Yet another terrorist ambush, that too targeting the most committed of security forces, in Kashmir. Yet another group of victims whose only crime, if you get down to think about it, maybe that they were citizens of this country. The nation is aghast. 

Suitable sympathetic tut-tut noises are made. The media makes seemingly threatening sounds and pontificates on the security lapses. But some media is so overcome with the love for the enemy that it wouldn't even mention its name. Strategic analysts drop vague utterances about the fingerprint of foreign hands on the bomb trigger. The Prime Minister and the other ministers make their perfunctory points — which condemn the crime (that is naturally described as 'heinous' or 'dastardly' or a suitable and severe sounding synonym is used) — appeal for calm, and tell the terrorists (as if they are listening) that they would never succeed in fomenting trouble in the country. The opposition parties, too, unspool their sombre spiel. The peaceniks purvey their platitudes. On the social media platforms, there is outrage. But it is always there. Be it for a terrorist attack or for Priyanka Chopra's Valentine's Day picture.

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But soon, and very soon, the deaths will be forgotten, reduced to mere footnotes on the blood-splattered pages of this ever-unfolding tragic narrative. At the end, only the emotionless statistics will remain: 40 in Pulwama, 20 in Kupwara, 17 in Srinagar and so on. The country, meanwhile, will get back to watching and sharing pointless, puerile WhatsApp forwards. The attention will be disturbed only when the next inevitable attack intervenes with its gory immediacy.

This is perhaps the only country in the world which has consistently reduced or even debased monumental human tragedies to the level of an insensitive charade. Tragedy morphs into a comedy of the absurd. And by the looks of it, no one is bothered all the same. A depressingly soul-less response to a heart-less act of terror and tumult.

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No other country has paid such a high price to terrorism as India has. This is no Iraq or Syria or any other outpost of complex internecine conflicts. India is an established democracy with a fast growing economy in the world. That in such a country terrorist attacks happen with disturbing regularity is a shame that the governments cannot live down.

Giving solatium to the victims' family after a tragedy, in a sense, adds a touch of crudity and vulgarises the whole equation. This is not an argument against financial compensation for the grieving families (they deserve at least that). But what kind of system it is which puts a mere financial value to its citizen and fills the gap with cussed currency. It is a shocking and gross show of abrasive apathy.

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To blame Pakistan at every turn is futile. The terror groups, of whatever acronymed identity (JeM, LeT, et al), may take training in the territory of the antagonistic neighbour. But the actual cataclysm happens only well within our borders. The government of the day cannot escape by merely pointing an accusing finger at the foreign hands. And as every attack shows, the nation's response has been dispiritedly timid, vague and vacuous. The terrorists have not been sent the message that they will be hunted down (wherever they are) and made to pay the price for their butchery by bombs. 

George Bush may be a reviled figure world over and seen as a warmonger. But after 9/11, he went after the 'enemies of the US' and put the fear of God in them. Bush's methods were arguable, and India is no US. But Bush truly showed what our Prime Ministers all through our history have failed to realise: A nation's government is responsible for the security of its citizenry. There are no soft or hard States. There are only governments which have concern for the lives of its people and which don't.

India doesn't need to be told to which category it belongs. Its places have become itinerant stops for the touring terrorists. If as a nation we are still not roused, life has little meaning left in it. But how do you deal with people who deal with bombs and bullets alone? Terrorists know no other language. Talking with them or their masters is like trying to be friends with a virulent viper. It will eventually unleash poison only. Ideally, war and weapons should not be recommended. Yet, sometimes a nation is left with little choice.