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Communalism, Centrestage

By Shabnam Hashmi

01 October, 2008

Life and liberty are not the gift of society, state or Constitution but inalienable rights of every individual. The flame of liberty will glow so long as there are persons who have guts, grit, and vision to expose and disprove those nibbling away liberty in the name of expedients.

A journalist of a well-known television channel recently asked me why the community to which I belong (of human rights activists) always takes stands which are opposed to the stand of the whole nation. Can the shrill voices of the electronic media replace our whole being? Can they replace the Indian Constitution and the rule of law? The strong judgements passed by the media after every terror attack, every encounter and every arrest of a ‘mastermind’, can sway the middle classes and the executives working in the multinational companies. But can they stop a nation from questioning?

Even at the height of Hitler’s rule in Germany, when benches on the roadside had signs saying, ‘Not for Jews’, someone had the guts to put a black cross on them, establishing that such politics of genocide was not acceptable.

Though India is being transformed at a fast pace where all minorities are being forced to realise that they are second-class citizens, the difference is that there are many more people in India who are challenging the fascist agenda of those who are in power and others, who are desperately trying to capture power in the coming election.

The ascent of these forces has been systematic and well planned. Twenty years ago, most of the secular forces believed that the communal fascist forces were on the fringe of society and laughed at the possibility of their ever moving centerstage. Today the situation has reversed — the communal forces are so centrestage, it is difficult to differentiate between what is right and what is centre. They have invaded all spaces and areas including the minds of our secular politicians.

Among the plenty of weapons that they have used in this journey — from the peripheral to the Centre — fake encounters occupy a fairly important position. They have cleverly used different weapons at different stages. Beginning from ordinary bhajan mandalis, they moved to more organised kathas, to new age gurus. Working at different levels over 15 years — shishu mandirs, shakhas, ekal vidyalayas, sant samagams, television serials, the rath yatras, leaflets, videos, CDs — they have slowly entered the consciousness of an entire society with targeted messages against minorities. Only those sections of society who strongly and consciously contested this ideology could retain their sanity. After the seeds of hatred were sowed successfully and the harvest was being reaped, started the more decisive phase — the physical attacks and largescale genocide. Most of the experiments were done in Gujarat and the remote areas of other states. For example, the experiment within the tribal belts started in the late 1960s and early 1970s.Almost simultaneously, the VHP swamis then moved into these areas.

Today, we have reached a stage when an innocent person can be killed in a fake encounter, and declared a terrorist. A large number of innocent young Muslim boys are being victimised by the police on charges of terrorism. In most cases, they are not shown to be arrested by the police until many days after their arrest in gross violation of the law. Their families are also not informed about their arrest and while in police custody, they are made to ‘confess’ and sign blank papers. The courts routinely deny them bail. When the police chargesheet them, the trials go on almost endlessly during which the poor victims are virtually defenceless. GUJCOC, MCOCA, POTA and many other such draconian laws are required only so that the statements which the police force out of the victims can be considered as evidence.

After years of torture and confinement, when the case against the victims is found to be baseless, no action is taken to hold police officials accountable. The young patriotic journalists, of course, are then not around to report the horrors of all those years lost in the dark cells of a jail. Stopping the victimisation of the innocents will be the first step towards finding a solution against terrorism.

(Hashmi is a social activist with Anhad)

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 39, Dated Oct 04, 2008

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