Bengaluru suffered a terror attack this Sunday evening which took another helpless victim’s life (in this case a woman from Chennai, the 38-year-old homemaker, Bhavani Balan), who happens to be the 326th civilian victim to have died this year alone in India. As per data published by South Asian Terrorism Watchdog, there have been 40175 terror casualties in India since the new millennium began in 2000. Bhavani Balan became the 40176th victim on Sunday, a mere statistic among thousands of other deaths.
The next day, India’s leading English daily, no scratch that, the world’s largest selling English newspaper ran a front page headline in all its editions which told the gory story of yet another terror attack. Not surprisingly, the most ‘detailed’ report appeared in the Bengaluru edition which also gave us ‘important titbits’ about the six victims who had suffered injuries in that bomb blast in Church Street. Here, we produce a portion of that report from TOI’s Bengaluru edition front page.
Naveen SC, an employee of Bangalore Mirror, a sister publication of The Times of India, suffered minor injuries and was treated as an out-patient at a nearby hospital.
Bhavani, and her nephew Karthik, 21, were admitted to Mallya Hospital. While Bhavani suffered injuries to her head and face, the blast ripped off bits of flesh from Karthik’s left shoulder. Doctors were heard telling family members that Bhavani had suffered a hole in the left part of her skull and they were struggling to stop bleeding and revive her. She died around 11 pm due to excessive bleeding and cardiac arrest. Karthik’s injuries are minor, doctors said.
Sandeep H, 40, a resident of Ideal Homes, Rajarajeshwari Nagar and iGate employee, and his friend, Vinay Rao, 39, an IBM employee who lives in Basavanagudi, were admitted to Hosmat Hospital with injuries.
Who is the centre of this story? Victim number 40176? Maybe her nephew Karthik who also suffered more serious injuries than others? Maybe the bomb blast itself is the central story? The answer to all those questions is a comprehensive ‘No’. In fact, TOI has a front page picture of a dog squad and ‘important details’ of information in the caption surrounding that photograph, take a look below.
What important bit of information is TOI providing its readers through this front page report? Is it giving us details about victim number 40176, like say, where did she live or why and when did she come to Bengaluru? No. Is it at least telling us something more about her nephew Karthik, like say, where is the young man employed? No. Is TOI giving us some riveting detail about the modus-operandi of this bomb blast? No. Zilch.
Instead, we are randomly informed that Sandeep H, is a resident of “Ideal Homes” and, lest we confuse it with some other locality, it is further clarified that “Ideal Homes” is located in Rajarajeshwari Nagar. In fact, Times of India, the world’s largest selling English daily deems this information so important that it is repeated in the caption around the photograph in case some readers had missed reading this crucial detail in the report!
Other bits of information that TOI deems imperative to this news piece is the information that Sandeep and Vinay are employed by “iGate” and “IBM”, respectively. Once again, both these pieces of information are repeated in the caption to drive the point home fully. Intriguingly, the same front page report in the Mumbai edition of TOI has no mention of “Ideal Homes”, but still retains both “iGate” and “IBM” intact.
In fact, TOI does everything in its powers to hide the details of all other victims. For instance, wouldn’t the newspaper know where its own employee Naveen SC resides (we are informed twice that he works for Bangalore Mirror)? So why are only these three pieces of information – “Ideal Homes” (of Rajarajeshwari Nagar lest we confuse it with some other builder), “iGate” and “IBM” so important for this bomb blast in Bengaluru that it warranted so much real-estate on the front page of India’s national daily? The answer is obvious by now, isn’t it? Victim number 40176 offered TOI a great chance to SELL news on its front page and it found sponsors for the same.
Not everybody is as intelligent or as resourceful as Bennet, Coleman and Co Ltd., so the lesser mortals, the assorted English news channels of Delhi, gave the Bengaluru bomb blast a miss on their Monday evening debates – CNN-IBN and News X concentrated on PK while Headlines Today and NDTV debated Lakhvi’s bail in Pakistan on prime-time. Victim number 40176 had gone stale by Monday evening. Nobody even wanted to ask questions like why the Karnataka police and the state government were caught totally unawares despite specific intelligence being provided repeatedly over the last few days of an imminent terror attack on Bengaluru. The fact that the attack on Bengaluru happened in the most important central business district of the city and that too despite repeated intelligence inputs after the arrest of ISIS Twitter handle Shamiwitness has almost gone unnoticed. Frankly, the incompetence of the local government and the law enforcement agencies is mindboggling to say the least, but one death is simply not gruesome (or sexy) enough for us to ask all those inconvenient questions.
The truth is that victim number 40176 managed to bring in the moolah to TOI due to its innate ability to creatively sell news, but otherwise she has only been detrimental to other economies. New Year’s Eve parties are the biggest money spinners for all the hotels, restaurants and pubs all over urban India, so victim number 40176 has come as a dampener just days before Bengaluru revels on 31st night – an occasion for which the law enforcement agencies have increased the midnight deadline till 1 AM in the morning for bars and restaurants to function. Annually, the hotel industry in Bengaluru supposedly makes 300% to 900% more money on New Year’s Eve than on an average day. Victim number 40176 had no business dying in a bomb blast in the central business district of a city when it is all geared up to celebrate the arrival of a new year. Thus, in two days almost all the media outlets will manage to bury the news deep inside under the guise of not inciting panic, in a bid to ensure that the new year parties do not suffer.
This is how we function as a nation. This is why terrorists can strike at will and all we can do is sit back and watch the news like it is another game show. This is also the reason why India can never succeed in curbing terrorist activity like in the US, where the death of even one citizen is considered an act of war against the nation. Evening news is a game show after all, for we can dedicate days and weeks to debate some 20 alleged conversions but we have no time to discuss 40176 people who have lost their lives in 15 years due to terrorism. The bet now is, will we get a 40177th victim before the end of 2014? After all, 24 hours is a long time in India for a terrorist to strike again.