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The Boston bombing and hope for peace

Boston bombing aftermath
The Boston bombing has provoked reflection in Mari Marcel Thekaekara hahatang, under a CC License

My mind keeps going back to the family of the eight-year-old child, Martin Richard, killed by the Boston blast on Monday 15 April and his injured mother, Denise. A six–year-old child, his sister Jane, is still critically ill. A family’s life in shambles. The Boston Marathon, a symbol of beauty, grace, perseverance and grit will for many people always be tinged with sadness, anger, the memory of the 2013 tragedy.

I can’t comprehend the mentality of terrorists, targetting the innocent in this futile act of cowardice. In Tamil Nadu where I live, people are passionate about causes. We’ve seen innumerable young men, douse themselves with petrol or kersosene. Self-immolation in a public place, to highlight a cause is fairly common. I’ve heard of men burning themselves, an excruciating death to choose, for the greater glory of the Tamil language, or in a frenzy of grief because the Chief Minister, their adored leader, has died.

And of course, there is the female suicide bomber Dhanu, inspired by the Tamil Tigers to garland and blow up Rajiv Gandhi, our much-loved Prime Minister. His mother Indira Gandhi, our ‘Iron Lady’, met with a similarly violent death, riddled with bullets, at the hands of her personal Sikh body guards to avenge the desecration of the Golden Temple.

I was talking about how incomprehensible it was and ranting about the cowardice of men who kill little children and innocent people. ‘Cowardly bastards’, I said. Someone, a more rational person than me, quietly said, ‘does the world ever count the dead in Iraq and Afghanistan? Do you rave and rant over the countless children who are killed and maimed in these countries?’

I was shocked into silence. ‘An unjust war was started when Bush first bombed Iraq for oil. 9\11 had nothing to do with Iraq. The country has been destroyed. In over 100 years the British couldn’t conquer or subdue Afghanistan. It was foolish to start on those people for no reason. Terror begets terror. And violence begets violence.’

As I write, India is riddled with violence. Gandhi believed that non-violence was important strategically, not just morally. He knew we, during the struggle for independence, could never match the killing machines of the state. Always, with no exceptions, the state claims its might is right. The army kills legally. All who oppose it are the enemy, to be killed without compunction.

I can never find justification for the killing of an innocent child. Whether in Boston or New York, Baghdad or Kabul. To me all are senseless tragedies.

One can only pray, and hope desperately, that the forces for peace, work together to change the never-ending cycle of terrible violence. So that little children can once again walk the streets, and parks and play outside, as they did a few decades ago. Even as I write this, I am filled with a sense of futility and helplessness. Mere words are so inadequate.

We need to take strength from the survivors, the fighters. From the peacemakers who dare to keep going when the world is enveloped in sadness and hopelessness. We cannot afford to give up hope. Not much solace for the parents, or families of the victims, but it’s all we have left.

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  1. #1 chandrika sen sharma 20 Apr 13

    Unfortunately, as you say, violence begets violence. It is so incomprehensible to ’normal’ people, how people like to hurt others just to get their cause out in the open. But we see this also in the so called ’civilized’countries. Gun violence! don't even get me started! We can just hope that somewhere, sometime, another Gandhi will rise.

  2. #2 Betty 24 Apr 13

    Thanks for your support as you gave it after 9/11. This has been a tough week even as I have had the chance to work with innovative thinkers on democracy and technology. Even so the
    irresponsible gun lobby and political extremists stopped our efforts to prevent gun violence.
    As your colleagues and you do, many of us will keep trying to prevent hate and work to improve people's lives.
    David Cohen
    Washington DC,
    April 19, 2013

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About the author

Mari Marcel Thekaekara a New Internationalist contributor

Mari is a writer based in Gudalur, in the Nilgiri hills of Tamil Nadu. She writes on human rights issues with a focus on dalits, adivasis, women, children, the environment, and poverty. Mari's book Endless Filth, published in 1999, on balmikis, is to be followed by a second book on campaigns within India to abolish manual scavenging work. She co-founded Accord in 1985 to work with Adivasi people. Mari has been a contributor to New Internationalist since 1991.

About the blog I travel around India a lot, covering dalit and adivasi issues. I often find myself really moved by stories that never make it to the mainstream media. My son Tarsh suggested I start blogging. And the New Internationalist collective are the nicest bunch of editors I’ve worked with. So here goes.

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