Killings, brutality and suppression, the 'new normal' in 'new' India

What’s been going on! Nothing but killings of hapless citizens. And then dictatorship tactics are inflicted to such extent that even Opposition leaders were not allowed to visit Lakhimpur

Killings, brutality and suppression, the 'new normal' in 'new' India

Humra Quraishi

First of all, let us stop focusing on the horrific happenings taking place in foreign lands and neighboring countries. Let us concentrate on the build-ups here, within our country. In fact, even the fence sitters have been left near speechless, with no adequate words to comment on the recent brutal killings of our people in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri.

Going by the videos in circulation, the farmers were crushed, mowed down by political workers and son of Ajay Kumar Mishra, who happens to be MOS Home!

Tell me what’s been on! Nothing but killings of the hapless citizens of our country. And to compound the tragedy, dictatorship tactics inflicted to such an extent that even the well- known Opposition leaders were not allowed to travel to Lakhimpur Kheri, to meet the relatives and families of those killed!

Have we bothered to reflect on the bigger and broader format: Will the human havoc taking place in and around Kheri (as Lakhimpur Kheri is popularly called by us, Uttar Pradesh wallahs) remain contained to that region or spread out? Will it drag along new patterns of brutality and killings? In this context, this fact can't be ignored that encounter-killings have been already taking place in this state. Didn’t as many as 1,142 encounters take place between March 2017 and January 2018, in Uttar Pradesh!

I recall I had first heard the term ‘encounter killings’ in the Kashmir Valley but today I’m hearing this dreaded term from the people of my home state, Uttar Pradesh. And the fear and apprehension I have been noticing in the young people surviving in the state of Uttar Pradesh is the same that I had seen in the eyes of Kashmiris. The young are sitting not just jobless but also in fear of the goon brigades, which have been raised and nurtured by the political mafia to hound and spread around terror.

Yes, what we are seeing today is death and destruction spreading out as never before. Probably the situation reeks of complex political developments not just in the state of Uttar Pradesh but beyond. In fact, all those cries of those killed or near- killed in Assam have been growing louder and shriller. What happens next! Will these cries grow louder or get crushed by the might of the State force!

What saddens me is that even at this juncture, we are not speaking out in that collective voice. Why we, as a people, are not standing up, speaking out? Today how many amongst us are trying to counter the communal madness surging ahead? Are we, as a people, taking on the political mafia? No, as most of us sit like mute spectators, inhaling the poisonous propaganda in circulation.

Gone are the people like Khushwant Singh. As nostalgia unfolds within, images of the dos hosted by Khushwant Singh at his Sujan Singh Park apartment come flooding in. During that fixed one-hour slot, 7 to 8 pm, he would talk of the political characters together with the ‘fundoos’ (fundamentalists) and their destructive unleash.

Khushwant was Khushwant. When I had asked him what are the regrets in his life , he’d quipped, “Wish I’d taken on these fundoos years back .They are hell bent on destroying this country. We don’t seem to realize the damage they are doing! I should have written more about their misdeeds, exposed many more of them.”

And one evening I had asked Khushwant how he would react if Mr Narendra Modi came calling, pressing the door- bell of your apartment?

“I will not meet him!”

You will not?

“No, I won’t …hundreds of innocent Muslims were killed in Gujarat in a cold bloodied way in the 2002 pogrom, when he was chief minister of that State!”

Alas, men like Khushwant are no longer around!

Gone also are the women of grit, like the late Mrinalini Sarabhai who was one of the few to raise her voice in Ahmedabad as the pogrom had peaked in 2002. I recall that soon after the Gujarat pogrom I’d written a piece for The Indian Express, along the strain: ‘Where is our God ?…Not In Bharat, Apparently!’

It was a cry from my heart. Perhaps, the cry was piercing enough to have touched Mrinalini Sarabhai. Within a week of the publication of that piece, I had received a handwritten letter from her. Soothing gentle words, relaying that together we are going to fight this battle. No, she didn’t know me. But after reading my piece, she took the trouble to write to me on the Indian Express address which was later re-directed to me.

Sheer coincidence or what!

Is it sheer coincidence that each time a crisis erupts, there’s that quick diversion or call it distraction towards Bollywood?

Last month’s huge haul- seizure of 2,990 kg of cocaine from the Mundra Adani Port, brought along no startling disclosures except the mundane arrests of the smaller easily catchable fish! Nah, none of the names of any of the big buyers and suppliers! The powerful lot!

Now, all too suddenly, Bollywood super star Shah Rukh Khan’s son, Aryan Khan and few other youngsters arrested for consuming drugs on a luxury cruise, off the Goa coast!

And here we go, sitting all too distracted, mouthing our ‘expert’ opinions, throwing about all those dos and don’ts on parenting, detailing the fall outs to this menace, how to protect our and your children from falling into traps of all kinds!

Perhaps, sadly, in the midst of all these debates and discussions we don’t bother to ask this vital question: Who are the suppliers and the ring masters? Who all are the big players? Who all are part of the nexus?

'Time to speak up'… these lines by Faiz Ahmad Faiz seem more relevant than ever:

Speak Up!

Speak up, for your lips are not sealed

and your words are still your own.

This upright body is yours –

speak, while your soul is still your own.

Look there, in that smithy,

its red oven ,fierce flames,

the padlocks are already opening their mouths

and each fetter is skirting around.

Speak up now, for time’s running out,

Before your body and mind fade away,

tell us ,for truth is not yet dead.


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