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Mainstream, VOL LX No 20, New Delhi, May 7, 2022

Culprits and Victims | Humra Quraishi

Friday 6 May 2022, by Humra Quraishi

MUSINGS

5 May 2022

The ground realities are turning painful and disturbing by the day. In fact, on this just passed by Eid-ul- Fitr, I know of several Muslims who travelled from Haryana’s Gurgaon to New Delhi to offer the Eid namaaz. Why? They were not too sure which Gurgaon masjids would be ‘open’ for Eid namaaz and which ones would be ‘safe’ in terms of the Hindutva goons lurking around!

Well, such are the apprehensions today that a Muslim has to think a hundred times where to set out to offer namaaz and also whether he’d be back home all safe and sound, and not lynched and tortured along the way.

So very deep runs the communal poisoning that suspicious looks can be thrown by cops towards a Muslim, if she or he is attired in the traditional or carries a address of a Muslim mohalla, or even greets with peace greetings: As – salaam – alaikum!

I’d never visualized that we would be at this strange juncture where only two choices stare hard — either sit back forlorn or else stand hunched as a second - class citizen! One is not supposed to even cry out! Twisted times, where the administrators could heap a couple of charges on one’s head, together with ’off - with -it’ orders! Today encounters are taking place yet we are not crying halt nor questioning State terror! Innocents gunned down yet the State is not held accountable!

The fact is the situation is far from okay! How can the situation be termed ‘okay’ when disparities and discriminations are accelerating, when targeted killings and assaults are on and ongoing?

During my travels I met riot victims, who looked all too petrified to speak out against the Right-Wing goon brigades. Double whammy, with the political mafia coming up with threats to destroy them if they dare to name any of the masterminds. Mind you, this reality is not restricted to one particular locale but widespread.

Helplessness spreads out, with discriminations accelerating. The victims find it difficult to accept the grim reality of the growing polarization and the connected aftermath. But have no other option but to sit back. “In the midst of the tyranny unleashed on us, we have got to sit subdued and silent...otherwise we can be ruined for generations to come!”

Mind you, these build-ups are not taking off over night but accelerating from 2014 ever since the Right-Wing government came centre stage and with that took charge! Clearly a very grim situation for the Muslim population of the country. The communal poisoning, starting off from the early 90s, when L.K. Advani’s rath yatra wound its way through North India, has only been worsening …turning dangerous. Eerie build ups had started off right then. In the early 90s, Muslim families residing in residential colonies had to remove their nameplates. Muslim homes were marked with chalk-marks and threats relayed. Muslims were targeted on running trains. Students were bullied in schools and colleges and universities…several even threatened to such an extent that they stopped attending classes. I’m focusing on the so called elite public schools. One can well imagine what must be taking place in the no-so-elite educational setups.

All these years I have been witnessing the utter helplessness of the vulnerable, yet I could do very little, except sit back forlorn and write or argue it out… I re-call, at a get-together at Khushwant Singh’s home, a discussion with Vinod Mehta (the then editor of the Outlook magazine) turned into a heated argument when he commented — how could Muslims feel insecure in the capital city, New Delhi? I reminded him of what happened to another minority community, the Sikhs. When, in 1984, in this very capital city, they were hounded and killed, all under the watchful eyes of the police and politicians. Vinod Mehta still looked somewhat unconvinced. So I told him he should try experience it himself! How? By temporarily changing his name to a Muslim name and surname, don a shervani or an achkan, borrow an artificial beard from the make-up rooms of Bollywood or from one of the Right-Wing characters who go about in camouflages of all possible hues! He looked more than uncomfortable. Perhaps, relaying, what if he’s checked by the cops for the circumcision mark!

Let me re-stress that it gets difficult to visualize the insecurity the minority community faces when they can see and sense that the state machinery stands biased. Double whammy, when private brigades/senas are unleashed by the Hindutva politicians. Triple whammy when cops turn killers!

While viewing the film Hotel Rwanda, in an auditorium in New Delhi, I couldn’t control the flow of tears. Yes, I cried all through… Shots of civil strife hit. Apprehensions overtook. Insecurity hit. That same sense of insecurity had hit when the Babri Masjid was destroyed, followed by rioting and killings. After all, it was not just the planned destruction of a historic- religious structure but it also relayed signs of eerie build-ups. Backed by the stark fact that the state machinery did not protect the minority community.

And though Gujarat was hundreds of miles away from where I was residing, but insecurity hit when the Gujarat pogrom took off in 2002. And as the pogrom peaked, so did apprehensions. News reports and images and shots of the killings and carnage got impossible to erase. Though the subconscious kept relaying names of my Sikh and Christian and Hindu friends, in whose home one could have found refuge. But in a democratic republic one expects that sort of security from the political rulers and from the State machinery they control!

As a child I had over-heard details of violent attacks on the minority community by the police force. As an adult I have witnessed violence peaking after the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, furthering after the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 and also during the North East Delhi pogrom of 2020. Offshoots continue to haunt. No, no closure. As the master-minds have managed to remain un- touched. This, when ample evidence exists, pointers to their direct or indirect involvement in the targeted killings and carnage. Don’t know whether to cry aloud or simply shriek when the situation stands more than compounded; what, with the hapless victims often paraded as culprits!

I wonder why we, as a people, are not standing up, not speaking out collectively. Why should only Sikhs speak out if tortures are inflicted on the Sikh community! Why should only Muslims speak out if they are lynched! Why should only Christians speak out if the chapels and churches are targeted and torched! Why should only Dalits speak out if there’s that blatant hounding of the community! Why should the bureaucrats and civil servants bare the dark truths only after they sit retired in that safe positioning!

In these dark times, leaving you to ponder on these lines of Akbar Hussain Akbar Allahabadi:
My rivals have lodged complaints against me in police stations for
the crime
That Akbar continues to take the name of God in the present age
and time.

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