Friday, December 30, 2005

It can happen to us

It can happen to us
The violence at IISc has shaken the Bangalorean’s sense of invincibility
The Times of India

THE attack on Wednesday at the IISc premises in which Professor MC Puri was killed has shaken all of Bangalore. The city, considered relatively safe, doesn’t appear so any more. There’s a sense of anxiety and disquiet. But how does terror affect the psyche of a city? BT asked a sociologist and a psychiatrist to analyse the situation:

Gopala Krishna Karanth, head, sociology unit, Institute of Social and Economic Change:

“Firstly, the sense of invincibility we possessed earlier is wearing off. Earlier, if there was any accident or hazard, people generally believed “it will not happen to me.” Now that’s changed. People think, “It’s more likely that it can happen to me.” The transformation is because of the increase in the density of life and activities in the city. The probability of direct harm to us has gone up. Urban life today has added a new dimension to fear; and the growing anonymity induces insecurity, a fear complex and suspicion.” People are also looking at how lax their security systems are. “The situation is comparable to a crowded bus-stop, when someone screams, “Pickpocket!” The reaction is not to catch the man, but to see if your pocket is safe.”

Also, the attack has become a matter of discussion, and everyone wants to be a part of it, which may build up anxiety levels — some of it, even deliberate. “People are finding out and talking about how close a call someone they knew had in connection with the incident.”

Dr Vikram Prabhu, psychiatrist:

Everyone’s talking about the attack. Questions are being asked about how safe are we, really? There is a strong element of fear, but there is also a sigh of relief: “Thank God schools are closed and our children are safe.” It still is too early to tell, but such incidents affect those who are anxiety-prone badly. People’s antennae are already up and they also perceive a threat. So even as harmless a thing as the bursting of crackers for New Year’s will startle the sensitive, because there’s heightened tension — they already have this incident at the back of their mind. Usually, the fear would be temporary, but in Bangalore’s case, there has been a series of such unfortunate incidents, so it will take a longer time to settle down. Apart from the perceived threat, there has been a genuine threat — one professor has been killed, so people can get anxious.”


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