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Blasts confirm worst stereotypes?

CNN-IBN
May 16, 2008 at 11:35am IST

After eight blasts ripped through Jaipur on Tuesday, Rajasthan Royals cricketers are reportedly reluctant to return to the Pink City to play. Team manager Darren Berry says he's no longer comfortable playing in Jaipur. He also quotes Royals Captain and Coach Shane Warne as saying that if the Jaipur blasts had happened a day earlier, the team would never have retuned. Cricketer Shane Watson is also reportedly uncertain about playing in Jaipur.

Given that Australian cricketers are uncomfortable playing in Jaipur, CNN-IBN show Face the Nation raised the question: have the blasts confirmed the worst stereotypes about India?

On the panel to discuss the issue were Co-chairman Neemrana Hotels Francis Wacziarg; and General Secretary, People's Union for Civil Liberties, Rajasthan, Kavita Srivastava.

The debate was initiated by CNN-IBN's Sagarika Ghose asking the panelists whether the cricket teams and western tourists would have felt the same way about any other country if it wasn't India.

Wacziarg replied that it's not just India where bomb blasts happen. "Horrible things have happened in Egypt but people haven't stopped going there," he said. "People forget and it's very fortunate that they do."

Addressing the concern for Jaipur's tourism and the effect of Tuesday's bomb blast on it, he said, "This is a low season for tourists in Jaipur. By the time people start coming in, which is July-August, things would have settled down. It's not so much loss for the tourism for the country which is sad, but it's the loss of lives."

India Shining or Suffering?

Have the recent terror-related activities reinforced the stereotype of India as a dark and terrible land where bomb blasts take place and no one is ever punished?

Kavita vehemently disagreed with that and explained how the bomb blasts have in fact brought the various communities of Jaipur together.

"On Thursday, there was this huge gathering of all communities in the centre of town at Hawa Mahal pledging that peace will not be destroyed," she said.

She also highlighted the need for good governance and better management of the police force in the city.

"As far as blast and cricket are concerned, one-sixth of the police deployed in Jaipur were being used for cricket. What that translates into is: out of three thousand active policemen, five hundred were being used for cricket in any case. It's a matter of governance. Government has to decide how it has to use its police for intelligence, cricket, entertainment, and law and order," she added.

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Hurt Sentiments

Jaipur is seen as a centre for tourism with the number of foreign and domestic tourists pegged at 1.2 million and 23.5 million respectively. Do you think that the tourists will be put off by Tuesday's incident? And how does it make you feel as a Jaipur resident when you hear cricketers say they don't feel safe in "this part of the world"?

"Nothing turns away tourists — foreign or domestic — from Jaipur" Kavita replied. She said as soon as the curfew was lifted, the city sprung back into action. "It gave such a sense of confidence, I was very proud. In fact if there would not have been a curfew for the past few days, the city would have picked up like Bombay," she stated.

Elusive image

Is the ‘Big India image' skin deep, so when something like this happens, it's very easy to slip from its great hopeful image and go back into being seen as this place of great darkness and danger?

"I think no longer," Wacziarg replied. "10 years ago," he said, "India had that kind of image but now people are very confident about India. Now there's so much publicised and written about India in the West."

He explained further that the fact that people from India have gone abroad, settled down and bought businesses gives a very good image of the country. "It's not like that because of 9/11 people have stopped going to New York," he added.

But how do you react to Australian cricketer saying he has a family in Melbourne to think of?

"I've never heard anyone say that about Rajasthan, and Jaipur in particular. First thing that foreigners want to see is Rajasthan. I don't think it will deter them from coming to Rajasthan, at least not by the time people start coming in, which is another two months. It's very sad for the people who have suffered and it's part of life. We haven't in the last two days got any cancellations," Wacziarg answered.

Final SMS/Web Poll results

Have the Jaipur blasts confirmed the worst stereotypes about India?

Yes: 73 per cent

No: 27 per cent

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