Boston blasts shatter some beliefs

Boston blasts shatter some beliefs

Unlike Indian news channels whose instant experts readily speculated on the Indian Mujahideen, the Lashkar-e-Toiba or other Muslim groups, CNN...

Unlike Indian news channels whose instant experts readily speculated on the Indian Mujahideen, the Lashkar-e-Toiba or other Muslim groups, CNN reporters did not give a hint on this point

v gangadharOnce in a while, television has its redeeming moments. Monday to Saturday last week made fascinating TV watching and what we watched was more thrilling than anything dished out by Hollywood and, to a lesser extent, Bollywood. The quiet, university city of Boston, while hosting its legendary Marathon race, was rocked by two blasts which killed three and wounded hundreds.

For the first time since 9/11/, the US felt an internal tremor. As State and Federal organizations swung into action came the unforgettable Thursday when CNN news channel cancelled its regular newscasts, replacing them with the live telecast of two armed young men let loose on the streets intending to kill more people. The chase was on.

The scenes of action sounded familiar to many Indians � Harvard, Cambridge, Belmont, MIT. Thousands of Indians had studied in these famed institutions. But Thursday was not a day for learning. The CNN TV screen brought home something deadly, suspect No 1 in black cap and suspect No 2 in white cap prowling the streets. The men staged an arms robbery, shot and killed an MIT cop, hijacked a car and threw explosives at the police who chased their car.

We then learnt that suspect No 1 had been shot dead. He had tied explosives all over his body. Suspect No 2 was now being chased. By this time, pictures of the criminals were shown on TV screens. God, were these the killers? They looked like High School kids. I thought of 'Baby-faced' Nelson, the notorious gunman who terrorized the streets of America before being gunned down by the FBI.

Here the lone fugitive was just 19. My mind flashed back to that deadly day in Mumbai when 22-year old Kasab, the lone survivor of the gang which terrorized Mumbai, was finally chased and captured. He too had the same kind of youthful, innocent looks. Had it not been for the violence unleashed by them, the two Boston young men could well have beencollege-going kids out in the city to have some fun.

But there was no fun on the streets of Boston that night. The police, thousands of them, took over. Armoured vehicles moved around sluggishly while a military helicopter flew around trying to pinpoint the location of the gunman; 1.3 million people normally came to work in the area. On Thursday, they were told to stay at home.. Amtrack (train) services were cancelled; so were the buses.

Schools and shops shut down ( no one called for a bandh). People waited tensely behind closed doors following the drama on their TV screens. CNN offered a straightforward narrative of what was going on. Very low key, subdued and no loudmouth anchors spitting out nonsense. No wild guesses either.

It was only from the TV pictures we learnt that the two criminals were men, no references were made to their skin or origin. Unlike Indian news channels whose instant experts readily speculated on the Indian Mujahadeen, the Lashkar-e-Toiba or other Muslim groups, CNN reporters did not give a hint on this point. Who were the gunmen? Where did they come from, why did they do it? For several hours the TV reporters did not utter a single word in speculation.

The FBI was there in strength but we saw mostly local police officers and men, heavily armed and searching from house to house. The Mayor of the city and senior police officers briefly advised people to remain calm and stay indoors. No politician was seen at the scene, no VIP security. Mercifully, there were no juvenile delinquents or TV reporters thrusting microphones in front of the mouths of police officers and shouting inane questions: 'How do you feel?' The gripping crime telecast was never interrupted by silly ads of top film stars trying out a new brand of cookies (like our dear old Bachchan).

Finally some facts emerged; CNN quoted Associated Press sources to identify the two gunmen as brothers from Chechnya who had been in the US for some years Their gradual acceptance of terrorism culture and common cause with Syrian rebels were mentioned. Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Chechnya demanding independence from Russia had been a trouble spot. But why did the brothers end up in the US if they wanted to stir up trouble in Russia?

The CNN telecast, though admirable and exciting, raised some major issues. Our TV experts and members of the Opposition often raised the silly question how the US managed to prevent terrorist action on its soil after the World Trade Centre debacle. The answer was clearly visible on the TV screen: 8000 fully armed policemen searching one boy, that too wounded. Our cops were seldom so lucky. The Boston cops also knew where the gunman was holed up. It was somewhere in Water Town.

Our terrorists struck quickly and vanished. We could never achieve the discipline the Americans enforced while the policemen went about their job. Their weaponry, communication equipment and quality of weapons and care were far superior than anything we had.

But the Indians scored on several issues. One of the top American legal expert asserted that the Miranda Ruling would not be applied in the case of the two gunmen because they could be terrorists. One of the landmark rulings in American legal system, the Miranda Ruling prevented questioning of a suspect without informing him about his fundamental rights.

Any confession under duress will be inadmissible in a court of law. We should be proud of how we handled the Kasab case. Ignoring calls for public lynching from right wing groups like the Shiv Sena, we provided all legal facilities to the mass killer. A Special high security cell was built for him and legal help provided right up to the Supreme Court level. Of course, Kasab was hanged but India could be proud of how it conducted itself in this case.

He was able to fight his legal battle right up to the Supreme Court and an eminent lawyer defended him. No one could have done better. In another slip-up, one of the AP reports said that the suspect was a dark-skinned young man. Another anchor wondered whether the suspect had an American or a foreign accent. It was also not clear whether the two Chechens were those who bombed the Boston Marathon.

Though our police might stumble in such cases due to lack of sophisticated equipment, our legal procedures stood up to what the Americans exhibited during the exciting weekend. One American columnist wondered how two boys, though from troublesome Chechnya but settled in the US for at least 10 years, could unleash such violence.

Why not? Look at the teenage crime graph in the US where guns are available for the asking. Recently, President Obama's Bill on gun control was shot down in the Senate by right-wing Republicans and groups of Democrats. From local violence to the national scene, it was just one step.

The US is a land of immigrants. Some of the nations which produced these migrant are in turmoil. Violence is in the air, old scores had to be settled. The commonly held belief that dark-skinned men, mostly Arabs and Muslims, had terrorist links was shattered by the recent Boston happenings. American internal security was still hard to breach but it could no longer be called invincible.

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