A country without comedians, conversations or counter views!

We are surviving in an atmosphere that’s choking us to near death! Corona, lethal smog & the communal anarchy spreading out from Tripura to Maharashtra to MP to UP…right up to the hills of Uttarakhand

Vir Das and Munawar Faruqui
Vir Das and Munawar Faruqui

Humra Quraishi

At first it was the hounding of stand-up comedian, Munawar Faruqui (mind you, his hounding continues, as his shows are getting cancelled in city after city) and now news just coming in is this - a case has been filed against the absolutely brilliant comedian, Vir Das. Why? Because of his latest show where he spoke out, on the huge range of disparities and double standards and the hitting ironies in the “two Indias”!

What’s going on! We are surviving in an atmosphere that’s choking us to near death! First, the corona scare seems ever looming on our heads. Then comes in the scare of the smog which seems lethal enough to destroy whatever remains of our vital organs. And in this satrk background the communal anarchy is spreading out from Tripura to Maharashtra to Madhya Pradesh to Uttar Pradesh…right up to the hills of Uttarakhand. All this is becoming so very horrifying that one doesn’t know how many amongst us will be alive enough to drive along the over flaunted ‘political’ Purvanchal Expressway in Uttar Pradesh.

In this tight throttling atmosphere it is getting increasingly difficult to even voice an opinion. It was shocking to see Salman Khurshid’s house in the Nainital district getting vandalized because of his views and comments on the Right-Wing Hindutva forces, expressed in his latest book.

And as I write this column on National Press Day, the irony hits: it was difficult for journalists to report from Tripura, to detail the targeting of the minority community, yet on the National Press Day there were speeches after speeches from the political who’s who! Tell me, for how long this sheer farce will go on! Of course, the who’s who of our political arena stand exposed, but because of the new trend of cases slapped even on members of fact finding teams, and the hapless victims projected as culprits, we sit back, all too quiet!

Zakia Jafri should get the 'Bravest Woman' Award!

Zakia Jafri is that one lone woman who carries the nerves and guts and will- power and focus to expose all those political leaders and persons who were directly or indirectly responsible for the 2002 Gujarat pogrom.

She belongs to no ordinary family. Not to overlook the fact that her husband, Ahsan Jafri, was a Trade Union leader turned Congressman, before he was killed in the 2002 pogrom.

I have heard her speak at two public meets held here in the capital city, New Delhi, where she detailed that goon brigades had torched and attacked their home in Ahmedabad’s Gulberg society, “My husband was sure that the Congress was likely to come to power as Keshubhai had failed to deliver the goods. He had told me this on 27 February 2002. And he also said that the BJP could come to power only by whipping up the anti- Muslim sentiments and that the BJP could use the Godhra incident and convert it into an opportunity for votes. And the very next morning, that is on 28 February, our neighbours started coming to our home, asking whether my husband was at home. And they felt and looked relaxed and re-assured that he was there. But by 9 am, it was apparent that tension was building up in our area. First shops and then vehicles were burnt and looted .Then a boy was attacked and injured and later he took shelter in our home but he too was killed by the rioters who attacked and burnt and destroyed our home …As the Police Commissioner did not visit our Society even as the situation was getting out of control, so my husband went out on the road and met him in full public view, requested him for additional deployment of forces but no police help came. And the killings started and continued …69 people known to us were killed there on that same day yet no police help came to stop the carnage, those killings went on!”

On the role of the police, Zakia had detailed, “ Police was not to be seen in our Gulberg Society or in the surrounding area till about late evening. By then it was completely burnt down. Many residents were burnt alive. I cannot forget those scenes: rioters tearing off clothes on women, brutalizing them. I saw those charred bodies. Late evening the police came when the genocide was near complete. Total destruction all around. What was left of the Gulberg Society! Nothing! There were just dead bodies …most were burnt beyond recognition. It was obvious the police did not want to reach in time.”

Zakia Jafri also focused on the fact that her family was targeted even before 2002 pogrom. “During the 1969 riots in Ahmedabad, in which over 700 people perished, the house belonging to my husband’s parents was looted, ransacked and burnt. We were staying on Dr. Gandhi Lane, which is behind the Gulberg Society…When our home was targeted and attacked, we had to rush out to save their lives. All our belongings were looted and destroyed. My husband used to write poetry and prose and his writings were published in the leading Urdu magazines but all our books, documents, photographs were burnt or looted. We had to shift to a camp and then to a community guest house. We lived there for more than four months. Much later we shifted to the Gulberg Society…We suffered on all possible fronts; not just on the financial and emotional fronts but even the children’s education was disrupted.”

She also stressed that not just her family but hundred others were affected “Even before the pogrom, insecurity was spreading out in the backdrop of communal clashes and economic boycotts. Right from 1981 till about 1987, there were anti-Reservation agitations, more so when the then Congress-led government in Gujarat had increased the quota for OBC Reservation. There was also a definite rise in anti-Muslim feelings. Even skirmishes between the two communities would end in large scale rioting …burning of Muslim homes and property was very common, done on a regular basis. Pamphlets were distributed, ordering the Hindus to boycott Muslim rickshaw- pullers and also the Muslim run establishments. Muslims were not given houses on rent, and it was getting increasingly difficult for Muslims to even buy an apartment in any of the newly constructed buildings or upcoming colonies… Muslims were targeted not just during rioting but on a daily basis. And the police did nothing to protect the targeted!”

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