‘No one bats an eye’
How does it feel to belong to a country that you love, but that does not love you back?
I have been auctioned by the right-wing brigade way too many times. Bulli Bai, Sulli Deals, and countless Reddit subgroups. I am shocked at my ability to not be shocked. This grief and fear has become part of my everyday life.
Since the violence against Muslims broke out in Nuh, I don’t think any of us have slept properly. I have had nightmares of my house being burnt down. In the immediate aftermath of Nuh, my nephew and cousin have had it rough. Did you ask why?
We broke down on video calls with each other. Prayed for the safety of our community through the night. Checked in on everyone in the vicinity. But we had to go to office the day after.
We’re expected to function normally while we’re being auctioned, while our homes are burnt, our businesses destroyed. No one bats an eye. My cousins and I met after a long long time and guess what we talked about—what else but the discrimination each one of us faces routinely these days.
Instead of the usual gossip and laughter, we worried, in a mental huddle, about our future in this country. How can a community that wakes up to daily news of hate, harassment and abuse find the heart to ‘gossip’ or make small talk like other people? That privilege has been snatched from us. No one bats an eye.
What I write comes from disjointed moments of rage and lament over the destruction of our wajood, over how any form of ‘normalcy’ does not exist for us, the Indian Muslims. The will to dream and plan a future, freely, safely, no longer exists. We are very conscious of our names, of saying salam alekum and khuda hafiz loudly in public transport.
Scared of writing editorials or going to police stations to file FIRs for something as petty as a theft. How can we trust them? When they are party to all that we go through? The police are called when we offer prayers even inside our homes! No one bats an eye.
Where do we go? The mosques and madrasas are burnt down, people are running campaigns to destroy mazars. We are killed and lynched. No one bats an eye.
We see them, the ones who call for our genocide, being feted, garlanded and awarded. Those who enable violence against us are continuously platformed. No one bats an eye.
Our office colleagues are bigots who slyly crack Islamophobic jokes and decorate our three-storey buildings on the right-wing government’s win. No one bats an eye.
Every time we refresh our social media feeds, there is a podcast, a rally, a hate speech, a trending hashtag, a meme targeting us. No one bats an eye. Muslim women are auctioned online. The court shows great concern for the future of the perpetrator. No one bats an eye.
Elections are fought and won on our dead bodies, burnt bastis, our villainisation. No one bats an eye.
I barely know any Muslims who have not found it hard to find a house on rent. That gaze, that hate in the eyes of brokers and landowners alike! We drop admissions and leave jobs for that reason. No one bats an eye.
Muslims are looted, lynched, harassed by the goons and then by the State. No one bats an eye. How can one dream, plan, go about our daily lives normally when our dead bodies don’t find mention in news cycles, not even as a footnote?
How does it feel to belong to a country that you love, but that does not love you back? I want to wear black clothes and spread a farsh-e-aza for a nation that actively voted to ensure we are erased, that goes about its daily business while we get killed and destroyed. A nation that applauds and cheers as it watches. You know, like the audience of a maut ka kuan (well of death) that wishes the racer would fall to his death.
They not only want to delete us and drive us out of bazaars and theatres, villages and colonies, schools and universities, cities and offices, they want to drive us out of spaces of narrative-building and decision-making. Young Muslims are behind bars, our friends are behind bars. Bright men and women who talk about social justice are silenced. No one bats an eye.
Our routine is breaking down at night, thinking ten thousand times before posting on social media, hiding our identities in various ways to reach home safely, exhausted repeating this story over and over again. No one bats an eye.
We have friends who chose hate over us and left our side. A former friend and classmate from the university religiously sends me abusive texts and elaborate slurs on my Muslim identity. Another friend invites a hate enabler to their wedding, another promises to get their art show inaugurated by a man who called for Muslim women to be raped.
A fellow artist feels proud that a genocidal maniac commended their work. No one cares how small it makes us feel. How unwanted, how hated. No one bats an eye.
I have so much to say, so much to tell every fellow citizen about the heaviness in our everyday, but will it matter if I told you we find it hard to even love? How do you love when you know deep down that petitions require more blood than love letters?
But while no one bats an eye, we care for each other. We check in, do fundraisers, crack dark and difficult jokes, smile, pray and manage to slowly water the plant of hope inside our ribs. I wish we didn’t have to wake up every day to rise, resist and be brave.
I wish we could simply study, work, breathe, wear what we want, eat what we want, dream— and be. But it is getting difficult. It is getting more and more difficult.
Our biggest misfortune is the absolute lack of allyship and the enabling silence of people around us. I will not request you to speak up. I will not wake you from your slumber. Or shake you out of your hate. I will not ask you to care. For I only know one thing:
‘Iss zulm mein jo khamosh rahey
zalim bhi wahi, qatil bhi wahi’
(He who is quiet in times of oppression,
he is the oppressor, he is the assassin).