Monday, September 20, 2010

Shooting at Jama Masjid

When you live in a foreign land and stick out based on your physical appearance, you tend to generally raise your overall awareness of your environment and situations in which you might find yourself. I'm no different. Recognizing that everyone's personal definition of comfort and security is different, I can say with great confidence that I've never been scared for my personal security in India. Uncomfortable? Sure, but that's part of the experience.

While sitting in the protected expat bubble that is Sunday brunch, I looked down at my Blackberry and noticed an "alert" email, which is something I receive a couple times a week. Typically, these emails are about some sort of fuel strike, demonstration, or general security alert. Sunday's was different: two Taiwanese tourists were shot as they were getting onto a tourist bus outside Jama Masjid mosque.

If you've been to Delhi as a tourist, you've likely been to Jama Masjid. It's one of the primary sights in Old Delhi located near Red Fort. I was last there at the beginning of August.
The stairs leading up to Gate 2 of Jama Masjid
A group, the India Mujahideen has claimed responsibility; however, the culprits were able
to get away by motorcycle. Which, if you've been to that area, is not a huge surprise. In August, we explored the maze of side streets (on the opposite side of the mosque where the attack took place) near the mosque. Even with all the kind people we came across in the alleys (including an older man that pointed out my friend, who was ironically here studying terrorism, having dropped money and a young boy that escorted us to the main street while refusing a tip), it would be an easy place to disappear (intentionally or not).
Inside Jama Masjid
The scary part of this situation, which is the very reason terrorism is so "effective", is the random nature of the attack. Something tells me that no matter how aware I remain of my surroundings, I likely wouldn't have thought that passing motorcycle to be a threat as I boarded a bus.

That being said, I worry about people jumping to conclusions on what this means and I don't want to minimize what happened on Sunday morning. Obviously, I'll remain vigilant and maintain a heightened sense of awareness, but this shouldn't be an indictment on the generalized safety level in India specifically. It's unfortunate, but these types of things can and do happen throughout the world. It's unfortunate, but it's a risk we all live with most days.

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