Saturday, November 29, 2008

Every section of society needs to act fast to heal wounds - By Fr Cedric Prakash, Sj

Every section of society needs to act fast to heal wounds

Nov 27 2008

By Fr Cedric Prakash, Sj

The terror attacks on Bombay have created panic and fear in every section of society. They have left us grappling for responses and solutions.
Terrorist attacks are not new to India. They happen with frightening regularity. But the reality is that they always happen to "somebody else" far away.... So, in many ways, civil society seems unaffected — as long as their interests are not touched, they are not disturbed.
A classic case is the Gujarat carnage of 2002, when thousands of Muslims in Gujarat were hounded out of their homes, brutalised, raped and murdered.

Some did speak out at great risk, but there was no moral outrage on what was taking place. The connivance of the government, the role of the police, was beyond doubt and that is why, perhaps, terror continues to rule the roost. Today, most of Gujarat is a highly polarised society, with divisions running right down the middle.

When terror attacks continue, as in Bombay, the obvious question is, "Who could be responsible?" As a result, there is a tendency "to find someone" as soon as possible, and very often, there are scapegoats, leading to a whole religion/community being demonised. This definitely does not lend to healing scars or to building bridges.
What is imperative for every section of society today is to act fast to heal the wounds. Governments, both at the Centre and states, must be seen as fair and impartial while deal with the issue.

Terrorism has no religion, so it is ridiculous that politicians defend alleged terrorists from "their own" religion, and strongly condemn those who belong to "another" religion. Governments and political leaders must, therefore, must not draw political mileage or indulge in
vote bank politics when terror strikes.

People from all walks of life need to come out to condemn the terror acts and try to usher in an environment of normalcy as soon as possible.

This can be achieved if we have visionary and charismatic leaders, who transcend the narrow confines of language, culture, race and religion. Victims have to be reached out to immediately, and those traumatised, need to be cared for.

At every step, we need to defend the secular character and the diversity guaranteed to us by our Constitution. We have to create ownership of the rights and freedom guaranteed by it, and ensure that these are protected and enjoyed by every single citizen.

Yes, we need to heal the scars of terror right now. We cannot wait for tomorrow. A sagacious political will and a deep commitment from every single citizen will go a long way in doing so.

The writer is director of PRASHANT, the Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace, based in Ahmedabad

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