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.