Friday, July 21, 2006

blogging after 7/11

I write this blog entry knowing I may be unable to post it. The Indian government has blocked access to, which hosts this little blog, as well as quite a few other sites. It did so – ostensibly – in the belief that blogs may have been used blogs by the terrorists in orchestrating the devastating attack on Mumbai (Bombay) two weeks ago. Hundreds of people died in the blasts that targeted commuter trains during evening rush hour. One by one, a series of bombs planted in seven different trains, taking the lives of hundreds of workers packed into the cars that were bringing them home after a long day’s work in the center of the city.

That horrific attack took place on July 11, earning it the name 7/11. Like 9/11, the attack is thought to have been engineered by extremist Muslim groups. Like New York, Mumbai is the financial capital of this country. But the issues at stake in responding to a terrorist attack are far more volatile here in India than they had been in the States, the major issue being the possibility of ‘communal violence.’ Communal violence is used here as a catch-all phrase referring to inter-caste fighting, fighting between ethnic or racial groups and, as most relevant in this instance, violence perpetrated by followers of one religious group against another. For days after the 7/11 attack, while newspapers were quoting unnamed government sources pointing to a Muslim group called Lashkar as the authors of the ruthless attack, the government itself officially declined to point fingers, saying not all evidence was in as yet. The reason? Fear that violent reprisals would be taken against Muslims across India. As the nation’s largest ‘minority,’ Muslims form a substantial portion of the Indian population, living and working right alongside non-Muslim Indians in all spheres of public life.

Concern that anti-Muslim rioting could break out has tempered reactions since 7/11, and such concerns are eminently well-founded. Just days before the 7/11 attack, supporters of a right-wing Hindu group Shiv Sena had gone on a rampage in Mumbai after the desecration of a statue of the wife of one of its heroes, overturning cars and ransacking businesses. It is worth noting that blogs are not the only websites that Internet users within India have been unable to access since 7/11. A long list of pro-Hindu sites, including some extremist and rather incendiary, were likewise banned, as the Indian government has struggled to avert the feared ‘communal violence.’

Unlike the flag-waving., ‘these-colors-don’t-run’ sentiments aired on American networks after 9/11, Indian TV stations are broadcasting appeals for tolerance, with personal statements from a long series of Bollywood film stars, cricket players and other popular figures.

So far, people seem to be listening.

1 comment:

Morpheus said...

This is probably the first time that riots haven't broken out in India. Its like the nation and especially Mumbai came together as one in the face of adversity. If you are reading this, then you wil know that DoT has passed a referrendum wherein ban on most blogs has been removed. Free Speech lives on. Hope Vizag will prove fruitful to the both of you. Best wishes.