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December 01, 2008

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1. A Hindu pogrom against Muslims in Ahmedabad with tacit support from government officials.
2. A bubonic plague in the city of Nagpur.
3. A Hindu-Muslim communal riot in Hyderabad.
4. Indiscriminate bomb blasts/shootings by Indian Muslim terrorists in Mumbai.
5. Indiscriminate bomb blasts/shootings by Pakistani terrorists in Mumbai.
6. A Naxalite guerrilla attack in Chattisgarh against the police and "class enemies".
7. A chemical industrial disaster in Kanpur (poisonous gas leakage).
8. A levee breach that floods and drowns a few villages in Bihar.
9. Shortly after takeoff, a plane crashes outside Chennai.
10. Food poisoning at a big marriage party in Trivandrum.

Here's mine:
9, 6, 2, 7, 10, 3, 1, 5, 8, 4

[Editor: Below is Anu's list in an alternate format.]

1. A Hindu pogrom against Muslims in Ahmedabad with tacit support from government officials.
2. Indiscriminate bomb blasts/shootings by Indian Muslim terrorists in Mumbai.
3. Indiscriminate bomb blasts/shootings by Pakistani terrorists in Mumbai.
4. A Hindu-Muslim communal riot in Hyderabad.
5. A chemical industrial disaster in Kanpur (poisonous gas leakage).
6. A Naxalite guerrilla attack in Chattisgarh against the police and "class enemies".
7. A bubonic plague in the city of Nagpur.
8. Food poisoning at a big marriage party in Trivandrum.
9. A levee breach that floods and drowns a few villages in Bihar.
10. Shortly after takeoff, a plane crashes outside Chennai.

Here is mine:

8. A bubonic plague in the city of Nagpur.
2. Indiscriminate bomb blasts/shootings by Pakistani terrorists in Mumbai.
7. A Naxalite guerrilla attack in Chattisgarh against the police and "class enemies".
9. Shortly after takeoff, a plane crashes outside Chennai.
10. Food poisoning at a big marriage party in Trivandrum.
4. Indiscriminate bomb blasts/shootings by Indian Muslim terrorists in Mumbai.
3. A Hindu-Muslim communal riot in Hyderabad.
6. A levee breach that floods and drowns a few villages in Bihar.
1. A Hindu pogrom against Muslims in Ahmedabad with tacit support from government officials.
5. A chemical industrial disaster in Kanpur (poisonous gas leakage).

And now, what does the thought experiment say about me?

Wow, that's quite interesting, Ruchira. Even more interesting will be if you tell us how you ranked these, what were your guiding principles, criteria, calculus, etc. Then we can really psychoanalyze you. :-) As an incentive, I promise to do the same after you. Game?

I know how my mind worked in tabulating the disasters. I want your thought experiment to shed light from the outside. Then we'll compare notes.

Ruchira,
Your organizing principle is proving to be quite elusive to me! I'll take come guesses anyway.

I think your higher ranking is influenced most by answers to the following question: Can future occurrences of the event be stopped with concerted action, care, or vigilance, or are they more random and beyond control? The violence/horror aspect of it also seems to have pushed things up a bit but that doesn't explain the pogrom's low rank. Not much weight to ideologies driving the events, since the pogrom and Hindu-Muslim riots are in the lower half, and plane crash and food poisoning in the top half.

Beyond that I don't know. Now you tell us! And what do you think motivates my ranking?

Wow! You got it all wrong - the ascending and the descending orders. I didn't rewrite the list in the numerical order. Just changed the rankings in the original list.

The pogrom is #1 on my list of disturbing events (look again!) #10 (food poisoning at the wedding party) being the least upsetting.

No wonder you are mystified.

Duh, I stupidly misread the ascending/descending order and was starting to worry about you. :-) Now it makes a lot more sense to me ... I'll post some thoughts later today.

I have briefly described below the thinking behind my ranking. Anu's and Ruchira's are close enough (except the plague - see below) so I have no separate comments on their rankings.

I gave higher weight to events that poison hearts and minds, target specific groups, regress civil rights and social justice, and have potential for recurrence or other short or long term dire implications. Lower ranking went to accidents, random events, and one-off human errors.

1. A Hindu pogrom against Muslims in Ahmedabad with tacit support from government officials.

Long term poisoning of minds that will yield dividends for years, creates climate of fear, hate, and division, damages social life, hits the idea of secular India, makes mockery of institutions of law and order ...
2. A bubonic plague in the city of Nagpur.
This was high for me because if the death toll after being away for a long weekend is 200 in a day, then thousands are infected, and the situation is probably out of control and will lead to tens of thousands dead, or more. This is also a mass panic/horror situation with high suffering as it is unfolding, etc. But yes, once it's over it's over.
3. A Hindu-Muslim communal riot in Hyderabad.
Long term poisoning of minds, targeted hate, potential for recurrence, damage to social life, climate of fear, rise in prejudice.
4. Indiscriminate bomb blasts/shootings by Indian Muslim terrorists in Mumbai.
This one is higher than the one below because this means potential for Hindu-Muslim violence in India will increase (can't blame a foreign enemy), that jihadi ideology is gaining traction in India, which also has dire implications for civil rights, draconian policing, surveillance, and radicalization of Indian Muslim youth in response. Indiscriminate is less bad than targeted.
5. Indiscriminate bomb blasts/shootings by Pakistani terrorists in Mumbai.
The Pakistani operation will be more slick, greater shock and awe, and will therefore cause more horror; higher potential for jingoism, nationalism, etc. But Jihadi problem in Pakistan is not a new development. Indiscriminate is less bad than targeted.
6. A Naxalite guerrilla attack in Chattisgarh against the police and "class enemies".
This is more directly linked to issues of social justice and economic exploitation, has a longer history and is a little better understood. Violence not linked to religion, which is harder to address.
7. A chemical industrial disaster in Kanpur (poisonous gas leakage).
This is a one-off event but will likely produce deformed babies for years.
8. A levee breach that floods and drowns a few villages in Bihar.
An accident for sure but swift aid can mitigate damage, water borne diseases may continue to kill for a few weeks.
9. Shortly after takeoff, a plane crashes outside Chennai.
Quite random, not much can be done, accidents can be reduced but not eliminated; part of the reality of aviation. There is still a public horror element and higher cost of cleanup.
10. Food poisoning at a big marriage party in Trivandrum.
Quite random, source of contamination can be identified.

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