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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 43, New Delhi, October 9, 2021

Dictatorial Ways | Humra Quraishi

Friday 8 October 2021, by Humra Quraishi



6 October, 2021

Foremost, let us stop focusing on the horrific happenings taking place in foreign lands and neighboring counties. Let us concentrate on the build-ups here, within our country. In fact, even the fence-sitters have been left near speechless, with no adequate words to comment on the recent brutal killings of our people in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri. Going by the videos in circulation, the farmers were crushed, mowed down, trampled upon and killed by political workers and the son of Ajay Kumar Mishra, who happens to be MOS Home!

Tell me what’s been on! Nothing but killings of the hapless citizens of our country. And to compound the tragedy, dictatorship tactics inflicted to such an extent that even the well-known Opposition leaders were not allowed to travel towards Lakhimpur Kheri, to meet the relatives and families of those killed!

Have we bothered to reflect on the bigger and broader format: Will the human havoc taking place in and around Kheri (as Lakhimpur Kheri is popularly called by us, Uttar Pradesh wallahs) remain contained to that region or spread out? Will it drag along new patterns to killings? Not to be overlooked the fact that encounters and encounter-killings have been already taking place in that state. Didn’t many as 1,142 encounters take place between March 2017 and January 2018, in Uttar Pradesh!

I recall I had first heard the term ‘encounter killings’ in the Kashmir Valley but today I’m hearing this dreaded term from the people of my home state, Uttar Pradesh. And it’s the same fear and apprehension I have been spotting in the eyes of the Kashmiris I have been seeing on the faces of the young surviving in the Northern states of the country…the young are sitting not just jobless but in fear of the goons brigades, which have been raised and nurtured by the political mafia to hound and spread around terror.

Yes, what we seeing today is death and destruction spreading out as never before. Probably the situation reeks of complex political developments not just in the state of Uttar Pradesh but beyond. In fact, all those cries of those killed or near-killed in Assam have been growing louder and shriller. What happens next! Will these cries grow louder or get crushed by the might of the State force!

What saddens me is that even at this juncture we are not speaking out in that collective voice. Why we, as a people, are not standing up, speaking out. Today how many amongst us are trying to counter the communal madness surcharging ahead? Are we, as a people, taking on the political mafia? No, as most of us sit like mute spectators, inhaling the poisonous propaganda in circulation.

Gone are men like Khushwant Singh. Nostalgia hitting…images spreading out of the dos hosted by Khushwant Singh at his Sujan Singh Park apartment during that fixed one- hour slot, 7 to 8 pm, when he would talk of the political characters together with the ‘fundoos’ (fundamentalists) and their destructive unleash.

Khushwant was Khushwant. When I had asked him what are the regrets in his life, he’d quipped, “Wish I’d taken on these fundoos years back. They are hell-bent on destroying this country. We don’t seem to realize the damage they are doing! I should have written more about their misdeeds, exposed many more of them.”

And one evening I had asked Khushwant how would he react if Mr Narendra Modi came calling.

How would you react if Narendra Modi came calling…pressing the doorbell of your apartment?

“I will not meet him!”

You will not?

“No, I won’t …hundreds of innocent Muslims were killed in Gujarat in a cold bloodied way in the 2002 pogrom, when he was chief minister of that State!”

Alas, men like Khushwant are no longer around!


Gone also are the women of grit, like the late Mrinalini Sarabhai who was one of the few to raise her voice in Ahmedabad as the pogrom had peaked in 2002. I recall that soon after the Gujarat pogrom I’d written a piece for The Indian Express, along the strain: ‘Where is our God ?… Not In Bharat, Apparently!’

It was a cry from my heart. Perhaps, the cry was piercing enough to have touched Mrinalini Sarabhai. Within a week of the publication of that piece, I had received a handwritten letter from her. Soothing gentle words, relaying that together going to fight this battle. No, she didn’t know me; after reading my piece, took pains to write to me on the Indian Express address which was later re-directed to me.


Sheer Coincidence or What!

Sheer coincidence or what, each time a crisis erupts there’s that quick diversion or call it distraction towards Bollywood.

Last month’s huge haul seizure of 2,990 kg of cocaine from the Mundra Adani Port, brought along no startling disclosures except the mundane arrests of the smaller easily catchable fish! Nah, none of the names of any of the big buyers and suppliers! The powerful lot!

Now, all too suddenly, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s son, Aryan Khan and few other youngsters arrested for consuming drugs on a luxury cruise, off the Goa coast!

And here we go, sitting all too distracted, mouthing our ‘expert’ opinions, throwing about all those dos and don’ts on parenting, detailing the fallouts to this menace, how to protect our and your children from falling into traps of all hues and hues!

Perhaps, sadly, in the midst of all these debates and discussions we don’t bother to ask this vital: Who the hell are the suppliers and the ringmasters? Who all are the big players? Who all are part of the nexus?


Time to speak up… these lines of Faiz Ahmad Faiz:

Speak Up!
Speak up, for your lips are not sealed
and your words are still your own.
This upright body is yours –
speak, while your soul is still your own.
Look there, in that smithy,
its red oven ,fierce flames,
the padlocks are already opening their mouths
and each fetter is skirting around.
Speak up now, for time’s running out,
Before your body and mind fade away,
tell us ,for truth is not yet dead.
Whatever you have to say!

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