DELHI: On my first day of a visit to India, the media here was
pre-occupied with an event they kept describing in horror as
"shocking" and "audacious." It was a terrorist attack in
Lahore, Pakistan on the Sri Lankan cricket team that left eight players
with minor injuries.
The story dominated every one of the
broadcast media and for hours seemed to be the only story they were
covering. All day long, at times with a dizzying speed, anchors would
interrupt their anxiety-laced presentations to cut to an expert
explaining what the "cowardly act of terrorism" meant, to a
Pakistani official vowing "we will get the bastards," to comments
from Indian sports celebrities saying how smart their team was not to
go to Lahore.
CNN's sports reporter called the event "an
atrocity," a term his station has never used to describe any of the
horrific and fatal attacks against Israel. Nor did his station hesitate
for a moment to label the attackers "terrorists," never once
militants. To an outsider, the level of horror seemed out of proportion
to the attack and casualties, especially in a region that sees far
worse on a numbingly regular basis.
The reality, however, is
that it was not.For the former British colonies and especially the
nations of South Asia, cricket is treated almost reverentially; as a
sanctuary from always tense India-Pakistan relations and the region's
growing political violence.
In true British fashion, cricket
was simply out of bounds as a terrorist target. The attack on Sri
Lankan cricketers crossed a red line, and the fact that it was crossed
in Pakistan gave it greater implications. Cricket officials from London
to Sydney were unanimous in refusing to send their players to Pakistan
where, according to one broadcaster, "no one who visits here is
safe." The Sri Lankans already were replacing Indians, who refused to
attend the tournament out of security concerns.
was that the attack was part of a pattern of lawlessness in
Pakistan. Indeed, the attack seemed more than anything else to say that
terrorists there can strike whom they want and where they want at will.
Several commentators said that that "growing militancy" was making
the nation where Daniel Pearl was beheaded one where police are simply
incapable of enforcing law. I interviewed numerous Indians at random in
Delhi's commercial hub Connaught Place a few hours after the Lahore
attack and asked them about US President Barack Obama.
wake of the attack, I asked them about his recent statements that
confirm Pakistan's role in the war on terror, including US funding.
The good news for Obama is that every person I interviewed liked
the US President and looked to him as an inspiration. The bad news is
that every one of those fans was adamant that Obama was making a
serious mistake with Pakistan. "He's really inspiring," said one
young professional. "A majority of Indians really like him [and
believe he is] capable of bringing democracy back where it was."
when I asked him about funding for Pakistan, he said, "That';s a
very funny story. All of us know what's happening with that money."
This was a frequently repeated sentiments; specifically, that Pakistani
intelligence and military divert US funds to attacks on India with the
tacit approval of several Pakistani governments. "It's been very
evident," said one young woman. Another young man, whose father was a
journalist said he was "completely againstâ" giving any funds to
Pakistan. "It's a global fact [that] Pakistan has been sponsoring
terrorism against India for the last 60 years, and it is increasing day
He also expressed a sentiment that US actions are
meant to "insure that the American people are safe, and they're not
taking into consideration the lives of other people of other
countries." Said another young woman who claimed to be a huge Obama
fan that if given the opportunity to speak with the President she would
tell him, "There's no other democracy like India [and] we must work
together [which means him making] Indian-favoring decisions also."
one person noted, Barack Obama has inspired a great many people with
his words, but ultimately "we will have to see how they are
translated into action, and that is how he will be judged."
- Dr. Richard L. Benkin
Chicago Illinois USA