Covering Bomb Blasts
By Maxwell Pereira
maxpk@vsnl.com


A lesson or two there in the London Blasts for us here in India, and more particularly for the Indian media. But before I proceed, a pertinent question: Did anyone come across a single travel advisory from any of the so-called developed lot of the world telling their citizens and travellers not to travel to London or the UK because of the blasts? Isn’t it routine and customary for all these countries, especially the USA and the UK to rush with travel advisories to their own countrymen not to make India a travel destination each time a blast occurs or other minor violence erupts in Delhi or elsewhere in India?

That having been said, now some observations to educate ourselves for the better – I hope. I am not an Anglophile, and yet cannot but help admire the manner in which the Brits handled the crisis. More importantly, on how the local and the international media reacted to and covered the calamity. Neither on the very day nor on days that followed did I see a single word of criticism, accusation, and acrimony. Not of the Government in power, not of the police handling the aftermath, not of the supportive services that battled to meet the crisis and its fall-out.

What one witnessed instead throughout the last six days, is alongside the factual reportage without sensationalism, copious amounts of prayers and empathy with the victims, praise and appreciation for the public services that rallied round in response – all bringing out the resilience, the stoicism of a multicultural people of grit, with subtle handling of the sympathy factor, of the aid and succour to the needy, efforts to put the city back on its rails.

In the entire coverage not once did I see any clip of a VIP visit to the scene of blasts? Only relevant and pertinent reactions of leaders, of those in authority and administration, starting from the Prime Minister, the Mayor, Home Secretary and the Commissioner London Metropolitan Police. Their crisp and sombre words of shock and horror side by side accounts of the government’s and the administration’s response, the morale boosters required, their words of appreciation for those now tasked with mopping up the aftermath – for the police, the paramedics, hospital and ambulance services, the fire services and the vast number of volunteers who rallied to lend a hand.

Thrust all the while, on holding the people together, on efforts to appease and control the inevitable anger, the wrath and the backlash from enraged Britons towards visually distinct minorities. How unlike a ‘Modi’ reaction! The media and most of Britain’s political and intellectual elite bending over backwards to pull the nation from stereotyping or blacklisting with over-reaction the ‘foreigner’. Gently, encouragingly manoeuvring the reportage and the coverage, on discussions and visuals to inform the public without sensation or rancour. The silent yet frenetic cries for help of those looking for the ‘missing’ not neglected.

I heard the Home Secretary interviewed on television making no bones of the fact that there was intelligence failure and everyone agreeing with him that in such a case like the London blasts, there was no way for anyone to know in advance or be forewarned with pointed intelligence regarding exact locations, nature or possibility of the occurrence.

And I heard Prime Minister Tony Blair in an attempt to face facts candidly telling his bloodied and grieving countrymen that no amount of security measures alone could protect them from attack, because “all the surveillance in the world cannot stop someone from going on a bus to blow up innocent people”. Contrast this with Man Mohan Singh, or any Indian PM at that, making such a statement and the resultant political, people, and media reaction to such here in India!

One should think there were no failures. That there’d be no enquiries. Of course there must’ve been many. But no, all that could wait, even as intense activity to investigate and solve the blast riddle were on: scrutiny of records and intelligence inputs, the collection collation sifting sorting linking and analysis of information and clues, the scanning of surveillance camera tapes, the searches and raids, the interrogation of suspects. For the moment of present management what was of paramount importance was to be ensured – solidly, silently, steadfastly.

Not a word of criticism of the police or of the intelligence services. Instead the media concentrating on putting across aptly that all the past intelligence collected would now come into play, which with the ongoing and undertaken investigations with the help of forensics looking for types of devices used, and to establish identities, the connections, international links if any – would all help unravel the jigsaw puzzle, the plot and the manner in which it was executed. To lead to expected inevitable arrests and bring to book the perpetrators. The sensitivity and finesse with which the entire horror, the accompanying trauma and the resultant aftermath was handled by the administration and the media, just commendable.

For an Indian here in India, and especially for our own grand media, a million things to react too even as mere onlookers. We’d be missing sorely the scenes we are used to on TV screens, the headlines and narratives in our newspapers. Where are the breast beatings, the melodrama! Where is the sensation? …the accusations and the pointing of fingers? ….the playing of the blame game? …and the screeching for heads to roll? Where are the scenes of scores of AK-47 armed policemen escorting Advanis and Patils to the scene instead of going about their jobs of looking for clues?

And of course, where are the repetitive everyday headlines – “Police at Sea” “Police groping in the dark” “police still have no clue” Did we see a single of these in all the coverage of the London blasts?

900 words: 12 .07.2005: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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