Frisking Kalam

Frisking an ex-President of India on the grounds that “As per policy we frisk everyone regardless of stature” is a stupid waste of time. It is exceedingly unlikely that Kalam is a terrorist and is carrying a bomb, and if you can save some time and bother by exempting a small category of people from security checks, it gives you a little more time to frisk more likely targets more thoroughly.

Unfortunately, this stupid policy is the only sensible response to a culture where people start expecting  to be exempt on the basis of rank. While it is highly unlikely that Kalam is a terrorist, when sitting MPs, MLAs, etc. start demanding to be exempt from frisking on the basis of their ranks, the probability that one of them will either deliberately or inadvertantly end up carrying an explosive device to a plane goes up.


Ganti says

Lets give it an honest thought. Imagine a situation where gunmen/terrorists had taken a chawl in Bombay hostage instead of the Taj. What do you think would have been the nature of media coverage ?

If he is talking of the Indian media, then yes, they would have covered it almost as breathlessly as they covered the Taj and Oberoi standoffs. 

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This Time They Hit the Rich

One argument that is being made about the Mumbai attacks is that they are garnering so much attention because this time the rich were targeted. This argument contains multiple levels of silliness. 

Yes, there is a class divide in India. There is a divide between the literate and the illiterate. There is a divide between those who read English newspapers and those who don’t. There is a divide between cities and villages. Now, the whole point of a class divide is that those on one side of a divide feel greater kinship among themselves than with those on the other side. Readers of English newspapers like to read about the travails of other middle-class readers like themselves and don’t care much about farmers dying in Vidarbha. A citizen of Mumbai cares more about people dying in train bombings in his city than he does for deaths due to Naxalism or caste wars. That makes sense.

But if you try to stretch this standard argument to argue that this particular terror strike is getting more attention because it was targeted at the rich South Bombay types, that is where the argument snaps. The typical English speaker is far more likely to travel by train than be able to afford coffee at the Taj or Oberoi. He is much more likely to feel kinship with those who died in a train blast on July 11, 2006  than with those who died in the November massacre.  

There is a sliver of truth in the argument – in that it is true that the attacks got more attention in the West because Americans and Britons were killed.  But using the argument to explain why they have generated such an enormous outrage amont Mumbaikars involves lazy thinking as well as an active effort to avoid the blindlingly obvious.