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Terrorism in India

What has happened in Mumbai — the attacks at hotels, train station, other sites — disturbs me in one way that I’m not hearing mentioned in the interviews I’ve seen.

This dreadful assault is getting worldwide attention, apparently because there have been foreign victims and because the site is a world financial center.

But there have been many other outbreaks of communal violence, in India and elsewhere, that did not register more than a flicker on the world media screen.

I wrote about one of those rounds, which occurred in the Indian city Varanasi where I was living to research my novel Sister India.

Those events became part of the novel. Taking notes and writing are probably my major coping mechanism.

The street fighting broke out about a week and a half after I arrived, and the city of a million people was then shut down in curfew for 24 hours a day for most of the next two weeks. All businesses closed. Everyone to stay inside.

A bomb blew up an apartment building about a kilometer away from my flat. I could hear gunfire from my rooftop patio.

I had flashbacks for two years after my return about a grisly incident in a nearby street that I hadn’t even witnessed, but only read about. A rickshaw full of Hindu women was hacked to death. I couldn’t stop myself from re-imagining it.

But no foreigners were involved. I was in almost no danger, because being neither Hindu nor Muslim, I wasn’t a target. And the news was barely a flicker back in the USA.

I can only imagine what it was like to be holed up in the Taj (where I once spent a few days) while terrorists were hunting people to shoot, with a special interest in those who looked like me.

Even so, it feels wrong to me that events of similar magnitude stir so little outrage when the targets aren’t American. I do understand press coverage that focuses on a local angle; but I don’t like that an event becomes a global outrage more often when well-heeled foreigners are involved.

(An aside: the most elegant party I have ever attended was a night-time torchlit reception in the gardens of one of the homes of the Oberoi family of the Oberoi hotel that was a target of these attacks. It was on my first visit to India in the late 70s with the Society of American Travel Writers.)

I am grieved by what has happened, hated seeing the grand old waterfront Taj ablaze.
And want, for whatever good it does, for every random violent death to get the same indignation.

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