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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 42, New Delhi, October 2, 2021

As Gandhi Jayanti nears, violence seems overtaking all possible spheres | Humra Quraishi

Friday 1 October 2021, by Humra Quraishi

MUSINGS

29 September 2021

With news just coming in of a group Bajrang Dal men attacking medical students in Karnataka, the questions that come up rather too spontaneously are : Why are these so called private senas and brigades not banned? Why are they allowed to expand, move about too freely and continue to bully and hound the citizens? What is the purpose of unleashing these brigades? Is the police force not really adequate or not really forceful enough? After all, what’s the requirement and need for these private groups indulging in moral policing, violent brutal attacks!

In fact, as Gandhi Jayanti nears, one is dismayed and pained to see how violence seems overtaking all possible spheres. What would have been Mahatma Gandhi’s reactions if he was alive and seen the disasters spreading out, on this land. Where even dead bodies are not spared! Didn’t we see the sheer brutality unleashed last week by the police force on hundreds in Assam. Firing and killing. And a government hired photographer even stomping on a dead form - that dead form of Assam’s Moinul Haque! We, the so called alive, just about watched those horrific shots on the small screen and that’s about it! Tell me, how many amongst us reached out to the families of the dead? Tell me, did the world get to see all those shots, so that they could remain updated on the latest round of violence hitting our citizens, so very brutally?
Nah, most amongst us don’t have the means to convey our sorrow and helplessness at the destruction that has been on... how very frustrating and painful it gets to see our land and its inhabitants getting wrecked by unending violence and absolute misrule.
The hounding of citizens in the North East India is disturbing to say the least. In fact, one of the well-known academics who has been interacting with those residing in and around Assam, is the former IIT Professor, VK Tripathi. He sounded more than anguished by the build-ups: “The Government of Assam is running an eviction drive in the Darrang district of Assam. 2000 families have been evicted in the last few days from the lands they have been cultivating for decades. When some people with mere sticks went to oppose they were fired by the police. The Government wants huge agrarian projects to be launched by big businesses. 70% of vegetables for the area are produced by these people… their livelihood and homes are the responsibility of the state. The government must stop bulldozing tactics.”

Needless to say that when hate for the ‘other’ gets started it adopts horrific offshoots . Though till date lynch killings had remained largely restricted to the highways or along the rural stretches, but in 2015, a fresh dimension to lynching had come up, in Nagaland’s Dimapur, when a rape accused, Farid Khan, was dragged out of the prison cell and lynched in broad daylight.

Quite obviously, this couldn’t have taken place without the direct or indirect support of the jail staff and the local cops. After all, he was not just dragged out but even lynched. On mere rumours that he was a rapist and also an illegal immigrant! Its only after Farid Khan’s broken frame was buried, facts emerged which more than relayed serious doubts to the rape charge and also to those frivolous talks that he was an outsider! In fact, Farid Khan was not an outsider, nor an immigrant. His family hailed from Assam. His father had worked for the Indian Army and one of his brothers died in Kargil.

Not to be overlooked the fact that this man was lynched in one of the high-security zones of Dimapur. All the policing-force and military might could not protect a human life, in the midst of ethnic and religious divides spreading out in the North-Eastern states of India.

RB Sreekumar’s Book - Gujarat: Behind The Curtain (Pharos Media) Is Adequate To Make You See And Sense The Dark And Murky Details To The Ground Realities In Gujarat In 2002.

This book is loaded with facts and more facts to the situation in Gujarat in and around the phase of the Gujarat pogrom of 2002. There are behind the - curtain - scenes which will take you through to the ground realities to the governance patterns and the offshoots.

Space constraints come in way. Leaving you with just one of the many ‘behind the curtain’ scene: To quote Sreekumar - “In the afternoon (of 28 February 2002) I met DGP K. Chakravorti in his chamber. I found him to be quite perturbed, helpless and stress- ridden about widespread mass violence in the cities of Ahmedabad, Vadodara and many rural areas. He lamented that things were taking a bad shape and activists of VHP, Bajrang Dal and BJP were leading armed crowds and police officers, at decisive level on the ground, were not intervening effectively as they were keen avoiding crossing swords with supporters of the ruling party. He hinted that the chief minister had convened a meeting of senior officers at his residence after his return from Godhra in the evening of 27 February 2002. The DGP said that the CM told officers in the meeting that ‘ in communal riots police normally takes action against Hindus and Muslims on one -to -one proportion, this will not do now, allow Hindus to give vent to their anger.’ ”

Mahatma Gandhi’s Charisma Held Sway!

On this Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti leaving you with this touching relay … how his charisma held sway…Though the very mention of ‘Aligarh’ brings up images of the Aligarh Muslim University but there is more to that town. I had met several interesting personalities in Aligarh. One such off beat couple was Professor Jamal Khwaja and his spouse Hameeda Durreshahwar Akbar Khwaja.

Professor Jamaal Khwaja was a parliamentarian but after his term ended he went back to the teaching profession at AMU. And he and his spouse led a quiet, retired life in Aligarh. This couple was far ahead of their times. Way back, in the ’50, the Khwajas had named their four children with a double name! That is, a combination of the Hindu and Muslim names.

Hameeda had told me that Jamal Khwaja’s father, Abdul Majeed Khwaja, was a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi. In fact, in 1920, Gandhi had even stayed in their ancestral home at Aligarh. And she and her husband were so taken up by Mahatma Gandhi and his concept of secularism that they had decided to name their children with a double name “Though we are practising Muslims but decided to name our four children with a combination of Hindu and Muslim names — the eldest Jawahar Kabir , the second Gita Anjum, the third Rajan Habib and the youngest Nassir Navin.”
And with immense pride this couple had told me the details to their children —Whilst their two sons were working in America as software engineers, the third a bureaucrat, and Gita Anjum worked as a neurologist in a New Delhi hospital.

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