No country for protests! And it's worse for Muslims

Barely had one got over seeing shots of violence unleashed on Muslims protesting against controversial remark on the Prophet, came in shots of Congress workers being ruthlessly hounded by Delhi Police

Congress leaders and workers detained by police during protest ahead of Rahul Gandhi's appearance before ED (representative photo)
Congress leaders and workers detained by police during protest ahead of Rahul Gandhi's appearance before ED (representative photo)

Humra Quraishi

Can one protest in a democratic republic? It seems even that basic right seems to have been snatched from us by the rulers of the day.

Look, what’s been happening all around. Non-violent protestors being dragged and pulled and pushed by the cops. Many young men and boys dragged to police thanas to be thrashed right inside. Some of the videos in circulation show the brutality of it. Brute force unleashed by the cops on the young…so very ruthlessly that it gets difficult to view!

In fact, barely had one got over seeing shots of the violence unleashed on the Muslims protesting against the controversial BJP spokespersons, came in shots of the Congress Party leaders and workers ruthlessly hounded by the police force, in the capital city, New Delhi. Shocking shots! Writ large is the very end of the democratic norms. What is left of democracy when citizens of this country are not even allowed to hold a peaceful protest! The violence and havoc taking place focuses on the failing system and the complete degeneration spreading around. Where’s governance! Nowhere! Just the police force taking orders from the ruling political lot.

What should one do even if very upset and outraged and targeted and humiliated! Nothing, but sit back helpless and forlorn as a second or third-class citizen.

With discriminations writ large, the Muslims in the country are more than aware of the prevailing realities. With that, they are not in a combative mood. They cannot afford to be aggressive. “Muslims have to be very cautious. No question of dissent any charge can be thrown at us! It’s about time the community leaders should tell the community that we Muslims are second-class citizens and with that we sit quiet and shut ...not a murmur from us! It’ll be better that way because then there’ll be nil expectations from this sarkar.”

What upsets the Muslim is that double standards are spreading out, “Hindutva leaders have the freedom to raise private brigades/senas and do whatever they want to! If Muslims would have done what these private brigades do, they would be jailed and their families ruined. Have you ever heard of a Musalmaan sena!”

I recall when the protests by the Karni Sena took off against the film Padmaavat for what was labelled as poor projection of the Rajputs in that film, Muslims said aloud that though they were also provoked to protest against the distorted portrayal of Allauddin Khilji, but had to restrain themselves. “The fact is Khilji’s portrayal is completely distorted in that film. Khilji, shown as a meat-tearing, unkempt looking Muslim conqueror, which stands in contrast to his actual personality. Yet we couldn’t dare raise our voice, against that negative portrayal of Khilji. We would have been hounded by the cops in an atmosphere where double standards prevail at the very governance level.”

And one evening as news splashed on the small screen of the removal of the then governor of Meghalaya, V Shanmuganathan, in the backdrop of reports of sexual misconduct against him, there were no dissections or debates or discussions to his known links to the RSS. In fact, several viewers were provoked to comment, “If by any chance this governor was a Muslim then the godi media would be all too busy holding unending discussions on his sexual encounters, along the expected religious biases and slants. They would be busy lynching him on the small screen! Our blood boils at these double standards!”

Together with this, another connected query—Though there is no ban on any of the Hindutva outfits and communal brigades, yet State fury is massive against activists and academics and anyone who dares to protest!

Double standards also come to the fore, when encounter specialists are set free, yet doubts are made to hover around those gunned down in encounters.

During the course of an interview, I had asked the New Delhi based lawyer- activist, Vrinda Grover, why she had decided to fight for Ishrat Jahan, the young woman gunned down in an encounter in Gujarat. And Grover detailed, “It was soon after the Sohrabuddin case was taken up by the Supreme Court and the nexus between the cops and politicians was exposed that I was contacted by Ishrat’s family to take up their case. It was the conviction of the mother and family in the innocence of Ishrat and their determination to have her name cleared of the tag of terrorism, that persuaded me. They wanted their respect and dignity restored…As a human rights lawyer I often represent victims of police atrocities and violence. But after meeting Shamima Kauser (Ishrat’s mother) and her children, seeing the case file and reading the truth about Sohrabuddin’s murder, it was clear that this “encounter” was not just a crime committed by some trigger-happy cops, but rather part of the State sanctioned and planned violence against Muslims, which was unleashed in the genocidal pogrom of 2002.” …Vrinda had also detailed that it was crucial to recognise a clear pattern of targeting Muslims and demonising them as the enemy that must be eliminated, by use of State power, whether through engineered riots or staged encounters i.e., cold-blooded murders by those in power. “It is very important to bring out the truth behind these fake encounters because in Gujarat there is a criminal nexus between the political Executive, the police and even persons in critical positions in the IB both in the Centre and State. This is a very dangerous and lethal combination and before our eyes a fascist state is in the making.”

No end to the double standards. During BJP’s 2018 election campaign in the North East, Right-Wing politicians came up with announcements of sending senior citizens of Nagaland on religious trips, all the way to Jerusalem! The Right-Wing wooing the majority Christian population of Nagaland by setting up a senior citizen board which would annually select 50 members through lucky draw for a free pilgrimage trip to Jerusalem. Not to be overlooked is the fact that at the start of 2018, the Central government had scrapped the Haj subsidy for the Muslim community of the country.

And whilst on double standards, yet another hitting factor — Central and State level ministers from the North East can openly talk of their beef-eating traditions and get away with it, but Muslim cattle grazers and traders get killed and lynched on the beef alibi!

Though several Right-Wing politicians have been publicly threatening and abusing the Muslim community, yet not one of them has been arrested. Also, though news-reports detailed that VHP and Bajrang Dal were holding arms training camps in particular locales, where the young were getting trained to attack the ‘enemy’, yet not a single one of the organisers and promoters of those camps was arrested!

There’s tremendous worry as new definitions of nationalism are getting floated by the Right-Wing brigades. Whatever happened to our age-old traditional concept of nationalism?

In the garb of these new distractions, sheer havoc and violence gets inflicted on hundreds of innocents.

Views are personal

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