It has been a week where the world has been united in grief. Sitting at the faculty club in Berkeley and watching the horror of Paris unfold, one could empathise with the city and its traumatised people. This was Mumbai 26/11 all over again: random street killings and public places being targeted, an attack designed to spread fear and panic among the common citizenry.
And yet, the response of the world has been very different. There was no call for setting up a global force against terror after Mumbai; Paris, on the other hand, has sparked off a rising demand for a universal fight against terror. The world is praying for Paris and its victims as they should, but I didn't see a similar outpouring of grief after Mumbai (or maybe I didn't notice it). Does a Western-dominated media world look at loss of lives in a European city very differently to that in South Asia? Is there a hierarchy of terror in which the West takes precedence over the East, the "big" powers over the lesser ones?
This question haunts me after I interviewed Obiageli Ezekwisili, the former World Bank vice president for Africa and a doughty campaigner against the Boko Haram, a terror army that is as frightening as any. For almost two years now, Ezekwisili has been raising her voice to draw global attention to the plight of her native Nigeria, more specifically to the tragedy of almost 300 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Boko Haram in April last year.
Her #BringBackOurGirls campaign has been recognised by the likes of Michelle Obama, but hasn't evoked the kind of international outrage it should. Where is the sense of urgency in trying to get the girls back and identifying their captors? If a similar incident had happened in a western democracy and not in a Nigerian village would the response have been different? Or is the life of a Chibok tribal girl of less significance than a woman in Europe or the United States?
The fact is, Boko Haram has killed more than 7,500 people in the last year: in pure statistical terms, it is more terrifying than even the Islamic State. Its warriors too espouse a similar Islamic jihadi ideology. And yet, world powers who have messed up the Syrian crisis that gave birth to the IS, will never perhaps see Boko Haram as their prime enemy.
Or the Lashkar for that matter. Someone needs to remind them that there can be no terror hierarchy, no gradation of enemies, that the linkages between terror outfits are such that this is a contagion which must be confronted in every corner of the world. This is not just America's war as 9/11 appeared to suggest; this is a battle which must be fought in Mumbai and Lagos, as it is in a Paris.
I leave you with my interview with Obiageli at the recent Women of the World summit in Delhi: May her voice resonate loud and clear.