There was a time when, for most urban Indians, terrorism happened ‘elsewhere’ to ‘other people’. When attacks did take place, they were seen as horrible rips in an otherwise safe and vibrant social fabric. To worry about terrorist attacks in one’s backyard wasn’t a part of daily life. That, alas, is no longer the case. They now seem to be coming closer and closer home. The bomb blast on Saturday at Mehrauli in Delhi did much more than claim the life of a 9-year-old. It fed fuel to the fire of a gnawing sense of being under ‘anywhere, anytime’ attack.
As the findings of an HT-CNN-IBN survey published on Sunday attest, people are worried. Conducted on September 24 and 25, the survey found 81 per cent of urban Indians now fearing for their and their families’ safety. That, for all purposes, signals a state of simmering panic — the prime motive for any terrorist attack. One of the problems that this country has faced while dealing against terrorism is that much is made of the proverbial silver linings in dark clouds. This ‘dangerous optimism’ has even been captured in the survey where 61 per cent believe terrorism has nothing to do with religion. While on paper this looks helpful, one must realise that it doesn’t require 39 per cent of Indians making the link — and among some a dangerous link — to make Indian cities an unsafe place. But the fact that 77 per cent of respondents are willing to help authorities to make the citizenry more cautious shows that perilous complacency is thankfully disappearing. Tellingly, lifestyles are changing in accordance to this new, palpable sense of being under attack. (Fifty-eight per cent of respondents stated that they have stopped visiting crowded markets during peak hours.) It is the job of the authorities to take on terrorism through multiple means. And that means not only tougher laws but downright basics like reaching a blast site quickly. Unlike on Saturday, when the police took one hour and 15 minutes to reach the spot after the first call of panic.