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Awash with cheer and chill of the rope
Celebration tied to intense 26/11 memories

New Delhi, Nov. 21: The celebratory atmosphere triggered by Ajmal Kasab’s hanging appears driven by lingering but intense memories of the 26/11 attacks, perceptions of victory and opportunities offered by social media to voice opinion virtually unfiltered, psychologists have said.

Messages of cheer and joy were evident through the day across a range of media — from tweets crisscrossing cyberspace to comments and musical tunes on local radio channels, some calling for a day of jubilation, others chest-thumping for just retribution delivered.

“With Kasab gone, people see a threat to themselves having diminished,” said Anindita Chaudhuri, an assistant professor of psychology who specialises in social and community psychology at Calcutta University.

Psychologists say 26/11 was a harsh and intense event that is likely to have caused widespread fear and anguish among Indians. “The event also brought people together on a national scale,” said L.N. Suman, a clinical psychologist at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore.

“The execution of Kasab is seen as a victory over enemy forces,” Suman said. “The celebrations may thus be seen as a sign of closure to a dark and traumatic incident that affected many directly or indirectly.”

The experts say the celebratory atmosphere was to be expected. “What we are seeing is a natural response — it is not surprising. Many people saw the 26/11 attacks as an attempt to harm India and themselves,” said Girishwar Misra, a senior psychologist at University of Delhi.

“Today, they feel that justice has been done and through such sentiments, they are asserting their sense of integrity and loyalty to the nation.”

But some experts also caution that the sense of “gloating and chest-thumping,” while understandable, is unlikely to contribute to efforts to improve relations between India and Pakistan. “The need to punish a crime that was committed is a fair argument,” said Alok Sarin, a senior psychiatrist in New Delhi. “But gloating and chest-thumping doesn’t help (the two countries) move forward.”

Sarin said efforts by the two countries to try and resolve a long and conflict-ridden history needs “mindsets” that are not consistent with the jubilation observed from some sections of the public today.

For many celebrating today, some psychologists say, Kasab’s hanging has become somewhat like a win in a crucial cricket match against Pakistan, only linked to even more intense sentiments of patriotism. “When India and Pakistan play a cricket match, we often see people concentrating more on the need for India to win rather than the trophy itself,” said Chaudhuri.

The experts also point out that opportunities offered by social media today allow such views to be disseminated to thousands of people around the world. “Anyone can have a say, their messages virtually unfiltered,” said a senior media analyst. “And we know that extreme views at times gain attraction.”

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