Santosh Desai writes about current events and how they are portrayed in the media. I read this article of his a while ago, about the Bhopal tragedy and the ‘anger’ that Indians have about Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals getting away with gross negligence leading to the worst industrial accident in the world.
The Indian media (and the general population) were (as in past tense. This was two months ago. We’re over it now.) all up in arms that the 84 year old CEO of UCI, Warren Anderson, was allowed to get away.
…Warren Anderson was virtually escorted out of the country the day after the tragedy and the Supreme Court reached a settlement with the company in 1998 that expressly ruled out any further prosecution of the company. In 25 years, we have still not bothered to detoxify the site and it still poses a threat to those living in the vicinity. So why the outrage now? Even this verdict could scarcely have gone any other way, since the court ruled out filing charges under a section that could allow for stiffer punishment. We are fiddling with the stable door, well after the horse has bolted and retired in a luxury home in New York.
This is significant. We aren’t outraged that the courts in this country have taken 25 years to pronounce judgement on something as grave as Bhopal. We aren’t outraged that the remnants of the accident have still not been cleaned up; by Union Carbide or by the Indian govt. We aren’t outraged that the people who were killed or maimed by what happened haven’t still been compensated. What we are outraged about is that Warren Anderson isn’t being extradited to India today.
I see this happening with Kashmir too. Whether or not we do anything to solve the humanitarian crisis in Kashmir that’s been hanging around our necks for the last six decades and whether or not the population of this country is outraged that innocent civilians are being killed everyday in Kashmir, we all, and especially the Government of India, seem to be quite outraged that Google Insights for Search, a tool that can be used to compare internet search volumes according to various categories, including by country, included searches from PoK (or Azad Kashmir) in the column for Pakistan instead of the column for India.
Symbolism and metaphor are powerful things. In poetry.
What do you say to a people who seem to not only value symbolism, but also value symbolism over reality? We seem to be okay with being treated like crap as long as somebody also calls us the next superpower of the world once in a while. We seem to think that divvying up Kashmir is as simple a matter as colouring a map slightly differently. Never mind what the people of Kashmir have gone through. Never mind what they are still going through. Never mind what they want.
The crisis in Kashmir, it seems, is not that the Indian armed forces have some 6 million troops stationed there permanently, or that security forces that take on stone-throwers seem to invariably use live ammunition, or that hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed over the past several months. The crisis in Kashmir is that an experimental Google tool doesn’t colour one square centimetre of a certain map with blue. The indecency.