On those earlier occasions in the past, if people shifted out, it would be because they wanted to! Unlike today where anyone from disadvantaged groups or minority communities can be forced to shift out.
In those earlier, less complicated times, departures and arrivals from here and there were along the expected norms and there seemed less of havoc or strain on the human psyche and nerves. Displaced persons were accepted without any hue and cry, and not looked at with suspicion and distrust. Read any of the historical backgrounders to the Sufis of that era and invariably they’d travelled from those far flung lands. Settling down in Hindoostan. And never really getting back to their home countries.
Internal shifts seemed frequent in those good old days. Entire clans and families would shift from one State to the next and the settling down process was rather smooth. If writer Saadat Hasan Manto’s entire clan had moved from the Kashmir Valley to the undivided Punjab, several who’s who had shifted to reside in Kashmir. One such couple was parents of film star Kabir Bedi – Freda and B.P. L Bedi. The two had got married in England in 1933, before shifting to India, moving on to reside in the Kashmir Valley for a few years. They’d then even resided in the undivided Punjab, Delhi, Burma…Movements and travels were along the liberal and uncomplicated mode.
In these recent years our fellow citizens are getting internally displaced. Natural calamities are one of the reasons for forced shifts-cum-displacements. Another significant reason is the prevailing political climate in the country. In the backdrop of communal provocations, victims are forced and compelled to flee, to protect themselves and their families.
The most significant example is that of Bilkis Bano. After all, she and her family have been shifting from village to village, in Gujarat, for safety and security and survival. They have been going through displacement…ongoing displacement.
The reality is that the political mafia together with the land mafia have been using shrewd strategies, for forced shifts in several locales of Outer Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh. The Right-Wing is perhaps seeing to it that no pogrom or major rioting takes off, instead an atmosphere of fear and apprehension and insecurity prevails.
Yes, in the midst of fears and apprehension, displacements have been taking place. Not taking you very far back into history, but in these recent years, soon after communal violence in several pockets of Uttar Pradesh, what had surfaced was this shocking trend: Several Muslim families left their ancestral homes and lands; fleeing to Muslim populated areas. A similar pattern emerged in the outlying villages of Delhi, and also in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where dozens of Muslim families left homes amidst fears of death and destruction. They detailed there was no other option but to flee, otherwise their families would be attacked by the political mafia.
Forced shifts in the rural belts are pointers to bigger disasters. After all, when communal politics reaches rural stretches and hits the farmers and cultivators and the land owners, it reeks of eerie build-ups. After all, for the farmer his fields are his life! On those ancestral acres he and his clan had been living for decades; a great majority of them even unmoving during that big Partition. Yet, today, entire families could be getting uprooted from their base, forced to become overnight beggars!
And a few years back, it was the All India Secular Forum team led by L.S. Herdenia, which was one of the first forums to have focused on a series of communal incidents in two villages, Gandhwani and Pipalya, in the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh. Those incidents were severe to the extent that Muslims families fled from their homes. To quote from that report — “On October 12, more than 40 houses and about the same number of shops owned by Muslims were set on fire in two villages…After setting shops on fire in Gandhwani, the violent crowd entered Pipalya village and set many houses on fire. In order to escape the fury of the violent crowd, residents left their houses. This gave free hand to the crowd which burnt everything in the houses or looted … In fact nothing was left. The crowd attacked every Muslim they came across. One woman told us it was a ‘war like situation’. Members of the crowd were hurling choicest abuses, ‘Why are you here? Go to Pakistan, you traitors!’ ”
And when the Modi government was flaunting ‘Start Up’, there was an artisan family of Yusuf Khatri in Madhya Pradesh, who were on the verge of shifting base. Pack up time for them! Yes, one of India’s prominent families in the field of art, producing and exporting award-winning Bagh prints, were considering shifting to the United States, when Yusuf Khatri’s brother and nephew were attacked by goons at the start of 2016. After those communal attacks, they found it difficult to live in their ancestral place. According to news reports two members of the Khatri family were brutally attacked with rods and swords, when they were returning from the masjid after namaaz. One news report quoted Yusuf’s son, Mohammed Bilal Khatri, “We identified some people involved in the assault. They are all members of local Right-Wing units, but are yet to be arrested.” Incidentally, one of the victims, that is, a member of the Khatri family attacked by the goons, had received a national award for his work just a few days before that brutal attack.
And in 2018, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was speaking at the Davos summit, asking investors to come to India, a Muslim family in Haryana’s Sonepat was threatened to get out of their ancestral village, to get moving towards Pakistan! This, when their fore-fathers had been living in that village for 300 years! The only saving grace was that sense prevailed amongst the village elders and that Muslim family was not bullied out …They did not get uprooted!
I do realize that deterioration has been spreading out over the years, but it’s never been so traumatic! Also, as I have already pointed out, on those earlier occasions in the past, if people shifted out, it would be because they wanted to! Unlike today where anyone from the dis-advantaged groups or minority communities can be forced to shift out. From here to there, to just about anywhere! Towards a nowhere of sorts!
Leaving you with these lines of Devi Prasad Mishra:
“Remains of me
Here I was born
On this stone
On a face like
My own face
I put my face and
Wept for days
Here I sat holding my head
And there flowed my blood
On this part of the earth
I was threatened to vacate the earth
And here perhaps
In the neighbourhood of me
Remains of me.”