Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam
Ask an Indian Muslim what is it in India’s public life that s/he dreads most, wants to get rid of this socio-political plague as quickly as possible and wants to elect to power only such a party, or group of parties, that does not make anti-Muslim mass violence a vote-catching strategy. You will be amazed to find that (barring a few men like Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, MJ Akbar and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi) nearly a 100 out of 100 Muslims will tell you that it is anti-Muslim violence.
It finds a reflection in the classic Sachar Committee Report (in the “Perceptions” section). Why in the “Perception” section? Because, over the last 73 years of our independent existence, every influential politician has tried to deny this truth, because truth does not suit them. So, Gujarat 2002 does not matter because Delhi 1984 did not matter. Because they did not matter, regular lynchings of Muslim since 2014 did not matter, and the well-planned massacre of Muzaffarnagar 2013 did not matter, also because it was a curtain raiser for BJP victory and rule from 2014. In BJP rule nobody should expect anything good for Muslims. That was the message.
Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has observed in an article published in The Indian Express of March 20: “the attacks on poor, working people, mainly Muslims, in Delhi cannot be separated from the attempts by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to redefine Indian citizenship and who is eligible for it, via the recent CAA, and the proposed NPR-NRC. This would appear in compatible with Article 14 of India’s Constitution, which clearly states that all citizens are equal before law. Together, these developments pose searching questions about India’s democratic future and its place in the global family of nations.”
The devastation of an anti-Muslim pogrom in Delhi late last month came at a time when the economy was already nose-diving, with the annual growth at 4.7 per cent and the deepest unemployment in 42 years. Instead of addressing the deepening slowdown in the village economy where rural wages have been falling and resentment rising. The government decided to humiliate Muslims on Babri Masjid, triple talaq and, finally an attempt to either disenfranchise them, banish them, put them in Nazi-like camps, torture or kill them under the garb of new citizenship laws. Muslims all over India took it as an existential threat and decided to oppose the combined web of CAA, NPR and NRC in legally and constitutionally-approved ways: sit-ins and demonstrations countrywide.
Despite its unquestionable legality and constitutional sanction the Centre tried to quell it with indiscriminate lathi-charge and firing, including in the library and hostels of Jamia Millia, causing serious injury to students, reminiscent of a goonda mob attack on students and teachers of JNU on police watch earlier. Later, in its FIR the police named the victims of the attack as perpetrators at JNU. It said there were two attackers from the RSS-affiliated students union, ABVP, but did not name them. It was clearly a police-sponsored violence against students and teachers with leftist leanings.
The same continued at Jamia and Shaheenbagh, the administration’s favourite goondas firing at protestors as police blatantly protected them. The Jamia shooter was described by police as a “juvenile” within a couple of minutes of his shooting a student through his forearm. He was described as a juvenile to protect him from harsh punishment. Soon he was found out to be over 20 as his father had died 20 years ago. This man had also voted in the last election. Such was the partiality of the state. BJP-run UP killed about two dozen demonstrators, heavily fined others and put a Rs one crore fine on an Urdu poet, Imran, for reciting an Urdu poem in public. Such ludicrousness with such brutality was seen in the handling of the protests in all BJP states as other states showed restraint.
Amid all this chaos, injustice and state involvement in demolishing public faith in a just order promising Sab ka saath, Sab ka vikas, Sab ka vishwas the economic slowdown is deepening. The Delhi episode of mass violence has clearly been declared a pogrom by Atlantic journal as well as academics specialising in riots, pogroms and genocides, including Prof. Ashutosh Varshney. It means mass violence with police participation, which indicates a compromised state.
As the corona virus strikes with full force in coming weeks the entire chain of production, distribution and consumption will break down. Schools, factories, offices and other work places will shut down, bringing the economy tumbling down and many lives destroyed or badly displaced and impoverished
Now is the time to close our ranks. The government also must remove laws targeted at Muslims (as Amit Shah has repeatedly reassured people that no Hindu will be touched). Such things are in bad taste, bringing ignominy to all of us, as reflected in world media. The government must initiate national reconciliation and move forward to take the pandemic head on, with our support and best wishes. Further economic decline also will be checked if we check the pandemic. The government needs to focus on checking the expanding pandemic by improving public health service, in which India figures at 154th position among 195 countries, according to Lancet Research. We must get down to construction rather than division.