The protest over the bomb blast on August 1 is overwhelming and also cuts across communities and political parties, as it indeed should be. Apart from notes of condemnation sent to the media, there was also a bandh today. Although the latter protest was extreme and generally not desirable for reasons far too often and articulated by far too many, at least on the issue of such an atrocious crime, it was tolerable. The objective is first to register a radical public dissent and second to tell the government to not slacken its investigations into the crime. Four lives lost so violently and meaninglessly is nothing to trivialise. Sadly, although officially as well as to the media and thereby to a larger section of the newspaper reading public, four lives lost in a bomb blast has been reduced to a statistics, or an index to gauge the lethal power of the bomb and the scale of the devastation it caused, for the families which lost their loved ones so abruptly and violently, the sense and extent of the tragedy they are going through can only be imagined. Two minors were among those killed, and only parents with minor children will understand the excruciating pain this would be giving the families which suffered the losses. For them the tragedy would not have been any greater if a hundred died with their children. The grief over one loved one lost, for them would be equally immeasurable.
It is time to add some humanity to public assessment of crime and violence. A single undeserved death must be viewed with the gravity the event deserves. The desensitisation has been such that the government as well as the media wait for death figures of greater magnitudes before giving the event attention. The manner in which the extended violent conflict in the region has dehumanised everybody is unparalleled in the place’s history. It is not just about violence coming to be treated as routine and people getting casual about it, but it is more about the erosion of humanity in ordinary humans which is much more lamentable. People have become callous about deaths and injuries suffered by others, and therefore the element of empathy which is an invaluable quality in determining a civilised society is eroding away alarmingly in our society. We are here talking about ordinary citizens, including children, and not of soldiers and other combatants trained to kill and to be untouched by sights of dead people. The loss hence in these tragedies is not just physical and tangible, which appears in the media the next day and over which people cry foul or the government pays official compensation. There is a much more profound loss suffered – that of humanity of the ordinary. It goes without saying that our children who grow up in this environment would necessarily have very skewed morality and judgment of human predicament. This being the case, while even soldiers’ death should not be dismissed as nothing unnatural, civilian casualties must not be condoned at any cost, even if those fighting their wars try to explain it away as unavoidable collateral damage, or more grandiosely as the “sacrifice” every citizen owes to the so called people’s revolution, never considering the thought that the people for whom the war is supposedly being fought may already have become disillusioned by this war and do not want it anymore, especially in the brutalised avatar it is presenting itself as the present time.
It is also time for our forms of protests to be given an imaginative makeover too. So far, it has been about staging sit-in dharnas, street rallies or else calling bandhs and blockades. While these forms of showing resentment are extremely visible, the sheer repetition has resulted in an overall visual fatigue. As much as the routine deluge of news of violence and atrocities have desensitised the public’s mind, sights of women in formal ceremonial white, sitting in dramatised protest inside temporary roadside shades put up for the purpose are failing to have catch either eyeballs or popular imagination. The symbolism that reaches hearts has evaporated because of overuse, and nobody wants to see it on the front pages of their newspapers, although local papers still by habit and compulsions do it. What are also conspicuous by their absence in any of these protests are the enlightened sections of our society. The theatre doyens, sports achievers, intellectuals, media personalities and other well known and respected faces of the societies must now come out to give a face to public issues of importance. The concern raised after the most recent bomb blast at a crowded marketplace is certainly one of these.