Sunday, December 21, 2008

In the aftermath

Despite caution from a lot of Indian intellectuals, India has been drifting down the same dark path that America did after 9/11. All the bloodthirsty commentating, the growing xenophobia, the draconian security laws under consideration, the obsession with what happened to the glitterati at the Oberoi and the Taj as opposed to the victims at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus: it all leaves me with a queasy feeling of things going in the wrong direction.

Latest in the series of missteps is the Oberoi Trident saying that it will not entertain Pakistani nationals at its hotel. The move is distasteful, misguided, vindictive and short-sighted. It does not entirely surprise me, but it certainly does sadden. The India-Pakistan-bhai-bhai enthusiasm of the past five years has shown itself to have been both superficial and hollow. Within days of the Mumbai attack, all that goodwill evaporated and the Pakistani and Indian media were at each other's throats; sports tournaments were cancelled; the peace process put on hold and the deep mistrust and antipathy that lay dormant for the past few years resurfaced with renewed vigour.

It is a shame. What happened in Mumbai was in no uncertain terms a tragedy. And of all the people who could empathize, Pakistanis were on top of the list for having been battered on a weekly basis by terrorist attacks for the past five years. But instead of sharing each other's sorrow and using our new cordial relationship to go after those responsible for the attacks together, leaders and citizens on both side ran to take cover behind their old jingoism and bellicose rhetoric. A dozen hate-filled twenty-somethings have managed to alter the open nature of a country of over a billion people and derail the growing friendship between millions of citizens of the estranged nations. It's a shame. A real shame.

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