‘Victims of Religious Violence are Always from Poorer Section’

Anwar Ali, a Thrissur-based poet, filmmaker and lyricist for Malayalam cinema, condemns the Udaipur killing and says communalism and violence are being normalized in India. His views:

I condemn, I condemn, I condemn… I am sad, but not upset. For, we are all now used to with this kind of brutalities. If it had happened a few years back, it would have been truly shocking.

Communalism and its criminal acts have now become the ‘way of life’ in the India and the subcontinent. Though we cannot blame the insecure Muslim community as a whole for the Rajasthan incident, which is always the hidden agenda of the Hindutva Parivar, the aspects of hatred and criminality are the very same in killing, looting and setting fire to houses. If you closely watch the communal riots in India, the prey in most gruesome murders would be down-trodden people, mostly slum dwellers and the poor, either Hindus or Muslims.

Most nationalist agencies try to find the Pakistan connection of the accused, for their political gain from the narrative of Hindu-Muslim combat. They are not at all anxious about its consequences. They are least concerned to regain the socio-cultural harmony of South Asia which has been reverberated in the verses of Kabir, Bulle Shah, Basavanna, Mahadevi Akka and Narayana Guru.

Communal divide and caste discrimination are the order of this terrain. In history, it has been cohabited with harmony too. Art and culture always tried to compensate the killing fields of political power. Wherever war set fire, art poured rain.

Coming to the contemporary scenario, this kind of ‘othering’ between Hindus and Muslims has never happened in a pan-Indian scale before. Both global and territorial factors have made this acute situation; the corporate centrism of power across the nation-states and the legitimisation of Hindutva ideology and its successful regime in India.

Ali feels there has been an unprecedented ‘othering’ between Hindus and Muslims of late

Mob-lynching, attacks and demolitions have not only increased but have become acceptable to the so-called creamy layer of Indian civil society. Under this regime in Delhi, entire institutions of modern India are undermined. Several artists, journalists, intellectuals, students and activists are targeted. As Arundhati Roy observed recently, the downtrodden societies will rise up to fight it out, but we would have to spare a lot of our lives and blood before it.

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Two decades back, in 1998, I had a chance to meet Eqbal Ahmad, the renowned Pakistani political scientist, during a conference in Delhi. Those days, I was trying to be a freelance journalist and did an interview with him. As a spokesman of secularism with a lead role in protecting the rights of Hindu minorities in his country, he was a big headache to the dictatorial Zia ul Haq regime for long. As a political migrant in the United States, he had created problems for Richard Nixon’s government during the ‘Viatnam War’ too. After my formal interview, he expressed his concerns about the gradual growth of political Islam in India after the demolition of Babri Masjid.

After his unexpected demise in 1999, I came to know that he had an Indian childhood and has been a victim of Partition. Eqbal Ahmad was born in a village near Gaya, where Buddha got enlightened. When he was a young boy, his father was murdered over a land dispute in his presence by a Hindu group. During the Partition, he and his elder brother migrated to Pakistan on foot. That means, he was a prey prior to Partition. After eventful explorations across the continents as an international academician and an anti-war activist, he returned to Islamabad in 1997. There, he fought for the rights of the Hindu minority in Pakistan. What a life!

The BJP and RSS do not represent any of the South Asian traditions of tolerance. Their ideology, derived also from Savarkar’s Hindutva, is one of the most racist and venomous in the modern world. They resemble Nazis in the 1930s and 40s. They and ISIS are birds of the same feather. How can they condemn the ideological killings and genocides?

Like genuine secularists and Muslims, so many genuine people who follow various Hindu religious practices, are deeply concerned towards the continuous victimization of Muslims in our country. That is why Hindus and Muslims in Jehangirpuri in Delhi reclaimed their native unity after the brutal demolitions by police.

Five years back, I wrote ‘Mehaboob Express – A Life Sketch’, a narrative poem which depicts the story of Mehaboob, a soldier, and his grandfather, a freedom fighter. It is also on the doom of our country; about a life-train crisscrossing undivided India. Passing the soundscape of history, it ends in the silence of Cochin Metro, inaugurated by the Indian PM in November, 2017.

Unfortunately, year after year, the poem does acquire new connotations prophesying the doom of the nation. A poet would have been proud that his text became a prophecy, but, how can I feel pride, while silence is growing, while surveillance is grinning, while justice departs judiciary?

As told to Amit Sengupta

Hate Machine Is Legit, Centre Mute

Finally, everything comes back to hate and bigotry. Yogi Adityanath’s first declaration after the model code of conduct was imposed proves that – 80 per cent versus 20 percent. And the Election Commission and most opposition parties choose to remain silent.

Hate has become legit in contemporary India, as is the epidemic of mob lynchings across the tormented Hindi heartland. The bile of poison flows like a relentless dirty gutter in the dingy and cloistered inner lanes of the political subconscious of the ghettoized Neo-Nazi hate machine.

Xenophobia and the politics of hate have been overtly and tacitly legitimized by the dominant power narrative in India. No wonder even high-tech and educated youngsters have become ‘Trads’ – hate-mongering, online warriors who seem to be even Far Right of the Establishment Right Wing.

So much so, there is the danger that this viciously spreading apparatus would one day lose total control and eat up its own inheritors and mentors in the final countdown. Something the RSS and BJP, like the fascists in Germany, refuse to realise – that it is a mad monster they are riding which can one day ravage them also, and with them, the largest democracy in the world.

Eminent Social scientist Arjun Appadorai, who teaches in Berlin and Paris, wrote recently, and aptly so, “The silence of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah about these unprecedented calls for full-scale armed war against Muslims can be read in one of two ways: as signs of their sense of impunity and confidence, or as signs of their sense of precarity and insecurity. I make a case here for the latter argument… My argument is not the familiar instrumentalist argument about the Uttar Pradesh elections and the BJP’s concern about being humiliated in its sacred heartland. I believe we are witnessing what I call ‘Genocidalism’, which stems from a deeper logic which afflicts all ‘xenophobic nationalisms’. This logic is connected to ‘the relationship between nationalism and violence,’ and to what Marx and many Marxists identify as ‘the Treadmill Effect’.”

Taking the case of the youngsters caught in various small towns across India, auctioning Muslim journalists, professionals and educated women, mothers, daughters and sisters, ‘The Quint’ took the opinion of an expert who has done considerable research on this method in the madness. Indeed, this is not mindless, it follows a belief and value system, like that of the Ku Klux Klan, and it is relentless, often invisible and scattered, but based on the spontaneous mob lynching pattern and psychology, and gets support from the dominant narrative of hate prevalent in current times. Trads, or Traditionalists, are ardent followers of the extreme Right cultural and social ethos, deriving inspiration from the Neo-Nazis and similar movements and individuals. Perhaps they secretly hold the mad mass murderer in Norway, Anders Behring Breivik, as their role model.

Breivik killed 8 persons first by detonating a van bomb at Regeringskvartalet in Oslo, than murdered in cold blood 60 participants of a summer camp organized by the Workers’ Youth League, on July 22, 2011. In his Nazi-type manifesto, he wrote, among other fanatic ramblings, The (then) UPA government “relies on appeasing Muslims, and very sadly, proselytizing Christian missionaries who illegally convert low caste Hindus with lies and fear, along Communists who want total destruction of the Hindu faith”. Surely, most of the current Hindutva fanatics in India share Brievick’s worldview.

Surely, they are like a cult: sexist, racist, homophobic and xenophobic, verging on terrorism. They play with online genocidal ‘humour’, and one-dimensional hate unleashed against Muslims, Dalits, Sikhs, and other minorities. They believe in the ‘Manusmriti’, and that this retrograde anti-women, patriarchal, feudal, upper caste text, should replace the Constitution of India. They care two hoots for the values of the freedom movement or the sacrifices and martyrdoms of our freedom fighters and revolutionaries. According to the expert, they are so extreme sometimes that they even hate the BJP-RSS and its hydra-headed octopus like Sangh Parivar for soft-peddling on hyperbolic Hindutva. Apparently, as ‘The Quint’ reports, “they even dislike Modi and consider him to be unfit to be the PM. They mock his caste and his supposed inability to deal with the minorities with an iron hand…”

“The Trads only love those who can hate unapologetically. They even hate those BJP followers who take refuge in hateful dog whistles. Trads consider them to be hypocritical. Here, hate is ‘humour’ and it includes incitement to mass rapes and genocide. Those who don’t laugh have a problem according to the Indian chanosphere (alt-right universe)…”

Fortunately, the Trads and the mainstream-fringe groups still face large-scale and effective opposition on the ground from a huge majority of mainstream India, across religion and communities, from celebrities, students and intelligentsia, civil society, sportspersons and Olympians, to ordinary folks on the streets. Indeed, thankfully, the Supreme Court too has finally accepted to look into the matter on the call of genocide against the entire Muslim population in India by miscellaneous extremists masquerading as sadhus etc.

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That Modi and his entire cabinet have chosen to remain mum, is predictable. Even the women in his cabinet seemed undisturbed by the perverse and degrading ‘multiple auctions’ of Indian women in the Bulli Bai and Sulli deals. The UP deputy chief minister became brazenly belligerent when a BBC journalist asked him politely about the call for genocide. Why this fear to condemn what is so blatantly wrong and unethical, and goes against all the principles of social conduct, if not a clear case of violation of the law of the land?

To cling on to this fanatic hate machine, and to play this polarizing card, seems to be the ‘final solution’ of this discredited regime, with failure written sharp and clear on its face, on all the human development index, its economy and foreign policy in an abyss, and all its promises of ‘acche din’ having disappeared without a trace.

The petitioners said that they were constrained to approach the top court seeking its urgent intervention regarding the hate speeches between December 17 and 19, 2021 in the two events organized in Haridwar (by Yati Narsinghanand), and in Delhi (by the ‘Hindu Yuva Vahini’). It said, “the aforementioned hate speeches consisted of open calls for genocide of Muslims in order to achieve ethnic cleansing. It is pertinent to note that the said speeches are not mere hate speeches but amount to an open call for murder of an entire community. The said speeches, thus, pose a grave threat not just to the unity and integrity of our country, but also endanger the lives of millions of Muslim citizens.”

The petition said, “…it is also relevant to note that no action whatsoever has been taken by the Delhi Police in relation with the event held in Delhi despite the fact that open calls for genocide, that are available on the internet, were made therein.” It also said that that the “recent speeches are a part of a series of similar speeches that we have come across in the past…”

Indeed, despite the bile and the poison, hope floats. Not only the secular society, but a large number of educated people have protested. Faculty members and students from the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) in Ahmedabad and Bengaluru have written a letter to Modi asserting that his silence “emboldens” voices of hate. The letter has 183 signatories – including 13 faculty members of IIM Bangalore and three of IIM Ahmedabad.

“Your silence on the rising intolerance in our country, Honourable Prime Minister, is disheartening to all of us who value the multicultural fabric of our country. Your silence, Honourable Prime Minister, emboldens the hate-filled voices and threatens the unity and integrity of our country,” says the letter.

 “For far too long, the mainstream discourse has dismissed the voices of hate as the fringe. That’s how we are here,” a faculty member at IIM Ahmedbad told the ‘Indian Express’.

However, the point is, is the Honourable Prime Minister listening at all? By all indications, he is not. He never did.

Choose The Right Leader for One’s Constituency

‘Yogi Has Done Good Work In UP, But Polarised Society Too’

Shubham Singh, 31, IT professional, says the pandemic has shown us how important it is to choose the right leader for one’s constituency

I have voted in every election, ever since I turned 18. I always make sure to take a good, hard look at the work and profile of the candidates in the contest. In the coming Uttar Pradesh elections, I feel the Ram Mandir verdict isn’t going to play a very important role. For, that issue is over and done with; now the voters are looking at everyday issues. The focus is back on poverty alleviation, education, infrastructure development etc.

I have been working in Delhi since 2014, but I return to my home state UP every time I am supposed to vote. However, for the past two years, like most people, I have been working from home. And in these two years I have had a better understanding of the ‘state’ of affairs around me.

As someone who has lived in Delhi, I can see that the communal tension does raise its head many times. And I have noticed the BJP government has been doing some good infrastructure development work on roads and bridges, Rapid Metro Project, Ganga Expressway Project etc. Personally I am happy about the work done on the Delhi-Moradabad Highway on NH-24. Indeed, if there is one state that has benefitted from what the BJP says “double engine ki Sarkar” then it is Uttar Pradesh.

Singh feels the youth must ask questions from their elected leaders

Having said that, we cannot ignore the fact that the groundwork for these were laid by the Samajwadi Party government. Marketing matters a lot during elections. Most people only remember the work done in the last one or two years of a party’s tenure, whereas the public should scrutinise all five years, the choice of candidates etc.

All around me, I see youngsters becoming focussed on entertainment (making short video reels for social media is their favourite pastime). They have forgotten to ask the right questions to leaders, say for example the dissatisfactory employment opportunities in the state.

ALSO READ: Western UP Gets A Healing Touch

Communal polarisation triggered by the BJP is a sticky point for me. But I also feel that the Muslim community needs to be more confident rather than giving in to victim mentality and not being able to see any good work done by the BJP. For example, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a good initiative, yet many people find it hard to praise it.

People need to show exemplary analytical skills in these elections because as the pandemic has shown us, choosing a good local leader plays a very important role in handling a calamity. One should vote as an individual, not as a Hindu or Muslim. Sarv Dharm Sambhav is an important aspect of our lives here in UP. And seriously every reasonable person has begun to feel that the Hindu-Muslim narrative has begun to get a little too much.

Still If I had to choose between Yogi Adityanath and Akhilesh Yadav, I would go with Yogi Adityanath. The crime rate has come down, government machinery has picked up pace. If anti-social elements are scared, so are certain police officials who cross the line.

As about Asaduddin Owaisi and his party AIMIM, I believe it is BJP’s B-Party and is here just for cutting the vote base. Outside candidates don’t have a good understanding of local issues and neither are they able to build a strong connection with the natives. A case in point is Mohammad Azharuddin who contested the Lok Sabha elections in 2009 from Moradabad, won, and made few appearances afterwards. A local leader should be given more importance, at least he/she can be held accountable by the public. Now Azharuddin is busy with Telengana.

Being rooted is very important for a politician. The youth is aware, but all youngsters need to step up on their rights and duties if we want to see a flourishing political atmosphere where everyone’s issues are well-represented and solved.

Delhi Riots

Delhi Riots – ‘Left Only With The Clothes That I’m Wearing’

Between February 24 and 26, notheast Delhi witnessed its worst ever communal violence since 1984. Over 50 people were killed, hundreds of houses & shops gutted and several places of worship vandalized. One common refrain of most witnesses was that police either failed to respond to their distress calls or remained a mute spectator. LokMarg speaks to the victims from Ground Zero: