Drowned out by the orgy of militant violence unleashed across the country is a simple, human question: what is life like for the injured and the families of the countless victims of the terrible war being waged by the militants against the state and its people? Suicide and fidayeen attacks are occurring with such numbing regularity that it is difficult to pause and reflect on the fate of the victims and their families because the next attack is only days, or even hours, away. What becomes of the maimed and the injured, the families that have lost their breadwinners or their young in the blink of an eye? Soon after an attack, government officials announce compensation for the victims: X rupees for security personnel, Y for civilians, A for the injured, B for the dead. And then nothing.
The public does not know if the compensation is paid on time, if the victims and their families have to suffer indignities and humiliations to simply get what is promised to them or if the money is paid at all. And the public does not know how the victims cope in the weeks and months after the attacks or whether the state does anything to help heal the psychological scars and physi- cal wounds. Violence is blighting huge swathes of the country, but we know next to nothing about how it is affecting the population in those areas other than from a security perspective.
Part of the blame for this must lie with the news media. Always chasing a story, it has little time to unearth the ones that are hidden only slightly below the surface. ‘Human interest’ stories pale in comparison to bombs and explosions and men with guns killing and injuring with abandon. Who wants to know about an amputee suffering from depression and slipping into poverty when the next explosion is only a short while away? Who wants to know about the struggles of a single mother with many mouths to feed after losing her husband in a fidayeen attack when the next attack is just around the corner? And lately there is a new twist to this already wretched tale: with the militants upping the ante on what qualifies as ‘major news’, attacks on a smaller scale, in which, say, two or three people die, are pushed further to the margins of national coverage, meaning the victims are instantly anonymous and may not even get a fleeting mention. What can be done? Many things. But no meaningful change can occur unless we first remind ourselves that behind every statistic is a human story.