Bloodshed on French National Day – By Shombit Sengupta

This is a passionate article written by my friend, SAGE author, painter, philosopher, business thought leader. I couldn’t help but publish it on my blog – Vivek

nice-promenade

Horror and shock struck me on switching the TV on at 6 this morning; a Jihadi terrorist was ramming a truck into a crowd of people celebrating 14 July, the French National Day in Nice, the paradisiacal sea beach. This ghastly act killed 84 innocent revelers, and injured hundreds of others including children. Just last week I was strolling on the promenade in the erstwhile French territory of Chandan Nagar near Kolkata where I love to take my French friends to remind them of their historic roots in India. My friend Mikael de la Fuente, Director of Alliance Francaise in Bangalore and I were reminiscing on the similarity of Chandan Nagar promenade in front of Dupliex Palace on the bank of the Ganges river to Promenade des Anglais in Nice on the blue Mediterranean Sea where terror struck last evening. 

Bloodshed reigned when Bastille was stormed on 14 July 1789 during the French Revolution to demolish the monarchy. Since then the French have upheld unity and human rights of Liberty, Fraternity and Equality of this historic day of 14 July annually. Last night Jihadi terrorism, in total contradiction to French values, raised its destructively powerful ideology by instigating a single man who was a French national of Tunisian descent to take a truck, plough through human beings and inhumanly shed blood on those who celebrate human justice. In the last 18 months France has suffered 3 major terror attacks.

As I’ve grown up in France, I can vouch for the supreme significance of 14 July as France was the world’s first country to have the revolution to form a republic. It seems France also started the disciplined military parade at Champs Elysees, the world famous avenue of Paris, for the first time in the world on its National Day, which other countries have since followed.  So all French people, irrespective of age, origin or political party, participate to bond in human relationship on this extraordinary day with beautiful fireworks across the country.

It is terrible to say this, but sending text messages to my many French friends to enquire after their safety and those of their family and loved ones after a terrorist attack, is almost becoming a ritual hell for me. A colleague and friend I’ve known since the last 36 years responded saying his sister lives in Nice, but fortunately she was watching the multi-coloured, out-of-the-box 14 July fireworks in the sky from her balcony, not on the promenade below. But between the fireworks, loud music and the gunshots it was very confusing at the initial stage; then there were screaming people running helter-skelter and dead bodies strewn on the promenade. You can just imagine, now is the peak holiday time in the South of France where French, other Europeans and holiday makers from all over the world become crazy to enjoy the sun, wind, sea, and beautiful festive evening on the Mediterranean coast in the French Riviera, particularly in Nice.

The beautiful French Riviera that the French call Cote d’Azur starts from the coastal village of Cerbere after the Spanish border, and stretches 548 km upto Monaco. This coastline has incomparable beauty in the world with different cultural nuances of different regions of France on left side and the blue ocean on the right. In fact if you stop every 50 kilometers on this coastline, you will enjoy different types of paradise. I often do this car incredible trip with friends from different countries. Just last month I was guiding a Bengali friend of mine about what he should enjoy from Nice to Monte Carlo. And in this beautiful place during a festive atmosphere is where blood from terrorism horror flowed.

Unconscious immigration of exclusion: From the sixties onwards, on the basis of human rights and requirement of workers, France opened up immigration from North Africa to non-Christian communities. The largest Muslim population in Europe is in France today. France is an extremely secular country, the President never takes an oath using the Bible. There is no religious symbol in any French state institution. Being a country of liberty, fraternity, equality, the French did not want to interfere in the cultural values of these immigrants and provided them independent, multi-storied housing isolated from mainstream French society. I have always felt that this is what has distanced these immigrants from French societal culture. These immigrants also put in no effort at all to be part of mainstream French culture. But now, the third generation immigrants have been born and brought up in France, attending French schools although they largely continue to live in their North African culture. These 2nd and 3rd generations of the original immigrants are French people who have created their own territory within French society in such a way that they have even distorted the French language and have a mixed vocabulary with their Arabic language. Exclusion from mainstream French culture is posing to be a big rift now. There are so many of these immigrant habitation areas and in most of them French Caucasians are not welcome. I have always observed that their hate for the Caucasian French people is quite disgraceful. India was colonized by the British for 200 years, but Indians have never had hate feelings towards the British till today, unlike the North African immigrants who hate the French.

I must testify, being an immigrant French national, that the French society has never ever neglected me on my art and painting, my way of living and in driving my design business which is one of the most recognized design hot shops in Paris. So I have always had this question of why there is this separation between the North African Muslim society and French Catholic society. I don’t know where the solution will come from so that both sides start to feel inclusive towards each other.

Today I very often ask my French friends to avoid being in crowded places for the moment. But they tell me that they will not be cowards nor give up their freedom to the Jihadi terrorists. The French Government has also declared this is a war against terror. Today the French Prime Minister has said that we have to learn how to live with terrorism. But is Jihadi terrorism not a one sided new form of guerrilla attack with varied ways to kill innocent people? My question is, when we are dealing with radicalized individuals using terror tactics, where is the end of the war? I have still not found the answer.   

The advantage of an inclusive society: While being of Indian origin, I have to admire the outstanding inclusive society that India is, being the world’s most heterogeneous country. I am not saying India is terrorist free. Of course there are many kinds of divisions here, between poor and rich, among different castes and different professions. But India does not have the character of exclusion, from human rights, to religions and social factors. So I can say the inclusive character could be the only solution to get rid of this kind of horrible terrorism. If the inclusive factor is created, community people can inform faster than any detective branch can about where Jihadism is growing. So I can only wish that France, my country of adoption, should look for inclusion and from the initial stage, detect the home grown terrorists and take action immediately before the blood comes.  

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About Vivek Mehra

I am currently the MD & CEO of SAGE Publications India. But I wear many hats that make me the person I am. Between the (public) professional life and the very deep and private recesses of my brain lies a universe of thoughts, actions and beliefs. These have been shaped by events, people and perhaps Karma. It's this universe I seek to put in words. When everything else failed me professionally, it was the power of my words that not just resurrected a career but brought back life to life. It is with these words that I continue to make a difference with those whose karma connects mine. Sometimes it's direct and most times it's not. But the essence of who I am never changes and I remain a person searching for himself. Update: In 2014 I published my first book on Kindle. It was written in 1999 and it never saw the light of day. Reader input welcome... http://tinyurl.com/7shadesofgrey
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