By Abul Kalam Azad,
Tujh ko kitno(n) ka lahu chahiye ae arz-e-watan
jo teray aariz-e-bayrung ko gulnaar kare(n)
kitnee aahoo(n) say kalejaa tera thunda ho gaa
kitnay aansoo teray sehraao(n) ko gulzaar kare(n)
The blood of how many do you need, o my motherland
so that your lusterless cheek may turn crimson?
How many sighs will soothe your heart
and how many tears make your deserts bloom?
-Faiz Ahmed Faiz
I looked at the setting sun: red, like justice, glaring at the tired humans. I rubbed my palms together to generate warmth in my cold fingers and logged in to my facebook account. My page, like entrance to a graveyard, exposes itself to a set of photos shared by my friend with his two cents: “ Sick Bastard”. The person described is a State Committee member, IT cell, Bharatiya Janata Party, Madhya Pradesh, A Tiwari, and he was flexing his muscles of hatred on the neck of a muslim carrying chopped pieces of cow meat in his scooter- in all probability, a beef* seller, and shamelessly boasting about his exploits on a public forum to the sheer appreciation filled with pride, unsullied by guilt, of his fellow comrades. I gazed out- the sun has set, and night sunk onto the sky like tears into eyes- unsuspected and silent like death. Something surreal enveloped my being, something really bitter gushed into my head- I could not place it in my vocabulary – Was it helpless rage? Was it impotent grief?. I don’t know. Something in those eyes got to me. I could see the future of this nation shrieking in the sheer hatred of those eyes. Once you see and feel it, there is no going back. You just have to live with it- a pestering scar you can’t wish away. But I could not get myself to pour these perplexed thoughts into a status. My identity kept tugging at my fingers, warning me to not write anything.
So, I approached a student group, I was part of, to draft a statement of condemnation in which we wrote, “The most disturbing aspect (about this episode) is the hardly hidden sense of self-righteous hatred on display, the blatant pride he imbibed from this ostensibly valiant effort, and the presumed halo of secure impunity, surrounding him, that led to this callous public posting of such repugnant acts (although the post was removed later for reasons unknown). And of course, the bigots and their pestilential commentary, arrived on the post in abundance like flies on a heap of garbage. While some applauded him for his brave endeavor ensuring that the essence of ‘Hindustan’ remains unpolluted by these beef-eating ‘mullahs’ and ‘miyans’*, some were eager to request him to slap that bastard “11 times” more on their behalf thus reserving a secure place for themselves on this wagon of patriotic-communal-bigoted beef bullies, some just spewed unsullied hatred on the Muslim community urging the patriotic Hindus to rape and sodomize their mothers using the scooter handle, some sang praises of their country and religion often deliberately confusing one for the other which, clearly is their vision of a ‘Swacch Bharat’*. Where does Mr. Tiwari (ironically a member of IT cell) derive the strength to arrogantly brag about his bigotry on a public forum, which is, somehow, intensely under scrutiny when it comes to the profiles of Muslim youth? Have we, as a nation, stooped so low that a rabid untethered fascist creature roams free biting people at will without being reprimanded? Who let this creature off the hook in the first place? Who let fascism loose to infect the nation? May 16. Anyone?………………. Against whom is this cow slaughter war waged? Clearly, lower castes and oppressed minorities, who constitute majority of the beef-eaters in this country. Hence, the entire campaign of gau-raksha stinks of castiest and communal intentions. How long before such condemnable violent acts become subtly normalized in our daily discourse, or have they already?…………………………………. We need to vehemently register our opposition to this chauvinist imposition of majoritarian hegemony – let beef festivals emerge in every democratic public space as rehabilitation centers for those attacked by this fascist creature…….How long shall people lament in fright due to what they eat, who they love, how they love, what they wear, who they pray? How long shall people be afraid of who they are?”
My fingers were so strongly tied, my tears viciously controlled, my anger heavily policed that I could not even get myself to share this statement drafted in disguise. Fear and helplessness paralyzes the minorities, especially muslims, the national enemy, the bogeyman to be afraid of, the nymphomaniac always in the lookout for hindu women to rape, convert to Islam, and append her to his never-ending list of wives, the barbaric cow slaughterer who begins his day with a glass of cow blood….Stereotypes that ignite and , then unite,the nation. What better platform to come together than the canopy of hatred? What better stage to showcase your patriotic religious fervor than that built on other’s bodies? The bodies whose characteristics and persona is already designed and certified in the saffron durbars of New Delhi. Abul- the love jihad* conspirator, Kalam- the terrorist nutcase, Azad- “hum paanch hamare pachees” *. Abul Kalam Azad – the portrait of a stereotype as a Muslim.
As I write this, I remember the one hour long call of my father urging me to stop writing about the Fuhrer and the plight of muslims’. I remember the terror-filled gaze of my mother, piercing my thoughts. I remember my grandmother saying she will accompany me to the police station if I ever get arrested one inevitable night. I remember the house owner, in Chennai, who asked my father for identity proof when he introduced himself. I remember a Muslim uncle being forced to apologize for the hideous crimes of ISIS. I remember Salman who was arrested for not standing up for a national anthem in a cinema hall. I remember Mohsin Shaik murdered for having a beard.. I remember Ishrat Jahan. I remember Ehsan Jafri. I remember a retired Muslim clerk from IIT Bombay who said to me, not with pride, that he was one among the very few Muslims working there, intensely wishing that the things should change for the community. I remember the words of my welder uncle, “Times are not good, dear. Please don’t write against them”
Yes, as I write this,I remember that I am an Indian Muslim.
But, still I force myself to write .
Because I know why the caged bird sings.
*BJP is the Hindu Nationalist party , led by Narendra Modi ( accused in aiding the 2002 Gujarat genocide) that rose to power in the recent loksabha elections with an overwhelming majority
*Beef is now widely considered as a taboo by the upper caste Hindus, although there is historical evidence that beef was widely consumed by all the castes a few centuries ago. Beef is now mostly consumed by lower castes and minorities. There has been a systematic discriminatory violent campaign against beef consumers and sellers alike since long, which is right now in full swing owing to the strengthening of rabid right wing forces. Gau-raksha (save the cows) movement is slowly spreading its tentacles of hatred across the nation.
* Miyan and Mullah are racist slurs used to address muslims in India.
*Swacch Bharat is a campaign for a clean India launched by Narendra Modi recently.
* Love jihad is a vicious communal patriarchal propaganda that spews the myth that there is a conspiracy at work in Muslim boys falling in love with Hindu girls, which is to forcibly convert them to Islam and mistreat them- in essence, Muslim men are accused of stealing Hindu women from their faith.
* Roughly translates to “Us 5, ours 25”. An allusion to another racist myth that all Muslims have huge families and hence, are the major cause for the ever-burgeoning Indian population.
(Author is a student at IIT Madras. Note: This essay was written by him few months back. First published in the print-only magazine The Baroda Pamphlet. Special thanks to Venkatraman Divakar)