Riots & Terrorism

They aren’t the same thing

The Head Typist equates people killed in bomb blasts with those killed in riots .

Demanding justice for all victims, is fair enough, but because of the very nature of the two, it is easy to see why one bunch got justice, and the other didn’t. That in itself should be a clue as to why you cannot equate the two. Equating these two very different forms of violence is dangerous thing to do, for the simple reason that you end up diluting the impact of both riots and terrorism (in terms of the damage they do).

Terrorism arises from a backlash against the status quo. Terrorists fight against the establishment, they attempt to change the existing order, and for this, they use death as their weapon. Crazed Communist says – I want to make a statement. So s/he straps a bomb to his/her chest and stands in the middle of the Virar Fast. Kaboom. Statement made, damage done. It is for the most part, and individual act, or that of a few individuals. They may have the blessing (i.e. “moral & diplomatic support”) of a large group of people, but the acts themselves are individual. One man’s terrorist is another’s martyr. HOWEVER, if a watchful commuter, or an efficient and effective police force do their duty, there may be a way to prevent a terrorist incident from occurring. (If the security guard standing by the metal detector actually felt for bombs instead of messing with my ‘pistol’ he may actually be able to save a few lives). While you cannot prevent terrorists from arising, you can prevent the damage they do, and the number of lives lost in terrorist incidents.

Firemen and policemen saved the lives of many people by climbing up the WTC to help people go in the opposite direction. The 6 policemen who foiled the attack on India’s Parliament prevented a much worse incident.

Riots are not so simple.

Yes, the end result is that people end up dead but for very different reasons, and this matters if you are going to address the problem and to solve it. A riot is the collective breakdown of the system. Riots can be controlled with water cannons, and with teargas. But they aren’t because the people who should be doing the controlling are usually part of the riot itself. Again, it is a collective failure. Who do you blame for the murdered Muslim? The man who incited the riot? The man who pulled the trigger? Or the 5 men who held the Muslim in place while he was castrated? What about the 10 men who ran for cover instead of coming to their fellow human being’s aid? And the 15 people who watched from their windows, and did nothing? All of them you say? That’s probably correct. Now go and round up all 5 million people involved in the riot, and prosecute them to your heart’s content. Not very easy is it? Of course, you would be happy with a few murderers, thugs, and their leader as a ‘symbolic gesture’ to satisfy the ‘sentiments’ of the victimised community. But you haven’t done a thing to prevent a riot, because you haven’t even addressed the causes. Why was the state machinery in cahoots? Why wasn’t it neutral? Why do Hindus and Muslims still hate each other so much? Arresting a firebrand leader isn’t going to change a thing the next time 12 people are burnt alive on a train. Not one thing, because a riot is systemic breakdown.

Terrorists need weapons, like guns, bombs, fuel-laden airplanes to do their thing. They need large flashy targets for their symbolism. An army base, a 110-storey building. Riots need nothing but a lot of simmering anger. Sentencing 5 terrorists to death (or life imprisonment, depending on you political leanings) prevents at least those 5 terrorists from causing anymore harm. Sentencing the person who incites a mob, does nothing whatsoever to prevent a riot. Prosecuting the policeman in charge at the time does nothing either, if the chief minister encouraged rioting. Prosecuting the Chief Minister doesn’t prevent the frustrated majority from killing the minority, because in the case of riots, none of the root causes are addressed.

Equating these two issues, looking at them purely in terms of black and white (“people are dead”) does not help in getting justice for the victims, but maybe helps to ease one’s own conscience.

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One comment

  1. Pingback: Riots & Terrorism Part 2 « Voice From A 2.5-World Country

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