Beyond the Protests

Much has been written, discussed, and delineated on the orgy of violence perpetrated by law enforcement in the wake of anti-CAA protests. By the time this piece finds space, it is estimated that 25 people were killed in police brutalities, mainly in UP, as the Hindu chauvinist CM Yogi Adityanath vowed revenge against the protesters. Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) were already at the receiving end of a brutal police crackdown where students were summarily targeted, beaten, and in some cases shot by policemen who also went on a rampage as they ransacked Muslim homes, businesses, and places of worship in UP. At least 10 Muslim minors were detained in Delhi, and over 100 students picked up from a Muzaffarnagar madrasa; tortured and sexually assaulted in some cases leading to rectal bleeding.

Police crackdown on protesters in Lucknow as CM Adityanath vows revenge (Source: PTI)

How did we reach a point where perverse state violence is routine if the victim is Muslim? 

How come the majority seems to be more troubled at the thought of busses set ablaze allegedly by the protestors while they turn a blind eye to the vicious police crackdown?

The answer probably lies in the Gujaratification of India. Gujarat, the original Hindutva laboratory infamous for its Hindu supremacist governance model, earned disrepute when grisly Hindu mobs pillaged and raped Muslims in their thousands. Somehow, the classic retort used is an anti-Muslim pogrom, although condemnable was ‘simply a reaction to Godhra train burning’ where 58 RSS men perished. 18 years hence we still don’t conclusively know who was responsible for setting the train ablaze though we can confidently infer who benefited. A paper by political scientists from Yale, Gareth Nellis, Michael Weaver, Steven Rosenzweig titled “Do parties matter for ethnic violence? Evidence from India” establishes a direct correlation between ethnoreligious violence and BJP’s rising popularity.

The past four state-elections in Gujarat were fought and won on an exclusively communal plank starting with Modi’s Mian Musharraf jibe ostensibly targeting Pakistan’s military ruler, was an innuendo at the Pakistani connection of India’s Muslims. He reprehensibly compared the Gujarat pogrom relief camps to child producing centres and publicly admitted sanctioning Sohrabuddin’s extra-judicial killing. I suppose some of you may remember BJP’s Islamophobic campaign advertisement played in the run-up to the 2017 Gujarat elections where azaan blares as a visibly scared Hindu girl seeks safety. The advert ends with the girl’s parents assuring her of no harm so long Modi wins, an oblique hint at Modi being the Hindu community’s saviour in the face of an imminent Muslim threat.

Emboldened by an even more significant majority in the 2019 elections, the regime has doubled down on Muslims with an iron fist. Muslim women (Protection on marriage rights) act annuls an age-old whimsical practice of instant divorce. Having invalidated the tradition, the government has set a three-year jail term for Muslim men involved, rendering Muslim families a wreck. The capitulation of India’s perceivably independent judiciary has reduced India to a majoritarian state. Now infamous Babri Masjid’s judgement upends the principles of the criminal justice system by rewarding perpetrators while those violated are abandoned in want. More recently, the Supreme court refused to act as state-sponsored violence gutted the campuses of AMU, JMI and then spread in UP. We probably stand at a juncture where the state may smash any semblance of checks and balances while the asinine masses cheer.

 Muslims have to carry the Indian flag in protests lest they risk being labelled Anti-India, even as the Indian state and the wider society are adamant about obliterating any visible Muslim symbolism. India doesn’t take kindly to Muslim mobilization probably has its historical antecedent in the partition. Incessant attempts directly emanating from the Prime Minister’s office aims to malign the protestors as rioters and ruffians while conveniently ignoring how India’s successive governments have nurtured, emboldened, and assisted Hindu nationalism. The run-up to Babri’s destruction, the violence in its wake, the Gujarat pogrom, and the past 6 years of Indian polity mired in Gharwapsi (religious conversion of Muslims to the Hindu religion), peddling fantastical stories of love-jihad with the sinister intention of portraying Muslim men as licentious beasts (preying on gullible Hindu women)rampant and ritualistic lynching of Muslim men to satiate Hindu pride,  leaders of the ruling party queuing to honour and garland the accused, and normalizing disparaging catchwords like termites and jihadis; essentially dehumanizing Muslims.  

In the campaign trail for the 2019 elections, a visual of a middle-aged man claiming he would instead make his children sleep with empty bellies and vote for BJP has morbidly stayed with me. He believes Modi is the only leader who would disenfranchise Muslims for good.

I see a sea of tricolours in protests. Admittedly, the tricolour no more evokes a sense of belonging in me. It has become as foreign to me as the Canadian maple leaf or Nigeria’s bicolour triband. I no more belong, and I have made peace with it.

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