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What is Indian culture? Why Indians should be proud of it? Do Indians understand what western culture means? Answers to these questions may be sought in the light of the recent plane tragedy in Europe. In the past couple of days – since the Germanwings flight crashed into the French Alps killing all 144 on board – national leaders of Europe showed immense compassion, something usually missing in this part of the world. The plane being en route from Spain to Germany and crashed in France, premiers of all the three nations addressed joint press conferences. On day one, France’s Francois Hollande and Germany’s Angela Merkel were seen speaking to the nations on multiple occasions. The duo even took the pain of visiting the Alps near the spot. This is a great show of compassion, for people who lost their lives and whose near and dear ones were among the victims. Such scenes are not available in India or any Asian nations during similar human tragedy.
In less than two weeks ago, over 30 people were killed during a train accident in Uttar Pradesh. The incident even failed to become a lead story in some national newspapers. There is a blast every other day in Pakistan, killing dozens, and sometimes hundreds. How many times the country’s president visited such spots, to be on the side of the victims? Is it because these victims lesser human beings, than those killed in the plane crash? Or deaths don’t matter much since filling the “number” (of the dead) is very easy given the region is the planet’s leading people-making factory?
Top leaders of the whole of Europe and others paraded the streets of Paris to protest the recent terrorist attack on cartoon magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’, killing 12 people. This is, perhaps, western culture. For most so-called Indian leaders, ‘culture’ means boys touching the feet of parents and girls not wearing short clothes, not going out at night and not speaking to boys. This is the same Indian culture where widows are made to feel every moment about their deceased husbands, by making them wear whites, debarring them from eating non-veg, let alone re-marriage. The irony is that the same society, which proclaims to have so much respect for the dead, fails to show its compassion during human tragedy. If life is valued less, it’s going to be lost more as happening in the region. To protect human lives, they have to be valued more. It will transform lives, reduce human casualties and also control population by means of increased awareness.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on March 28, 2015)