The New Year has come. Still we are trapped in a gloomy mood as the hurtful events of the last year keep on haunting us. We have always at the back of our minds the well-planned pogrom in East-Delhi that was described by experts as the biggest and fiercest anti-Muslim mass violence in 70 years in the capital. Fifty three people were killed brutally, several burnt alive, four mosques destroyed in a single day, one muezzin and his assistant killed, the mosques funds looted under police watch, the money deposited with a former police officer-turned BJP MP, according to the statement of a policeman. Over a dozen mosques were attacked and damaged, Muslim homes and businesses burnt down and looted, and many injured seriously, all as policemen watched (in some cases, helped) the riot mobs.
Today it looks fresh as most Muslims fear more to come in future. It has become a pattern that cases are filed against victims, who are tortured and jailed, as the perpetrators roam free. Such hostility of the state against a minority is a cause for concern, noted worldwide, including a disapproving report by the US Department of State’s Commission on Religious Freedom. In such a situation when lynching and anti-Muslim (sometimes anti-Dalits and anti-tribals) violence can erupt any moment anywhere, there is no hope for justice for the victims.
In 2020, a number of legislations were passed and state actions taken that were seemingly intended to humiliate Muslims. The CAA was rushed through parliament, which was violative of the Constitution’s secular spirit and especially targeting Muslims on the basis of their religion. Legally, the targeted people had the right to protest. They were killed in the riots especially staged to deter them from exercising their Constitutional rights.
We are witnessing a similarly dispiriting sight as thousands of farmers are braving severe cold and rains while a cheerless new year dawns over them on the Delhi border. Many have died from the cold and some have committed suicide to protest against a new agriculture law thoughtlessly passed without consulting them. Farmers are the backbone of our society, but because of state policies they commit suicide in their thousands every year. Punjab farmers are especially valuable. As the state CM Captain Amrinder Singh has said, if God forbid, a food scarcity arises the Punjab farmers will be the main hope. Still the Centre is unrepenting and unable to reassure the farmers and allay their anxieties about the new law, which they want to be repealed.
The Chinese incursion, the continuing persecution of Muslims in UP under a law against “love jihad” and new similar laws in other BJP-ruled states has caused worry to Muslims, who are already excluded from political representation by the Sangh. The party, Congress, with the capability to take on the BJP is comatose. The IMF has ranked India lowest in the emerging markets. Today the highest numbers of children being stunted outside sub-Saharan Africa are Indian. The children were born in BJP rule. There is no cause for cheer in the New Year.
The COVID-19 pandemic is still raging and has claimed more than 1.5 million lives and caused damage and loss of about $ 4 trillion worldwide. The Indian economy is still down in the dumps, hit by a devastating depression, a depression that will take more than a year to recover from. Joblessness in India had been the highest in 42 years even before the pandemic hit. Today the situation is worse.
The only light at the end of the tunnel is the development and availability of a number of vaccines in different countries although none of them is fully effective. Sooner or later most of us will be vaccinated, even though it takes a full year to reach all of us. So, be cheerful! Happy New Year.
Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam, an economist and scholar in Islamic Studies, is President of the Delhi-based Institute of Objective Studies.