New York Times gets it wrong (again!)
At a time when Mumbai-ites and Indians everywhere are still hurting from the terrorist attacks of July 11th, ill-informed articles such as this one on New York Times by Somini Sengupta offer little solace and instead reinforce the general ‘ignorant American media’ stereotype. The article gets some facts wrongs, indulges in proofless conjecturing and even attempts to rub in unrelated gender/class issues. In the end we learn nothing new – which ideally, I suppose, should be the attempt from an article printed in the venerable New York Times.
According to Ms Sengupta, the terrorists (she calls them ‘bombers’) were actually attacking the city’s upper-class in Tuesday’s bombings:
As India’s magnet city quietly arose Wednesday on the morning after a series of eight bombings along its suburban commuter train line, a closer portrait of a carefully calibrated crime emerged. The bombers, it turned out, systematically chose first-class men’s compartments, poking a poisoned finger in the eye of the city’s white-collar establishment.
Firstly, the fact that seven bombs went off in first-class compartments was known since Tuesday evening itself . Secondly, what exactly is a ‘first-class men’s compartments ‘ ? Women also get on the first-class and they don’t have any separate first-class for women. There is of course something called a ‘Ladies’ compartment, which is for women only. It is apparently a simple goof-up – but as you will see, she keeps repeating this.
Thirdly, where exactly is the evidence that first-class was chosen to specifically target the ‘white-collar’ establishment ? While the investigations are on-going and there are no conclusions yet, most commentators suggest that bombs were placed in first-class since it is relatively less crowded then the regular compartments. It would be easier to leave a package in these sections of the train. Try entering a rush hour regular ‘packed like sardines’ compartment on these trains with a heavy package – you will hear the choicest abuses hurled at you. I do not think any potential terrorist would like that kind of attention drawn to them.
Additionally, a significant majority of the so-called white-collar workers in Mumbai regularly travel in ‘second-class’. The slightly richer travel by taxis or private (often chauffeured) cars. Then there are chartered buses, car-pools and what not. If indeed targeting the upper-class was in the terrorists mind, they would have left bombs in posh high-rises, suburban neighborhoods or targeted major financial/office centers (as they indeed did in 1993).
Now, right after the incident, some bloggers did wonder about the class-issue – but no one really attempted to pin down that reason with as much certainty as Ms Sengupta is doing here. Where does she get her assertion from ?
“They actually wanted upper-class people to suffer this time,” Ronak Gandhi, 21, observed. His brother, Chintan, 25, lay inside Lilavati Hospital in the wealthy northern suburb of Bandra, suffering from a broken arm and internal bleeding.
A statement by the twenty-one year old, probably grief-stricken relative of one of the injured victims !
On Tuesday, like most days, Chintan Gandhi stood in the crowded middle of the first-class men’s compartment on his way home from a software engineering course. He planned to finish the course by next June, his brother said; he was eager to start full-time work for the first time.
Note that Chintan’s profile hardly qualifies him as a ‘well-off’ or ‘white-collar’.
Subsequently, Ms Sengupta decides to keep harping on the men’s issue:
In seven first-class men’s compartments on separate trains,
….leading to this gem:
it is customary for men and women to travel in separate cars. (“For ladies only, all the 24 hours,” a sign announces at the entrance to the women’s compartments.) No women’s cars were bombed Tuesday, and for the most part, women were able to get out of the trains relatively unscathed.
Wait a minute – firstly, how the hell does this matter anyway ? People died. Does not matter what gender, race, caste or religion. Secondly, those who don’t know better will think that men and women are absolutely segregated on Mumbai trains. Far from it. Last time I was in Mumbai (’96-98) plenty of women traveled in the general class. My sister, who is working in Mumbai now, tells me she often has to take the general compartments since the exclusive ladies section is simply overflowing, or to travel together with male colleagues. Anybody who has actually been on a Mumbai train won’t make a statement like Ms Sengupta’s.
If anything, this only tells us that people who loaded the bombs on the train were men (a very likely possibility anyway) – since they would not have been allowed on the ladies section.
But why did Ms Sengupta feel the necessity of inserting this sub-text of supposed gender-apartheid in India ? Just to show off that women in India are yet to be emancipated ? Without getting into the arguement of the staus of women in India, I would have to say that she chose a rather unfortunate incident to highlight it.
RELATED: 1. Manish Vij has a great article on Salon about traveling on Mumbai trains from an ‘outsider”s perspective.
2. Somini Sengupta has been previously fisked by Nitin Pai at The Acorn.