No more lynching, why ‘#Not In My Name’ now

The citizens’ protest mobilised within days by a Facebook post has been ridiculed as farce, elitist & inconsequential. But this could be the rumblings of a roar against mobs ruling public spaces

PTI Photo by Shahbaz Khan
PTI Photo by Shahbaz Khan

Zafar Agha

India finally broke its silence when thousands across the country gathered on Wednesday evening to say #Not-in-my-name to protest mob lynching incidents that are increasingly becoming a routine.

Protest poetry from revolutionary Urdu poets Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Gauhar Raza, protest theatre performance by Maya Rao and Punjabi sufi poetry sung by Rabbi Shergill at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar marked stirrings of the Indian soul at the brutal series of inhuman lynching of Akhlaq in Ghaziabad to Junaid in Balabhgarh.

No political banners or sloganeering marked the occasion. It was a serious and solemn affair where thousands raised just one voice: Not in my name.

People turned up at no less than 19 other cities and several cities abroad to express their anguish at growing “religious fanaticism”, which is threatening the unity and integrity of India.

Indians can deeply feel the pain of religious divide as they are still carrying the burden of the Partition that divided the country in 1947 in the name of religion. Millions migrated while several wars and military skirmishes haunted India in its aftermath. Its lingering fallout continues even now in the form of terrorism inside Kashmir.

That experience, etched in the nation’s memory, led the founding fathers to lay a foundation which could protect India from another divide. Therefore, the Indian constitution swears by ‘equal rights to every Indian citizen without any distinction of caste, creed, religion or gender’.

It is the basis of modern India, which founding fathers called ‘’Idea of India’’. This idea of India is based on centuries old Indian experience and is etched in our wisdom. That experience and wisdom was further sharpened during the Indian independence struggle under the Mahatma’s leadership wherein the new nation was given the idea of “Ishwar-Allah tero naam”.

It was ‘Gandhian secularism’ based on equal respect of all faiths. This Gandhian idea of respect for all faiths inspired modern India whose foundations were laid by none other than but great visionary of post-independence India, Jawahar Lal Nehru.

Gandhian secularism was no novel idea. It was an experience of centuries based on the ancient wisdom of ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbakam”(the whole world is a family).

The fact is that Indian history from ancient times till modern days has been witness to mass migrations of all faiths. The Aryans came and evolved Hindu faith here. Budhists also sprouted and flourished. The Christians came and established the Church. The Muslims arrived and evolved an Indo-Islamic civilisation with a distinct Indian flavour. The Parsis arrived from Persia and protected the Zoroastrian faith here in India. Guru Nanak laid the foundation of Sikhism and Mahavira of Jainism.

It is no cliché therefore that India is a blend of so many faiths, so many civilisations and so many cultures. It is a reality that is reflected in our day-to-day practices and experience. I can illustrate it with an experience of my own which I went through just a few days ago.

Indian Muslims celebrated Eid this year on June 26th. I went for special Eid namaz¬ in the morning where hundreds of only Muslims had gathered. It was a matter of faith so only Muslims were there. But after the namaz, festivities began and the visitors began to drop in at my home to greet us on Eid.

At the end of the day, around midnight, my wife counted and told me around twenty-five friends had arrived to wish us on Eid and she suddenly said: “You know, none of them were Muslims.”

We had a hearty laugh and then suddenly it struck me that barely two days after Junaid’s brutal killing there were so many Hindus around to stand with me even amidst the chilling divide that threatens to tear us apart. So is the practice when lakhs of Muslims celebrate with their Hindu brethren on Holi and Diwali.

This is India. And, it is not something new to India. It has been going on since time immemorial. It is in our soul or, you may, call it in our DNA. Our founding fathers named it Idea of India.

Lynching of an individual in the guise of a faith or identity is an attack on the idea of India. It is an attack on the Indian soul.

Unfortunately, there is a serious, organised and well hought-out attempt to destroy the very idea of India from the saffron school. These attempts were made from the very beginning of our independence struggle. Soon after the 1857 mutiny against the East India Company, there had emerged a school of thought which believed that India belonged to Hindus alone. So, independent India could be inherited by the Hindus while the rest could be ‘second-class citizens’.

This new idea of India led to the emergence of the idea of Hindutva , which is the sole ideological principle of the Sangh Parivar and its political outfit the BJP. They want to build an India based on the idea of one nation, one religion and one culture which, naturally, breeds hatred for “others”. And, this hatred breeds lynching, love jihad, demolition of Babri mosque and mass murders of Gujarat days.

Do we as Indians want to live in an India bequeathed to us by Mahatma Gandhi with the concept of Ishwar Allah tero naam or we want an India based on one nation, one religion and one culture, which breed lynching?

It is a serious debate staring the nation once again. It was a debate around the time when India was about to achieve independence. The debate then was raised by none other than Mohammed Ali Jinnah who with similar ideas of one nation, one faith and one culture carved out Pakistan which is a mess now because of its exclusivist idea of a nation.

Do we want to be a Hindu Pakistan now? Some do but evidently many don’t. Those who want it, keep quiet about lynching; those who don’t, marched to Jantar Mantar and many other city squares and said: Not-In-My-Name.

India now has to once again decide whether it will go the Mahatma’s way or will it take the saffron exclusivist path like Pakistan did. The choice is yours. You cannot keep quiet any longer. So, break silence, stand up and say Not-in-my name, if you wish to live in Gandhi’s India.

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