pakistan. He asked the people gathered at the polling station to help. As they pushed the car the driver blew himself up killing 26 others. Also on the same day a Tamil suicide bomber killed seven Sinhalese.

Among the reasons why violence is very horrifying are disastrously powerful weapons and destructive designing of the mind. Kavita Karkare wonders whether there was any action plan in place as were the helmets and bullet proof vests so tawdry in quality. Her basic question is who made her a widow. The Israelis as also Kasab and company use far superior weaponry, freely given by the US to the former and sourced internationally by the latter. The Qassim rockets and mortars of the Palestinians are improvised by themselves thanks to the long neglect of their plight by the world.

Revenge, hate, and retaliation are balanced by the failure of the civilized society and its organizations including the governments and the UNO which are accountable for the slide into barbarism. In the Buner car incident Pakistan says it has moved its soldiers from Swat valley to the borders with India in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks and cannot hold elections peacefully. The UN has miserably failed to control Israeli aggression and hence the rise in violence. Indeed the remedy of both the eyes for one and the whole jaw for a tooth is not only worse than the disease but whining of an insane bigot.