The Delhi violence is serious because it shows that binaries have been deep-set and a panic economy has taken over
The story of the Delhi violence lies much beyond the headlines or the number of the dead. The terrifying visual of a man, whose photo of being beaten up by a violent mob simply because he wore a certain kind of clothes and sported a beard went viral, validated the pogrom-like sequence of events as the new normal and its casual acceptance in normal life. It’s something as statistical as an accident on the crime charts. It is serious simply because it happened in Delhi, the nation’s capital no less, and not in a far-flung town in India clouded by obscurantism. It is a test case that could get copied elsewhere and worse, be passed off as another law and order situation that can be tamped down by Section 144. When a judge like Justice Muralidhar, whom junior lawyers call an inspiration, gets transferred overnight for daring to question the Delhi police, then we should worry, with deep furrowed brows. Simply because an independent judiciary is the only hope for citizens seeking justice and rights that the Constitution guarantees to them. If this institution is broken, then our statute books mean nothing at all and public morality simply spins out of the orbit of our nation as we knew it. Till now. If north-east Delhi, where various communities have literally lived cheek by jowl for decades and more, is torn asunder by blood-curdling rage at the mere remark of an extremist, it shows that Indians, as a people, are harbouring a tinder box in their minds. This is a separatism that has nothing to do with the unresolved wounds of Partition. But an otherisation propaganda that has been bred systematically on a fertile ground of insecurities and economic denial. The polarisation of the mind is a far deadlier poison for it blunts the edge of humanity. It also means a subterranean conflict, which may bubble up any moment and because of its smouldering nature, engulf every other human possibility of reason, wisdom and compassion. If BJP motormouth and “go and kill” instigator Kapil Mishra has not been reined in despite protests from within his own party, it legitimises the politics of hate as a yielder of fast dividends and delegitimises public service. Politically, socially and culturally, there is a sudden vacuum which nobody wants to plunge into or commit to. That explains why the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), despite winning a solid verdict, seems uncertain about the public stance it should take. It cannot stick its neck out simply because nobody, including the BJP, knows what shape panic can acquire in a vacuum. Prejudice has taken over national pride to such an extent that everybody listens to it, not without it.
The only certainty about these uncertain times is that it is not the best time to seek our place in the world. US lawmaker Bernie Sanders has expressed reservations and concern as has the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Even UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was “very saddened” by the casualties in Delhi. He called for maximum restraint and violence to be avoided. Although the Modi Government sought to describe such comments as “factually inaccurate and misleading,” truth is the world doesn’t expect India to indulge in genocidal politics. Especially, when we use the optics of the Sabarmati ashram for visiting dignitaries but forget the non-violence mantra preached by its original resident. When it comes to the Opposition, the BJP anyway wins the battle on competitive whataboutery. So when senior Congress leaders, led by party chief Sonia Gandhi, met President Ram Nath Kovind to demand the resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah over his “abdication of duty”, the party reminded it of the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. BJP MP Pragya Singh Thakur, another motormouth who hasn’t been reined in, asked the Congress to review its role during that period. Only RSS general secretary Suresh “Bhaiyyaji” Joshi advised the BJP that nobody had the right to take the law into their hands and that the Centre should ensure that peace is restored in Delhi. Placatory, high-sounding terms that are abstract enough to spare the BJP’s extreme elements, all of whom have been birthed by its ideology. In the end, it is time for the civil movement to free itself from the piecemeal appropriation of causes and issues by political parties. Or be exploited by them. For Delhiites, who have found a new identity in a city that is a melting pot of all migrants, the time for denial is over. We cannot be sporting identity cards like a curfew pass. We must stand up and be counted.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)