26/11 – Whose closure?

The Water Cooler

For three years we observed the anniversary of 26/11 with tears and rage. This year, strangely, the wails are muted. The remembrances are scant. If anything, the saddest murmurs doing the rounds in Mumbai have come from cricket jingoists mourning India's defeat to England in the Wankhede Test.

For three years our rage simmered from the fact that we kept in our custody an unwelcome guest who fuelled our vengeful hate by the very news of his presence. As we fed, clothed, medicated and kept Ajmal Kasab alive in his high-security prison cell, we wished him dead with all our hearts. For three years we dangled justice before the world and then, in one swift surprising move, resolved it before further questions could be raised. Those who had expected more prudence from this great democracy were distraught.

Was it all a travesty, then?

It mattered not that Kasab was a mere puppet on a string, a souvenir, a prisoner from a war we can never mourn enough. He was ours for the killing, anyway. We merely toyed with him as a cat would with a mouse, playing god with his flexible fate. Odd though it may seem, we kept him alive as a sort of antivenin against fear -- a talisman to insulate us against terror's fatality.

Not that fear ever departed from the city while we kept him alive. It was reinvented and served in new flavours. Why, until just a few days ago, Mumbai was busy terrorising its citizens -- two young women -- for speaking out of turn against the death of its patriarch Bal Thackeray. A man had lived by the rule of terror died peacefully of old age without serving a single sentence for his crimes. He trite misdeeds were forgiven; he was eulogised and despatched with national honours.

Terror and terrorism aren't dead. The terrorists answer to names different from what we know.

As a consequence of so many terror attacks, our expenditure on national security is higher. But that only means that our politicians are today more secure than ever; note how few have fallen to bullets in a decade. It is arguable, however, if ordinary citizens are safer. Even as whistle-blowers for democracy are being gunned to death with alarming regularity, taxpayer money is keeping our elected leaders safe in their bulletproof, beacon-flashing vehicles.

There's an air of closure now that we have hung Ajmal Kasab. But whose closure it it? K Unnikrishnan's for the death of his son Sandeep? Vinita Kamte's or Kavita Karkare's for the loss of their husbands? The city of Mumbai's? The Taj Mahal Hotel's?

Grist for the mill continues to be churned up all over the world, be it from Gaza or Egypt, Afghanistan and Syria, Yemen and Pakistan. The prime enemy, we often forget, is terror itself. Of its end none is in sight. The peace we enjoy today is fragile at best. Perhaps more fragile than ever before. Closure, or our dreams of it, are premature and preliminary as long as fear lurks in the minds of the common people.

We can't hang all terrorism with one noose. Rather, the noose of terror is wound round our necks. Closure will come only when we shake it loose.

Bijoy Venugopal is Editor - Travel. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook