Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tragedy tourism?

Ashura day bombing and subsequent burning of specific commercial buildings by Shia mourners and later by MQM thugs caused over 3000 shops to burn down completely; over 25,000 people lost their jobs. Numbers are likely to rise once survey is complete. It is highly unlikely that MQM-led CDGK would ever complete the survey and compensate the victims. Almost all victims were MQM voters.

Today, I and my friends, Suffian Adhia, Hasan and Raja Islam, went to Boultan market to photograph it. And the people who've lost everything. Instead, I focused on people who were coming with their wives, mothers, children and friends to view the devastation caused on that ugly night. I witnessed people from all walks of life in cars, bikes and on foot, viewing buildings and pointing fingers. They were also discussing things like Altaf Hussain, MQM, Zardari, Shias and Blackwater, all subjects on which none seems to have any expertise or understanding. Drawing room discussions were being performed right in the center of M.A. Jinnah Road, a place where no one can stroll not even on Sundays. But today were families roaming about and taking shots. We were no different either. Although misery surrounded us we were still smiling and photographing and enjoying, as it were.

Such tourism, as is often referred to as War tourism or tragedy tourism (in our case), feels like un-ethical and infinitely human. We tend to see at things which we never considered would happen. We are awe struck by the devastation and the scale of it. We show sympathy towards the victims and yet we bring our families to witness history in the making, all in the picnic sense of the word. I think this is not our part of culture. It is a part of all human cultures. Morality often takes a back seat on all this, even on the face of such massive human and social tragedy.

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