Afrazul Khan: Where is the outrage?

The Modi govt has unleashed a socio-political culture that is completely alien to the values of non-Hindi linguistic states

Social media
Social media

Garga Chatterjee

People who raged against the film, Padmavati, have been largely silent on Shambhulal Regar. As many as 516 people from across India deposited money in the bank account of Shambhulal Regar before it was eventually frozen. Regar attacked a Bengali Muslim migrant on the back, axed him to death, got his nephew to film the murder and gave a live sermon on how this was part of his crusade against ‘Love Jihad’.

It was revealing that Regar chose to speak in Hindi, not in Marwari or Mewati. He seemed to know the audience he was addressing in the so called cow-belt. The victim of his cowardly attack, Afrazul Khan, a Bengali Muslim seasonal migrant worker, had begged for his life in his mother tongue Bangla. In his last moments on this good earth, he called out for his mother, again in Bengali. But nobody heeded or understood his calls for help.

Afrazul was a married family man. Shambhulal claimed he was out to entrap a Hindu woman in Rajasthan. This has now been shown to be false as the Hindu woman in question said that she didn’t even know Afrazul. So, a man was axed to death with a completely trumped-up charge, the killing was filmed and made public and yet Regar’s bloodsport, instead of shocking people, inspired many to laud the act and rally in his support.

Why was Afrazul killed? Shambhulal Regar himself provides some clues. He was unhappy that a temple dedicated to the main character of the epic Ramayana called Ram was not built even so many years after radical mobs destroyed an old mosque called Babri masjid in Ayodhya.

Let me put it on record here and now that he will not be hanged. Let me also predict on record that if he is ever convicted, he will not serve a complete term. He will have opportunities to come out of jail; he might even be released early as part of some pardon or “good behavior”.

Afrazul Khan, a Bengali, was killed and burned in Rajasthan and those who fueled and funded the hatred that killed him exist in Bengal too. They are also the ones who are also the most conspicuous with their silence in West Bengal (they falsely imagine that tactical silence makes them inconspicuous) while everyone else is enraged at the killing.

They are not simply silent. They are active. People in West Bengal need to watch out for these sick sociopaths in their midst who raise funds for someone who killed a Bengali in Rajasthan because he was a Muslim Bengali.

Some of these people who are silent now were not so silent during the so-called Padmavati controversy – a mythical queen from Rajasthan.

It is not accidental. It is by design. It is the Hindi film industry that churns out film after film on Pakistan although few Hindi speaking states share a border with Pakistan and have reasons to feel an existential threat from our neighbour. Bollywood thus captures a self-imagination where Pakistan is the necessary evil ‘other’ and without whose demonisation, their own self-identity or nationalism cannot exist. It is a warped, hate-filled ideology that forces people to see Indian Muslims as a threat.

The Tamil or the Naga or the Kannadiga has no such anxiety. During the Padmavati controversy, an outfit called Karni Sena and some Rajasthani migrants to Bengal protested against the portrayal of “their” queen who allegedly committed ‘Jauhar’ or suicide by self-immolation, the old medieval and feudal norm that is characteristic of intense anti-women and patriarchal societies, where “honour“ is a cover for brutality.

Significantly, none of these people protested the actual killing and real burning of a real human being, a migrant like the Marwaris in West Bengal, where they earn their bread and butter from. That is how toxic this ideology is. That is how shameless it makes some human beings.

Have people in West Bengal noticed this double standard? It is all over on social media. Bengalis have also noted that a huge procession came out in Rajasthan on 14th December 2017, in support of this sociopath, who killed a Bengali migrant worker. The procession was so large that the number of people arrested from the procession stood at 175. The violent protesters also injured 12 policemen. There has been no condemnation of the fund-raising or the procession in support of the killer from any significant Rajasthani group in West Bengal nor the West Bengal branch of BJP.

The media and Delhi liberal circles pointed out that Afrazul was Muslim and that he was “Bengali speaking”. They cautiously avoided the word Bengali. Yes, Afrazul was a Bengali. Delhi media knows well the potentially politically explosive possibilities of this obvious characterisation and hence it dutifully avoids it.

The present regime has unleashed a socio-political culture that is completely alien to the values of non-Hindi linguistic states. It is this uncoupling of values as well as politics where the Hindi-Hindu belt has sought to dissociate itself from the rest of the Indian Union.

In its divergence from the rest of India, the Hindi-Hindu states find themselves more similar to their historical long lost brother whose ideas of vain honour, religious fanaticism, self-identity built upon hating others and hate of minorities it closely resembles. That is the communal forces of Pakistan, where Mumtaz Qadri is considered a martyr, for killing a fine man called Salman Taseer because Taseer believed that compassion and justice were pre-conditions for being human beings first. Lawyers feted Qadri, funds were raised for him and after his hanging, his grave has become a mausoleum and his Barelvi followers are now considering him divine.

Shambhulal Regar has already matched Qadri in being a fanatic killer and in having supporters camouflaged as “decent”, socially respectable people and in being the recipient of funds raised in defence of a cold blooded murderer.

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