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Erasing history is no solution

Erasing history is no solution
Courtesy "Indian Express"

A video of a man dying horribly on a hospital bed with both his chopped hands placed between his bloodied legs has been viral on social media. Horrified though I was by the video, I withheld comment because of having been eviscerated for posting a doctored picture of Yogi Adityanath. Then, reliable sources confirmed that it was indeed of an RSS man in Thiruvananthapuram, so I expressed my horror on Twitter, only to be assailed by the same Hindutva tweeters who have attacked me every time I have written against the lynchings by cow vigilantes.

This time their rage was caused by the silence of the NotInMyName crowd. Out of a misconception that I was part of this group, they taunted me for not protesting loudly enough. ‘What if this man had been a Muslim?’ they tweeted angrily. More venomous tweeters spewed bile against ‘libtards’ for their deafening silence about violence against Hindus in Kerala and West Bengal. As someone who is fundamentally horrified by all mob violence, I have spent a considerable amount of time trying to understand why usually sane people ask the religion or caste of a victim before deciding if they are sickened by his brutal murder.

My musings on this mystery intensified during a visit to Berlin two weeks ago. It was my first visit to this city so I spent my time there doing the usual tourist things and was surprised to discover that these mostly included Jewish memorials and museums. It was almost impossible to go anywhere without being reminded in some way of what Hitler did to the Jews.

The first place I was told to visit was the Jewish memorial near the Brandenburg Gate that is an endless expanse of grey concrete tombs. Then I visited a permanent exhibition that exists on a section of what used to be the Berlin wall, that tells in black and white pictures the story of what happened here when the Nazis ruled and the consequences of the evil they wrought when the war ended. So pervasive is the presence of this city’s brutal history that when I dined in a restaurant in the old Jewish quarter, I was reminded that it was once a school for Jewish girls.

At the end of my stay in Berlin I found myself wondering if the historic grievances between Hindus and Muslims in India could not best be solved by remembrance. Hindus believe that now that there is a Hindu Prime Minister instead of the secular kind, it is their time to avenge the wounds of history. The Prime Minister and his chief ministers seem to understand this sentiment, so they have been shamefully silent in the face of every new lynching.

When they have spoken against the cow vigilante lynchings, their words have been so mild and so ambiguous that it has become difficult to know if they secretly support what the vigilantes are doing. Whenever I have spoken to RSS leaders they have admitted honestly that they like the fact that Hindus are no longer afraid to kill Muslims. What comes through in these conversations is rage mixed with a deep grievance.

In Muslim communities from Kashmir to Kerala there is today fear, anger and an alienation that I personally have never seen before. I say this as someone who spent my reporting years covering communal riots whenever they happened, and in those ‘secular’ times major riots happened at least once a year.

But, when they ended, there was a sad sort of closure and everyone went back to the normal business of living. This closure is no longer possible because after every lynching we wait for the next and the next. And when it happens, Hindutva types spew venom against the media for daring to pay too much attention only because the victims are Muslims.

So some kind of closure has become necessary and I believe that it can come from remembering history rather than erasing it. The vehicle of remembrance is something that the Prime Minister needs to work on, but he could begin by holding a conference of major religious leaders from all our major religions. To this conference should be invited not just faith leaders but leaders of political, social and cultural organisations. Get them all to define the way forward. Let the historians come as well, from both the left and the right, and let them highlight the erasures and the lies that government historians have told in the name of secularism.

This is only one way of beginning the process of remembrance. There must be others and they need to be discussed in every forum if we are to stop these hate crimes from multiplying to such a degree that India will once more become vulnerable to being broken for the sake of someone’s faith.

Written by: Tavleen Singh

—Courtesy “Indian Express”