Peace gets hurt when hate goes mainstream

5fd78ca36fea4879969d446804c62b07Why are the so-called experts talking about the death penalty for rapists? Do they realise that ‘off-with-the-head’ barbaric sentences do not lessen a heinous crime? On the contrary, it relays the State’s impotency in dealing with the growing number of rapists.

Rapists are mentally unwell creatures on the prowl and need treatment of the severest sorts. They may be banished for years in open jails and released only and only after a heavy dose of counselling and treatment. Or, in the case of the Kathua rape case where there is a communal angle to it, all the eight rape accused ought to be kept tightly jailed for years to come, so that rape is never again used as an ‘instrument’ to unsettle and kill the ‘other’.

In fact, this brings me to ask something that’s been bothering me for last several months if not for the last few years: what punishment ought to be given to those who insist on raping my psyche? Yes, right from 2014 there’s been an acceleration in the number of communal comments and third-rate taunts thrown right at my face by right-wing characters. Yet, I can’t do a thing. I sit all too helpless. No, there isn’t any helpline number where one can complain. Even there was one, it would be manned by the sarkar of the day, which in turn is manned by the RSS, along with a set agenda, set in motion right from the day Modi government came centre-stage.

Some bruises are so deep and internal that they cannot be seen. Also, if seen what will be the remedy? None! No, I expect no fair play and justice from the right-wing rulers of the day. And, with the latest round of communal build-ups revolving around M.A. Jinnah’s portrait controversy at the Aligarh Muslim University or Muslims getting targeted whilst offering the Friday prayers in open spaces in Gurugram, it gets all too obvious that right-wing ‘senas’ have been unleashed to provoke the Muslim masses and then the rest would follow — rounds of violence and counter-violence. It’s getting increasingly dangerous as these right-wing backed goon-brigades are intruding into everyday life of the hapless masses. Aren’t these eerie build-ups relaying the complete breakdown of the system, demolition of the last traces of democracy?

I do not wish to whitewash my words nor try and conceal the hurt I’m going through. As an Indian Muslim, I do not feel safe and nor secure with the Modi government and its men manning the very system. I can more than see the reality of the day: Hindutva brigades gaining ground, forcing the sane to shut up, if not sit or squat huddled in a corner. I have to think a hundred times before I can wish you with ‘as- salaam-alaikum’ (may peace be on you). No, I cannot even stop by the roadside and bow my head in prayer, because of the reality of Hindutva goons attacking me for offering Juma namaaz in the open, when I’m doing nothing illegal or distasteful. Simply bowing my head in prayer in the scorching heat, because of the lack of mosques in Gurugram! In this Azaad (free) nation, I’m not azaad enough to wear a skull cap or cook meat or even look like a Musalman!

When my close non-Muslim friends cannot comprehend the dilemmas and insecurities an Indian Muslim is going through, I tell them to go about in a disguise of sorts: he in a Shervani or Achkan and she in a burqa or a hijab together with a Muslim name and address of a Muslim dominated area or ghetto and then see what they get to experience. In fact, my Kashmiri friends tell me that the Kashmir Valley address and a Muslim name and fine-featured face is enough for the cops to get suspicious; more than definitely if you are a man with a beard and a skull cap. And, if there’s even a cracker burst in and around the locality, suspicion gets fast converted to hounding and one can even get illegally detained and with that stuffed into a police lock up, with terror charges on the head.

Today there could be hundreds of politicians around but no leaders. Paranoid they sit far away from the ground realities, all too protected in their sprawling bungalows…preparing the next round of hollow speeches fitted with bogus promises.

The masses of this country are witnessing these partitioning disasters yet we sit as mute spectators. Gone are the men and women of grit and integrity who could have led us away from this mess. Alas, leaderless are we! Painful and fearful if gets.

As I’m filing this column on May 11, which happens to be Mrinalini Sarabhai’s 100th birthday, so leaving you readers with her sensitive outreach: Around the Spring of 2002, soon after the Gujarat pogrom, I had written a piece for The Indian Express, along the strain: ‘Where is our God?… Not In Bharat, Apparently!’ It was a cry from my heart. Perhaps, the cry was piercing enough to have touched Mrinalini Sarabhai. Within a week of the publication of that piece, I had received a handwritten letter from her. Soothing, gentle, sensitive words, relaying that together we are going to fight this battle against communal poisoning and also, that no matter what happens we, the people of this country, have to put up a united front.

She had reached out to me at such a crucial juncture. This, when she didn’t know me…we had never met or spoken with each other. Yet, after reading my piece, she took pains to write to me on the Indian Express address which was later re-directed to me.