In 1946, famous Congress leader Maulana Azad had predicted that partition would make the problem of communalism even more complex. He said: “Partition of the country was demanded on the basis of enmity between Hindus and Muslims. So the actual partition would give this enmity a national and constitutional status and solution of the problem would become even more difficult.”
Cut to 72 years later, in 2018, the partition has still left glaring fault lines in the makeup of the country’s DNA. 2017 was the deadliest year for cow-related hate crimes since 2010. 86% of those killed were Muslims. The attacks included mob lynchings, attacks by vigilantes, murders or attempt to murder, harassment, assault and gang-rape. In two attacks, the victims/survivors were chained, stripped and beaten, while in two others, the victims were hanged. So the real question is, where is this hate coming from? And more importantly, shouldn’t the normalising of hatred scare us? Why is India increasingly becoming tolerant towards intolerance?
The politics of othering
Noted historian and author, Rana Safvi, has observed the divisive politics being played on loop in the democracy, where the old rule ‘Divide and Rule’ is still being repackaged and served to appease a handful of people.
Growing up, I don’t remember a time where Hindus and Muslims were divided the way they are today. Despite the wars, the chaos, the politics, there wasn’t one moment when Muslims were looked at as enemies or the other. No one was labelled as an anti-national or an enemy of the state. And yet, here we are. Every time someone is lynched we should be angry. If we don’t take sides, aren’t we siding with the oppressors?
Are we raising Islamophobes?
Are we living in merciless times, where the othering starts as early as schools? Islamophobia has trickled down to the youngest of generations. Nazia Erum, author of ‘Mothering A Muslim’, where she hand-picked testimonials from across the schools of Delhi NCR. Her book was an eye-opener on how children are often bullied on communal lines.
There is a mental partition that exists even if the physical one isn’t visibly evident. How does a 4-year-old know how to hate someone from a different community? Where is he/she learning that from? We have to ask ourselves what is the media we are exposing our children to, what kind of words do we use in front of them, how are we allowing them to have a bias so strong at such a young age.
Artistic freedom Vs. being a Hindu
For Sujatro Ghosh, his Cow Mask Project dealt with the two most sensitive issues in the country. The first was cows. The second was the honour of women. While the photographer was prepared for criticism, he didn’t brace himself against the trolls and the death threats.
When I see a famous Bollywood celebrity being trolled for using ‘Hindu terrorist’ in her fictional show overseas, I ask myself aren’t these vigilantes also the same. Aren’t they spreading fear and acting violently to prove a point? I am no longer proud to be a Hindu because these are not my values, this is not the belief system that I grew up reading about and I refuse to believe that any religion can teach this.
Have we seen enough lynchings or do we need some more before we wake up to the call of intolerance in India? Have the minorities in our country been reduced to a hashtag that needs to be aired only during major social events? Do we only #TalkToAMuslim or #WalkWithAMuslim when it is convenient? Is our media defining victims by their communities far too soon in the story? Are we feeding off the hatred of fringe groups who seem to know what is best for our country? If we live in #Rageistaan, shouldn’t India be angry about the partition that is breaking the democracy with each passing year of independence?