New Delhi: This is no country for Muslims. Or, now India has turned into a country where they have to be careful: about the way they look, the bag in which they carry their necessities, the aroma of their food which stinks in the nostrils of their Hindu neighbors, they have to be mindful of how their names sound.
Are they carrying cameras? Do their identity cards carry Urdu inscription? They can be spies. Do their men look handsome or their women beautiful? Then they must be out to lure our girls or trap our boys. Are they illiterate? Then they would be fundamentalist. Are they well educated and technologically savvy? Then they must be trained in the modern terror techniques. Are they poor and filthy, making this country unclean? There are ten thousand reasons to suspect and hate a Muslim and feel scared of their presence; which then becomes a legitimate reason to pre-emptively strike at them.
It can only be metaphoric that on a train that begins its journey from the capital of India, three brothers, who are Muslims and that is not a co-incidence, returning home with gifts for their biggest festival Eid are lynched by a mob for being what they are: Muslims. Media reports that the killing happened due to some misunderstanding, that the mob thought that they were carrying beef with them.
This understanding results from a programming of the Hindu subconscious which seeks to rationalize each killing like this: that we do not kill them for their being Muslims, we are forced to kill because of outraged, hurt, violated sensibilities. We are violated when we feel that they are insufficiently nationalist, that they do not show deference to the motherland the way we want them to, that they steal our women, that they eat just to mock us, they build their prayer houses to show their affluence, that they celebrate the victory of Pakistan.
The killer always seeks to shift its criminality to the victim. It was he who was responsible for the provocation. He, the killed, the murdered, is responsible, for how can an innately non-violent species as Hindus commit violence!
There are several excuses to kill a Muslim: while reading a book of history my blood starts boiling at what the books tells me about what Aurangzeb did to Hindus, or at the treatment of Padmini by Allauddin Khilji, even if it is fiction, and I assault the first Muslim who crosses my path. Some historical injustice to my ancestors for which I seek revenge, and since I cannot travel back in time, I can only settle my score with the Muslim who lives in my times, who in a way is my neighbor.
Muslims are asked to understand. Understand that this is all of their making. That they have called for it. Also, that these killings are not for real. They are only symbolic acts. So, it is not a real man, a real woman, a real child, a real husband, a real brother, a real wife or a real daughter who is killed, it is an abstraction called a Muslim who has come in the line of the eruption of the long-suppressed Hindu feeling. It is the collateral effect of the empowerment of the Hindus in 2014.
The Muslims are told not to make much of these sporadic incidents. Soft hearted Hindus are asked not to feel bad. This is what a gentleman had to say after reading this report: “Ok, first of all Hindus needs to stop apologizing for such incidents, such things happen in a big country like ours and also keep in mind Muslim countries are much worse. Secondly, Muslims should understand and adjust to the realities of living in India. Jai Hind.”
So, bad, horrible Muslim countries become a defense for what Hindus do here to their compatriots.
‘Jai Hind!’ is what Muslims are asked to chant: to save Hindus from an embarrassment of being seen as killers or apologists of killers. Also to show that they bear no ill will toward Hindus after such acts. Further, to declare to the world that there was a slight misunderstanding: Hindus, in fact, carry no ill feelings toward Muslims.
The police interestingly try to secularize the event: no, it had nothing to do with beef, it was only a fight over sharing of seats. The Muslim brothers were stubborn enough to refuse vacating the seat they were occupying. This again is a metaphor: how can a Muslim be so audacious as to remain seated while a Hindu is standing before him? That too after 2014?
After all, were not we generous enough to allow them to live amidst us? How can they forget that and start taking this as an entitlement? This is what the village elders and youth of Atali told us when we were talking to them about the burning and looting of the Muslim houses. They were angry with the ungrateful Muslims that they had won from the court their right to build a mosque on their land.
Hindus thought that a mosque in a village can be a source of conflict, a place for meeting of outsider Muslims and God knows what kind of conspiracies or a den for terrorists. Muslims should pray at home or go outside the village.
Atali incidentally is a village adjacent to Ballabhgarh where this lynching is said to have taken place on the moving train. The attack on Muslims in Atali had taken place three years back. Everything is normal now, most of the Muslims have moved out, those who live there have accepted subjugation, which is called adjustment in civilized parlance.
The Indian police are helpless as usual: it is honest enough to admit that they saw Junaid and his brothers being attacked but the sheer size of the crowd was a deterrent for it to act.
What about the co-passengers? Are we to believe that it was an issue between the assailants and the victims? That it was a clash in which no other passenger saw his or her role? Or, they got scared because one of the attackers had a knife with him?
Still Hindus claim superiority above all other religions and nations: they hate, abhor others, be they Muslims or Christians or Africans, attack and kill them when they feel safe enough to do so, and what better way than to form the anonymity of a crowd to do this?
We are not unique in harboring hatred for others. But why we do not have examples like the Americans of Portland who came forward to defend the dignity of Muslim women travelling with them when they were being abused? Two of the interveners were killed. And yet we claim that we are brave, that we are compassionate.
One needs to realize that such killings are different from killing by terror outfits. These are acts by common people like us, who have not been trained to kill. These acts are imminently preventable or can be stopped midway. If such killings happen, it is only because we allow them on our behalf. We relish them without soiling our hands. We want them.
Muslims would be asked to account for their deeds on the day of Qayamat. Hindus have no such fear. Is this the cause for increasing decriminalization of the Hindu souls?
(The writer is a Professor of Hindi in Delhi University. This article appeared in The Tribune on June 27, 2017)