But the fact that blogs can be a powerful -- and a parallel -- means of journalism hit me only after the recent Mumbai blasts. A newspaper can come out only the next morning, while our nascent news channels -- even though they update themselves on an hourly basis -- have their own 'exclusivity' to tom-tom about. But the blogger is honest -- he is the layman who has been in the middle of it: he has no axe to grind, he has nothing to hide, he has nothing to tom-tom. That is why you could find the best coverage of the Mumbai blasts in blogdom -- I feel sorry for people who missed out on it because of their ignorance about blogs.
Within hours of the blasts, Neha Viswanathan put together various bloggers' accounts of the tragedy -- a challenging task indeed; while another blogger, Bongopondit, exposed the hollowness of the New York Times correspondent's reportage of the blasts. Sites like Desipundit and Ultrabrown also put together several first-hand accounts of the carnage.
I too wrote a post which, fortunately, was cited by a few of these well-known bloggers/blogsites. But the unfortunate part is that not many readers agreed with my point of view that terrorism is a menace that can be fought not by force but only by looking into the cause that turns a human being into a terrorist. A couple of them expressed their disagreement in their comments to my post, a few people emailed me to say that they did not agree with me, and some condemned me over telephone. But I still hold to my view: No one is born a terrorist. That does not mean I support terrorism: bloody hell, the woman I married barely two months ago could have been one of the victims -- she happened to be in Bombay that evening.
The point is, when a state or a superpower perpetrates terrorism, no one notices it. The United States has perpetrated terrorism and violence in every conceivable corner of the world, but no one talks about its murderous ways. It supplied weapons to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war, but today it is all set to get Saddam executed after a totally meaningless war: nobody has found the weapons of mass destruction. So who accounts for the lives of innocent Iraqis killed in the war? Saddam is facing a trial, but will anyone ever try George Bush for killing hundreds of people in a name of deadly weapons that were never found? So does killing of human beings amount to terrorism only when the killing is ordered/plotted by Muslims?
Today, Indians are condemning terrorism and calling for retaliatory action against the terrorists. BJP leader L K Advani has called for stringent anti-terrorism laws. But they are forgetting one basic thing: the terrorist is not a recognisable criminal like the legendary Gabbar Singh or the other dacoits they show in the Hindi movies. In the movies, you kill the dacoit and you kill his menace. But the terrorist is an unknown face: he could even be your neighbour. And most committed terrorists are often suicide bombers: they are people who kill themselves to kill others. Do you think even the strictest of anti-terrorism laws will deter them? An anti-terrorism law can only make lives miserable of people who are booked under mere suspicion. And it doesn't take much to be under the needle of suspicion: you only have to be a Muslim who happens to have dowloaded Google Earth just to see how the satellite images of your country look like.
And even in cases where acts of terrorism have had a definite face, nothing has been -- or could have been -- done to bring the perpretators to book. Dawood Ibrahim is said to be the mastermind of the 1993 Mumbai blasts, but he continues to be part of folklore. The LTTE killed Rajiv Gandhi, but Prabhakaran is now talking politics with India. And the DMK, which was sympathetic to the LTTE's cause -- the same sympathy which led to the Gujral government being pulled by the Congress in 1997 -- is today a very close ally of Rajiv's widow Sonia. Prabhakaran, by the way, was promoted by Rajiv Gandhi at one point; just as Bhindranwale, the mastermind of terrorism in Punjab, was promoted by Indira Gandhi to take on the Akali Dal. Indira Gandhi had to pay with her life.
End of the day, it all boils down to petty politics and politicians and their egos and ambitions and their insecurities. Politicians are the real face of terrorism. The terrorist who actually kills is a poor, faceless man, and the man who gets killed is also faceless and poor. They only end up being part of statistics. In a few days from now, after the public anger has fully subsided, Tuesday's blasts in Mumbai will silently become part of a continuing chronology. Life will go on.