April 20, 2013

Boston Bombing

My article on the aftermath of the Boston marathon bombing appeared in the Economic Times on April 20, 2013. An excerpt is included below and the full text can be found here.

Terrorism is at its most disturbing when it hits you close to home. For residents of many Indian cities, the sense of vulnerability that accompanies random violence was at its most acute between 2001 and 2008, when Delhi, Mumbai, Varanasi, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, and Bangalore, among many other places, were hit by severe attacks, on multiple occasions in the cases of Delhi and Mumbai. More than the attacks on government targets, those on public spaces - markets, crowded streets - underscored the randomness of the violence perpetuated by terrorists.

The otherwise sleepy suburban town of Waltham, Massachusetts, where I now live, is in lockdown as I write. News reports and local law enforcement authorities say that a 19-year-old ethnic Chechen named Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is still at large, last seen in the neighbouring community of Watertown...

...Information about the suspects, official law enforcement communications, and public service announcements over the past few hours all stand in stark contrast to the chaos that often follows terrorist attacks in India, most notoriously after the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. More details about this episode will inevitably emerge, including the probable motives of the attackers.

There will inevitably be commentary - much of it ill-informed - about their ethnic or religious impulses, the fact that they were at least partially 'home-grown', and parallels with other incidents of terrorism in recent years. Regardless, this incident offers some important lessons for how we can all be better prepared for acts of random violence.