The Association of Small Bombs’ By Karan Mahajan, author, Neil Shah, narrator
In 1996, two brothers were killed when a bomb exploded in an open air market in Delhi, India. So began a book that explores terrorism and the making of a terrorist, exposing the type of person that joins the cause and the reactions of the victims to the havoc they wreak. In the early days of terrorism, using small bombs, disorganized splinter groups accomplished one important goal. They created fear and confusion even though only minor death and destruction occurred. This fear and confusion gave rise to the need for vengeance and retribution on the part of the victims and their families. They had to come to terms with the experience in a way that allowed them to go forward with their lives. Often these methods had disastrous consequences, at other times they succeed in gaining some closure for the victim’s families. Unfortunately, these little groups of radical Muslims, or Islamists, that were largely ignored in foreign lands, were able to spawn more plentiful militant groups, eventually giving birth to 9/11.
Tushar and Nakul Khurana, were young boys, not yet teenagers, on what their father would later think of as a fool’s errand. They had gone to the market in Lajpat Nagar to pick up a television that had been repaired. Because they were poor, they could not purchase a new one. Vikas Khurana was ashamed that he had sent his boys to retrieve the TV, and instead, he pretended it was to retrieve a watch. Either way, they boys died. They had taken a friend, Mansour Ahmed, with them. Mansour was a Muslim. When the bomb exploded, Mansour ran away. He lived with the guilt of his escape for the rest of his life.
In the book, the author gives the impression that was commonplace in India among the people portrayed in the book, that people of certain classes lied to save face. They simply lied to protect themselves, their image or their ultimate goals, and not all of their goals were noble. The bombers lied because they could, and they lied because it was acceptable to do so in order to destroy their enemies. They lied to accomplish their nefarious purposes. Their enemies meant nothing to them. They were very expendable. So they excused their own immorality and lack of ethics by thinking of their enemies as worthless.
In the aftermath of the explosion at the market, everyone had advice to give to the Khurana’s and the Ahmed’s. The Ahmed’s, Muslims in a country largely Hindu, felt out of place and were under a cloud of greater suspicion. Suspicions even arose about the injured Mansour. As a Muslim, could he have been the bomber?
To compensate for their loss, the Khurana’s decided to devote their lives to helping the victims of the many small bombings. Vikas wanted to make a documentary. Deepa wanted to help the victims and meet the bombers when they were caught. Almost hypocritically, they took pleasure in witnessing the torture of the damned in prison, even thought they objected to the violence inflicted upon themselves. They soon realized t hat often the wrong people were rounded up and incarcerated. They were beaten and tortured into submission and confession. The justice system was not just.
Throughout the early days of terrorism when small bombs continued to explode in various parts of the world and the world took little notice, terrorist groups began to grow in number in that vacuum. The would-be bombers seemed like insignificant and dispensable young men who were sucked into the rebellion because of boredom, friendship, unemployment, dissatisfaction or sometimes, even romance or other innocuous and meaningless reasons. They believed they were performing their righteous and religious duty, and although some questioned their ultimate actions, they rarely refused to carry out an assignment. Many never truly seemed to identify with the cause they were supporting, nor did they really seem to understand it. They simply followed and obeyed orders from leaders sometimes unqualified to lead.
There were many splinter groups that were not cohesive, but they created havoc, death and destruction in small ways for many years. The small bombings rarely attracted notice until 9/11, when so many Americans were murdered in a senseless terrorist act and Al Qaeda became a household name. From the little groups that were ignored and hardly thwarted, hate, anger and frustration grew until a monster was born capable of causing far more damage and fear throughout the world than previously believed possible in the modern world. The modern world forgot that they were being attacked by not so modern villains who had far less honorable values or respect for life and would therefore think nothing of committing wanton acts of murder.
The author points out, that more often than not, the wrong people were captured and imprisoned. The culprits seemed rather dull witted and backward, didn’t mind killing innocent people, and they justified their behavior because it was for Allah. They didn’t even fully understand what their cause was. They only knew that killing people meant garnering attention, and they wanted the attention to publicize their cause and make a statement. Many could not withstand the beatings and torment of prison. They simply confessed to crimes they did not commit. Violence begat violence as the bombings continued. In the book, the author writes that a devotee of Islam had to work to taste the blood of infidels 72 times, in order to qualify as worthy. It is assumed by me that they all wanted to be worthy.
The author captured the mindset of the terrorist and victim in India, perfectly. The narrator portrayed the characters very authentically, with perfect accents and expression. The Indian philosophy was straight forward, simple, basic and logical, although not always based in reality since they often jumped to conclusions, believed lies they were told, and were suspicious of innocent people, rather than the guilty. The radical side of Islam was portrayed as barbaric. The spiders kept escaping the net while the flies got caught in the web.