Hindutva celebrations become chariot of genocide for Indian Muslims

Usman had a tailoring shop at Boora Batasha Market at Karauli in Rajasthan. On April 2, 2022, a Hindutva mob celebrating the shobha yatra resorted to full-scale anti-Muslim riots. Usman’s shop was looted & burnt while his Hindu neighbour’s shop was left untouched. The shop was the only source of livelihood for him. Photo: Meer Faisal/Maktoob

By SHIVANSH SAXENA / Maktoob Media

Unrest and violence were reported in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Goa, Mumbai, and Delhi on the occasion of Ram Navami. Several organisations staged processions with thousands of people wearing saffron shawls and loud DJ sets blasting songs with communally offensive lyrics. In multiple locations, processions passed in front of masjids, in some cases during evening prayers in the ongoing month of Ramadan.

Processions were held in front of Kalaburagi’s Masjid-e-Qadri Chaman and Raichur’s Osmania Masjid. On the eve of Rama Navami, a mosque in Mulbagal, Kolar, witnessed tumultuous activities. Several videos of these processions, some of which featured inflammatory speeches, have been circulating on television and social media.

A country heading towards genocide is often stuck in a vicious cycle of hate speech, violence and impunity. Violence is instigated through these hate speeches and awarded with impunity. Impunity acts as the axle to the wheels of violence and hates speech in the chariot of genocide. Indian Muslims have been bearing the brunt of this chariot for a long time now.

Narendra Modi led BJP government has just mainstreamed the conspiracy theories that were once confined to the fringe. It’s as if the age of reason – the era of evidential reasoning – is coming to an end and knowledge is being delegitimized and scientific consensus is being rejected. Democracy, which is based on shared truths, is on the decline, while authoritarianism, which is based on shared lies, is on the rise. Hate crimes, as well as murderous attacks on religious and ethnic minorities, are on the upswing.

Past Experiences

Most communal violence incidents against Muslims have been carried out by fringe Hindu organizations but there is a degree of impunity because they operate under the guise of religion. Tracing how genocidal hate speech has led to massacres and mass killings of Muslims throughout history, let’s first have a look at the Nellie Massacre of 1983. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the BJP President, was campaigning in Assam. He was quoted as saying “Foreigners have come here and the government does nothing. What if they had come into Punjab instead? People would have chopped them into pieces and thrown them away.”

Soon after this speech, violence erupted in Nellie and more than 2,000 people lost their lives in the massacre, most of whom were Bengali Muslims, the alleged “foreigners”.

Another example is the Bhagalpur violence of 1989. The riots started on 24 October 1989, and the violence continued for about 2 months, affecting the city of Bhagalpur. The massacre resulted in the killings of over 1,000 people and displacement of another 50,000. According to the report published by the People’s Union for Democratic Rights, out of the total killings, 93% were Muslim.

The Commission of Inquiry held K.S. Dwivedi, the then Senior Superintendent of Police, “wholly responsible” for the carnage in its final report. The report stated that he was “communally biased” against the Muslims and the communal bias was evident from an infamous incident that occurred sometime before the carnage.

Dwivedi had delivered a genocidal hate speech on the occasion of Moharram stating that he would turn Bhagalpur into another Karbala, implying a massacre of the Muslim residents of the city. A similar incident occurred in Muzaffarnagar in 2013 as well. Genocidal speech by political outfits led to large scale violence against the minority community. Similarly, the 2020 Delhi pogrom was preceded by hate speeches from politicians such as Kapil Mishra and Anurag Thakur.

Bigotry & Patriarchy

Apart from the inherent bigotry and islamophobia, there lies another commonality among these massacres. That is, patriarchy, it is well known that women have often been sexually brutalised during communal violence in order to humiliate and demoralise their men. All of India’s major communal massacres after independence have been marked by extreme public cruelty and brutality.

The Gujarat carnage stands out for its extensive and targeted targeting of women, young girls, and children, who were exposed to the most heinous and terrible forms of violence. Rape was used as an instrument for the subjugation and humiliation of a community.

The 2002 rioters did not confine their filth to Muslims; they also targeted fellow Hindus who had any association with Muslims. When a Hindu mob gang-raped a pregnant Bilkis Bano in 2002, it was an assertion of Hindu masculinity to emasculate Muslim men as incapable of defending their women, as well as a mockery of the Muslim community’s honour.

Women’s bodies are reduced to pawns in masculine tales of nationalism, owing to the patriarchal, deeply ingrained view that women are the markers of each group and the repositories of the honour and dignity of the communities to which they belong.

State’s Impunity

For a variety of reasons, legal justice for survivors of community violence is considered to be a critical public good. Without it, Indian Muslims cannot be assured of protection and certainty of non-recurrence, denying them substantive equality guaranteed by the Constitution.

If a citizen is harmed by another, the state intervening on their behalf prevents the citizen from exacting personal vengeance or sinking into a condition of despair and detachment as a result of the expectation of justice being denied.

The promise of the state intervening on behalf of the harmed and wronged to bring justice removes the potential of private settlement based on individual revenge from the hands of the aggrieved, allowing violence to spiral out of control. This spiral is something that the public good of justice can prevent.

However, if the state openly sides with the tormentors and offers them impunity with a majoritarian bias, it fosters sentiments of betrayal and retaliation. The arrests and convictions in the genocides over the years have been very disappointing.

In the aftermath of the Nellie Massacre, a total of 688 cases were filed in relation to the carnage that occurred. However, the charge sheet was filed by the police only in 310 cases that were also eventually closed, and not a single perpetrator has been punished to date. In the Bhagalpur violence after a period of 16 long years, 10 of the accused were sentenced to life in jail. After CM Nitish Kumar ordered for 27 cases to be reopened, 14 people were convicted in 2007 for the massacre at Logain in Bhagalpur.

In the year 2009, Kameshwar Yadav was convicted of murdering a 15-year-old Muslim boy. Other cases are dragging on to date, with the victims fighting in vain even for the recognition of the crimes that were carried out against them.

The arrests and rate of conviction in the Gujarat pogrom, Muzaffarnagar anti-Muslim violence and Delhi pogrom have been similar which further strengthens the resolve of the perpetrators that they can carry out such heinous communal acts with complete impunity. This impunity is planned and built into the response system of the criminal justice system — Almost as systematically as the actual violence.

It is well known that in order to deter a particular crime, a well-enforced criminal justice system is needed which dissuades individuals from becoming criminals in the first place or from continuing with a life of crime. However, this “New India” does not only not work in the favour of the victims but awards the perpetrators with open arms. The recent trends indicate that the same pattern which has been followed over the years is being followed again.

For example, the events in Haridwar, Uttarakhand where hundreds of right-wing Hindu monks and seers in a conference took an oath to turn India into a Hindu nation and asked Hindus to arm themselves and kill Muslims is an alarming call for violence and can lead to increased events of violence against the minority community.

Similarly, on 4th July 2021, a hateful campaign against Muslim women was launched by the name of Sulli deals. It included but was not restricted to putting pictures of around 80 Indian Muslim girls for sale on an application and a GitHub page by the name of Sulli deals. The screenshots of the same were also circulated on Twitter. The inaction in the matter lead to the same act being repeated on 1st January 2021 by the name of the Bulli Bai App.

The most deafening silence has been that of the judiciary, an institution that is meant to protect the rights of the common people.

But justice has been a long lost dream for the victims of genocidal crimes.

In order to break that wheel of violence and hate speech, the authorities must stand up and destroy that axle of impunity by doing their job and safeguarding the marginalized.

This article first appeared on maktoobmedia.com

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