February 11, 2008

Bangalore Riots: Aftermath

A narrow escape from death affects even the most stoic of men. Amid the chaos and rubble, I emerged unscathed save some cuts and bruises, but not everyone was as lucky. One child was killed and many others were injured. Store windows were left shattered and auto rickshaws were set ablaze. Curfew was enforced for the next several days and groups of people were not allowed to congregate or loiter around the streets together after 7pm. Lathi charges were carried out by the police. During this exercise, officers systematically proceed throughout many city blocks applying batons to buttocks to enforce law and order. A sense of unease permeated every crevice of the city, with tensions high and nerves on edge. It took more than a few days until life was back to normal. After examining my wounds my colleagues expressed deep sympathy for my ordeal. None of them had met with the same misfortune as I and were impressed at my survival skills. Later on they would chuckle at my narrow escape from a well deserved thrashing, but their immediate concern was touching.

Weeks later, tensions were again running high. This time the battleground was not religion, but the ownership of the water emanating from a river - the Cauvery - that spanned several neighbouring states. A Supreme Court decision was pending on who would get access to how much water, and regardless of the outcome many would be left unhappy with the decision. I was sent home early from work and told to remain inside so that the disgruntled masses would not get another chance to make mincemeat out of me. A statewide work stoppage (a bandh) was scheduled in advance for an upcoming Monday. With sufficient warning I was able to orchestrate my escape from Bangalore and spent the long weekend relaxing in my stronghold of Hyderabad.