Guest post by DILIP D’SOUZA
The anniversary began, for me, with a phone call. Someone I haven’t heard from in some years, mother of a soldier who died fighting for India in Kashmir. Her voice faltered several times during our conversation, and I could hear her tears. “Look at the tamasha,” she said, “over remembering the people who died on November 26 2008. Yet do we remember my son? Do we remember so many others” — and here she named several soldiers — “who died facing bullets on our border? Really do we remember people who died for no reason?”
“If we have a remembrance for one,” she said, “I want it for all. I want it for everyone who dies like this. Otherwise we wonder, what did our sons die for?”Her words, her tears, left me chastened.
And so I thought: on this day that we remember 170 who died two years ago, let me ask some questions about memory:
- Why do we remember 26/11, but not 25/08/03? Why not 1/11/84 (and several bloody days that followed)? Why not 7/12/92 (and several bloody weeks that followed)? Why not 12/3/93? Why not 28/2/02 (and several brutal weeks that followed)? Why not 11/7/06?
- Who remembers how many Indians died in each of those atrocities? 25/08/03: 52. 1/11/84 and later: 3000. 7/12/92 and later: 1000. 12/3/93: 270. 28/2/02 and later: 2000. 11/7/06: 210.
- Who remembers the bomb at Matunga station on 29/10/93, that killed a well-known Gujarati playwright? What was his name?
- What happened on 25/1/99, when 22 Indians were slaughtered? Or on 1/12/97, when 61 Indians were slaughtered?
You know I could go on.
Are only some of those events to be labelled terrorism, the others not? Which ones were which, and why? Does it say something about us that we have to jog our memories about massacres, and once we remember them we immediately seek to classify them as terrorism and not terrorism? (Didn’t you do that?)
Now try these two last questions, and I trust they won’t need you to jog memories:
- Was there anyone among those hundreds of Indians who did not feel terror as death came to them?
- When we remember Salaskar, Kamte, Ombale, Unnikrishnan, Karkare — why do we not remember Kalia, Shabiyullah, Kapadia, Bishnoi?
(Dilip D’Souza is a writer and journalist in Bombay. He is author, most, recently, of Roadrunner: An Indian Quest in America. He blogs at Death Ends Fun.)