Helpless, bitter and angry in New Delhi

Reading social media posts of Muslim friends, in the aftermath of the violence, has been a disturbing experience. Their anguish following what many have described as a pogrom, is evident

 Helpless, bitter and angry in New Delhi

Ashutosh Sharma

It was chilling to read a Muslim friend’s post on Facebook hours after violence broke out in North-East Delhi. He went on to add:

“This way, they will reserve for themselves a place in their heaven—and I’ll get rid of this hell.”

The chilling and anguished cry left me cold. Soon I found several other reactions on Facebook, some angry and bitter, some raged while a few seemed resigned. My impulse was to reach out, console them and say that they are not alone.

But I checked myself. What credibility will my words have? Why would they trust me?

An impassioned and long appeal posted by Abdul Rashid caught my eye.

“Muslims in Delhi are caught in a catch 22 situation. There is fire raging all around their houses. There are rioters on both sides…if Muslims come out to protect their own community, they will all be tagged as rioters and what will follow is mayhem and a huge catastrophe on a national scale.”

“Now, it is up to the majority to come out and shield them from further destruction,” he continued, asking, “Do you, as a citizen of India from the majority community, believe in the Constitution of India? Do you believe in secularism? Do you believe in ‘Sarva Dharma Samabhaav’? Do you believe in ‘Hindu Muslim Sikh Isai, Apas Mein Hain Bhai Bhai’, Do you believe in the idea of ‘One India’? Do you believe in the pledge of ‘All Indians are my brothers and sisters’?”

He stressed, “Then you need to be out there. You need to stand up for your brothers and sisters. You need to shield them from the rioters. Form a chain around them, push back the rioters. Appeal for peace. Protect your family, their lives. You don’t have to do it because you are bigger or greater or because they are weak and helpless. You have to do it because you have taken a oath... to stand by the Oneness of India. Fulfil that pledge. Respect that oath you took.

This is the time to stand up for that pledge we took in schools. This is the time to show that we can protect everyone around us. This is the time to show that we care.”

“They trusted us. They trusted India,” he added.

“The onus is on us, as a majority, as a citizen of India ... or they will never trust us again.”

Soon after Nazia Erum tweeted, “I am an Indian Muslim and I don’t trust the government or the police to protect me anymore”, many Hindus retweeted in solidarity and tagged Delhi Police and the Union Home Minister, stating that though they are Hindus, they too don’t trust the government and the police.

Zia us Salam, deputy editor with Frontline, posted, “Shaheen Bagh protest has been going on since December 15. Nobody killed. No shop or car burnt.

Pro-CAA protestors on the road for two days. Eight killed. Shops burnt, Houses looted.” Since then the death toll in Delhi has touched 20. Unconfirmed reports say it is higher

Reacting to the Delhi High Court’s midnight directions to the Delhi Police to immediately escort persons injured in the riots in Mustafabad to Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital for treatment, Syed Hassan Kazim, a journalist, wrote on Facebook,

“Hang your heads in shame because in your national capital, a high court intervention is needed to take injured Muslims of a state sponsored communal riot to be taken to hospital for treatment.”

Hari Singh Solanki, a resident of Dayalpur, whose son Rahul Solanki, 26, got killed in the violence, also accused the police of inaction.

“I am a social worker for the last 20 years. I had been trying to contact police officers including ACP, DCP and SHO for the last 2-3 days…no one responded to my repeated phone calls. Police were not deployed in the area. The result is before everyone, my son is dead. Kapil Mishra has gone into hiding after stoking the fire of hatred and helpless people like us are getting killed…There is complete anarchy.”

Videos and images shared on social media showed mobs meticulously marking Hindu households with saffron flags. Some clips showed mobs supporting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) attacking Muslim houses and shops, shouting “Jai Shri Ram”, “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and expletives in the same breath.

The website of the Ministry of Home Affairs, ironically, provides a detailed guideline on how to deal with communal violence. One of them directs the administration to set up medical relief teams in such a manner that, as far as possible, members of various communities are represented in it.

The medical teams are supposed to be not only technically competent but with proven qualities of sincerity and empathy for the victims.

But a 14-year-old Muslim boy who was allegedly shot at by CAA supporters in Shahdara had to wait for an ambulance for six hours. According to eyewitnesses, he received a bullet injury at 11 am but the ambulance reached him at 5 pm. In several other cases, the injured were taken to hospitals on motorbikes and cycle rickshaws.

“What BJP leader Kapil Mishra wanted has happened. He must be feeling quite satisfied now,” said Afsar Khan bitterly at the Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital. He was waiting to collect the body of his deceased brother, Mohammad Ashfaq alias Raja, who died on Tuesday morning.

“He (Raja) is gone. Who will look after his two children aged four and five. If he (Mishra) comes across, I’ll chop off his head…”Mishra himself seemed unrepentant. While tweeting with satisfaction that Jaffrabad, another anti-CAA protest site, had been vacated, he complained that he was being called a terrorist and that he was receiving death threats from different places.

Hate crimes have given rise to retaliatory hate crimes in several countries even outside India. And the one-sided violence in Delhi, with the police complicit, has clearly infuriated some of the intended victims, who are baying for blood and revenge. Can they be restrained? Will they listen to good sense, trust the police and the government and allow the ‘law to take its course’ ?

Sri Lanka’s church bombings, for example, were retaliation for an attack on mosques in New Zealand. Brenton Tarrant, who carried out the Christchurch mosque attack, told the court that he started planning the attack after visiting Europe in 2017. Specifically, he referred to a lorry attack carried out by an Islamic State sympathiser in Sweden and ethnic diversity in France.

Media reports said, his 74-page manifesto and social media posts indicated he was inspired by a thriving online ideological structure that recruits and radicalises mostly men to save “Western civilisation” from a foreign “invasion.”

Remarkably, the Norwegian Anders Breivik had also recorded similar things in the 1,500-page manifesto before he killed 77 people in 2011. Breivik, according to reports, wanted to punish Europe for its multiculturalism and welcome of Muslim immigrants.

Such justifications for the acts of terrorism bear resemblance to the radical views of those who want India to be a Hindu Rashtra and see others who don’t uphold their idea of India as enemies or “Babur’s progeny”. They also hate composite culture, Ganga–Jamuni Tehzeeb.

A hate crime invariably breeds hate crimes. Those supporting targeted violence against Muslims or acting unconcerned, believing hate crimes to be infertile, must know what Rybin, a character in Maxim Gorky’s novel, Mother, held against the oppressive ruling class and its minions: “mercy!”

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Published: 27 Feb 2020, 8:00 PM