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Why Hindus And Not Muslims Must Prove Their Patriotism

By allowing hate crimes to take place with impunity, we are allowing our civilization to be wounded.

Have you watched the video of Kashmiri salesmen being beaten brutally on the streets of Lucknow yesterday? Did you flinch? Does your body still react when it hears the desperate sound of another human being’s pain? Not make-believe violence like we are used to watching in the movies? Real blows. Real blood. Real cries.

Do you put away the smartphone for a while? Do you forward this evidence of violence being perpetrated on Indian people on the streets of India to others? How do you respond to this unnatural moment in your day?

How are human beings supposed to react when they witness injustice? Can anyone remind us?

In the last 24 hours, 4 videos of violence surfaced on my social media feed. All 3 of them are located in north India in the state of Uttar Pradesh. All involve men. Some of them are equals. Some are grossly unequal in terms of social and political capital.

Welcome to new India.

In one, a young man is being beaten up by a group of men like him ostensibly because he asked a question about growing unemployment during the recording of a television show in Muzaffarnagar. He was punished for asking for evidence, for daring to cast aspersions on the narrative of the ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and PM Narendra Modi’s claims of development and job growth.

BJP MP Sharad Tripathi and BJP MLA Rakesh Baghel came to blows during a meeting.

In another video, a BJP MP attacked a BJP MLA with his shoes in the middle of a meeting in a conference room. It is shocking to see men in power, the elected representatives of the people of India, behaving in this petty, crass manner. Yet, in many ways our expectations from politicians have become so low, that it didn’t hurt me to watch this spectacle. I just looked away and wanted to distract myself from having witnessed this.

The third and fourth videos wounded my soul. My fingers tremble as I try to focus on typing these words. In both videos shot in broad daylight near Daligunj bridge in Lucknow, four Hindu men wearing saffron clothes are thrashing two Kashmiri Muslim traders who sell their goods on the streets of this city. We hear the cries of the victims who do not retaliate and try helplessly to save themselves. Finally another man from the city intervenes, trying to stop the violence.

Also Read: ‘Kashmiriyon Ko Bahar Nikalo’: How A Dehradun College Abandoned Kashmiri Students Attacked by Right-Wing Mobs

Welcome to new India. Here is yet another example of violent attacks on Muslims across India by men inspired by the Hindutva ideology of upper caste Hindu supremacy over all other religious minorities and lower Hindu castes. Ever since the terror attack on CRPF personnel in Pulwama, there has been a renewed pattern of violence against Kashmiri Muslims, aimed at driving them out of their jobs, homes and educational institutes in the rest of India.

Despite the scale of the targeted violence, there has been no statement of solidarity towards the victims by any political leader. No people in positions of power have stood up for Kashmiris who are being isolated in their own country and forced to give up opportunities in favour of trying to save their lives.

Kashmiri vendor
Saffron-clad men attack Kashmiri vendors in Lucknow.

Instead of putting the onus on Muslims and other minorities to prove their loyalty and love for this land, the time has really come for asking every member of India’s majority Hindu community to show evidence of their patriotism for the country. Of their commitment to the idea of India.

The Constitution of India guarantees a set of rights to us and mentions our duties as citizens. It is part of our school syllabus that every Indian has the right to equality and freedom of religion. We have rights against exploitation. Among the 11 fundamental duties listed are a duty towards preserving our composite culture and the spirit of common brotherhood. Look it up in your children’s middle school textbooks.

How can any of us who call ourselves Indians, allow this kind of violence to be directed towards those who are vulnerable amongst us?  How can we allow the fabric of our society to be attacked in this manner and with such impunity?

In Gujarat’s Una, Dalit men were assaulted by cow vigilantes in July 2016.

As we hear of and watch more and more violence targeted towards the people of India simply because of their identity as a Muslim, Kashmiri or disempowered Dalit, what is getting destroyed is an essential part of our own humanity. By allowing these hate crimes to take place with impunity, by endorsing them or simply staying silent in response, we are allowing our civilization to be wounded. One that has cradled us; that has given us our identity as Indians — of a people who collectively belong together, irrespective of differences in language, culture or religion.

Also Read: Time to Expose The Bigots in Our Living Rooms

None of us will survive these years unscathed, this violence will eventually consume all of us; it is already destroying relationships and creating an anxiety and sense of dread about who we are and what lows we are capable of as a people.

As we watch this everyday violence claim more and more victims, what we are destroying everyday is ourselves… our own wajood.

Natasha Badhwar is the author of Immortal For A Moment and My Daughters’ Mum. Along with Harsh Mander and John Dayal, she has co-edited Reconciliation: Karwan e Mohabbat’s Journey of Solidarity through a Wounded India.

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