‘Festival rubs off scars’, claimed a newspaper report with picture of Muslim men distributing water and sweets to the Hindus celebrating Ram Navami. The place was Balu Math in Latehar. The scars were obviously of the murder of two Muslim men, one of them an adolescent by members of the local Gau Raksha Samiti.
‘Rub off your scars and do not complain’,Muslims are told after each incident of violence against them. Their insistence to talk about their wounds is seen as a sign of their grumbling nature, their love with their victimhood. Also a proof of their disaffection towards Hindus.
“…In the house of the hangman one should not speak of the noose, otherwise one might seem to harbour resentment.”,Theodore Adorno wrote while responding to criticism against his study of the sources of authoritarian personality in Germans in the post Hitler years.
Adorno was trying to look for the socio-psychological sources of Nazism. He was accused of inducing guilt in the Germans about what was not a collective crime, what should be treated as an exception in the history of an otherwise liberal, enlightened culture.
The killing of Akhlaq at Dadri shocked the nation but then attacks on Muslims in the name of saving cows or on some other pretext became a norm and lost their ability to create sensation. There is something boring about the stories of Muslims being attacked or humiliated. It needs to be said, however, that behind each published story of violence against Muslims lie at least ten stories untold or unreported.Violence against them is like domestic or sexual violence in which the women are expected to understand the temperament of their men and adjust accordingly. Grumbling or resisting women deserve further punishment.
Latehar fell off the main pages of the newspapers very soon. But incidents of beating up of Muslims by dragging them out of tempos or social boycott of Muslim community village after village in Jharkhand have failed even to find space in the media. Diktats have been issued in many villages not to do business with Muslims.For the last two years Muslims of Jharkhand are enduring this carefully crafted ruthless silent isolation.
How are Muslims expected to react to it? And what do their leaders do in such situations? From calling, petitioning the local police and administration, which in most of the cases is reluctant to taking delegation to the chief minister, staging dharnas, they use all possible democratic means. In some rare cases they encounter officers with a constitutional conscience,but mostly a law and order machinery which sees Muslims with Hindu eyes. The chief minister feigned surprise when apprised of these incidents and asked the delegation,”but who is doing all this?” One of the delegation could not resist and said, “sir, they are those who think that now it was their RAJ PAT.”
Situation is desperate in Jhrakhand for Muslims. Ram Navami, which followed the killing of the two Muslims in Balu Ghat, was celebrated in a wickedly victorious mood through out Jharkhand, playing provocative relegio-nationalist songs directed at Muslims.The memory of the brutal killings could not temper the festive mood.
Ironically,it becomes the responsibility of the Muslims, who are victims to bring back normalcy. They are asked not to carry animosity against Hindus and prove it by demonstrative acts. Victims are seen vying with each other to please their tormentors.
It is seen as a normal democratic practice and part of the freedom of speech to spread venom and hatred against Muslims. This newspaper has warned and pleaded for the last three months editorially that hate against Muslims should not be made a legitimate electoral platform.It is unnecessary to say that it has gone unheeded.
The Assam election campaign has seen virulent anti-Muslim propaganda. The chief of the ruling party cunningly used an historically absurd example of a thirteen century Ahom king drving out a sixteenth century Mughal Badshah and exhorted the electorate to follow his act. His history may be wrong but it was a deliberate mistake as the message went to the right constituency. While preparing for elections in Kerala, he openly called for consolidation of all Hindu forces.
The rise of dalit and backward politics has not been of much help to the Muslims in India either.If we look at their electoral behavior, they have always chosen parties headed by Hindus.Parties which mobilise maximum number of Hindu votes usually get their support. But even those parties which are known as secular refrain from being seen to be on their side publicly in the time of distress. We saw it in the Trilokpuri violence.Neither the Aaam Admi Party nor other secular parties could muster courage to be seen on the ground helping Muslims. Enthusiastic support from Muslims of Benaras worried AAP leaders who did not want it be expressed openly for it might arouse suspicion in Hindus.
We approached a senior congress leader in Delhi to request political support for the Muslims of Atali. He explained that they can do it only incognito as their primary concern now was to win back Hindus:“ You have to understand that Muslims would come back to us only when they are assured that majority of Hindus are with us.” Three years back, in Dhule( Maharahtra) six Muslim youth were killed and many houses burnt. The leaders of the ruling parties, Congress and the NCP did not even think about visiting the bereaved families to console them. To be seen supporting Muslims can be electorally costly.
Democracy in India which gets renewed and affirmed through elections is now in a very strange way pushing Muslims to the margins and invisiblising them.They are losing hope in India. It might sound alarmist but needs to written as plainly as possible. For the first time in independent India, they feel pushed to the corner and disenfranchised effectively. There have often been reports from the poll bound states about the ‘aggressive’ voting by Muslims. They are nothing but a last ditch attempt to save whatever is left of the plural democratic space where they once felt somehow secure and equal in a land where they are massively outnumbered by the Hindus.
Do not leave us, is what Gandhi had told the Muslims in 1947.India will be incomplete without you.You would not be vassals of Hindus but their proud equals,he had assured them. He was punished with death for this audacity. After him, his disciple Nehru bravely honoured his invitation and was not afraid of being derided as half Muslim-half Christian.Their shadows seem to have receded far from Muslims. The biggest challenge before the secular politics is to bring back the Gandhian courage to declare boldly that it is pro-muslim. If it is not done urgently, we are in danger of losing India, or whatever is left of it.
( Published first by The Indian Express on 27 April,2016)