Appease: accede to demands of. Appeasement: concession, pacification, assuaging upset feeling. Posted February 2020 was a piece “Is Shaheen Bagh a ‘Clash of Civilization’ Between Hindu and Muslim Identity?” It merits a riposte.
Below I paraphrase the writer, and ask my questions, to get at what lies under the bellicose verbosity.
The writer says “the Hindu identity…is no longer willing to live under a baggage of centuries of appeasement…facing opposition from the ‘other’ who can’t accept…?”
In the very framing of the proposition, he reveals prejudice, presupposes a “Hindu identity…under baggage of centuries of appeasement, opposition from the ‘other’ who can’t accept this new identity”.
When you address a proposition with the foregone determinant that your identity is living under the baggage of centuries of appeasement, you begin with exclusion, having already concluded the debate in your biased mind. And this “new identity”: aiming to create a subjugated second-class citizen tier: can anyone honouring India’s Constitution justifiably accept such an exclusionist, anti-pluralism, anti-minority, aggressive, Constitution-denigrating identity?
The Congress has allegedly been appeasing Muslims, described as “the other”. Firstly, India’s independence happened in 1947, so seventy-odd years do not make the “centuries” the writer preposterously postulates. Second, Muslims are ab initio positioned as “the other” therefore not from “us”. Case closed! Of what value is bigotry masquerading as scholarship?
Religious riots over two hundred years are mentioned in passing calling partition the biggest genocide, the memory of which, says the writer, hasn’t left us. “Us”, mind you! This, he says, is where “the Hindu psyche” is no longer willing to appease for the sake of secularism. (Do Hindus subscribe to this alleged collective psyche, or only anti-minority political aggressors?!)
From inquiring how many mining leases and industrial licences granted to Muslims, how many political seats, we have now to inquire how many Muslims can rent or buy any property! Exclusion is reality, deprivation and denial of rights is a reality. Amazing appeasement, right? When did this “Hindu psyche appease”, whether for secularism or any other ism, and whom, except politically protected minority-bashers whom the law invariably fails to prosecute? If for centuries Muslims were appeased, how come they are at the lowest levels of societal, economic and political prominence, education et al (Sachar), and if “Hindus” are “slaves”, whose slaves are they, if not of expedient mindsets?
“The Hindu of today thinks of his survival first and is being self-preservative”, claims the sanctimonious writer. Can the Muslim of today not think with equal justification of his survival? Or is allowing him to think that, “appeasement”?
He cites defining moments: Tiananmen Square man facing tank; white scarf of Plaza de Mayo mothers asking Argentina’s police for their missing sons; self-immolating monk facing Burmese firing squad. To the biased writer, Shaheen Bagh’s dadi is not an icon but a con. Indian Muslims protesting Constitutional authority acting repressively against “the other” is, however, objectionable. To jaundiced eyes, Muslims are not suppressed. Only appeased. If the Muslims are appeased, then those appeasing them must be Hindus. But, says the author, “After centuries of slavery, the Hindu seems on a path to renewal…”: The appeasers are themselves the slaves, never mind the contradictions!
The numerically fewer will still prevail, for one, with the law, is a majority. It is a majority for another reason: the majority among the majority is balanced and sensible, rejecting destructive, aggression-oriented, put-them-in-their-place majoritarianism: a political avatar, an antithesis of co-existence. The crowd exemplifying silent courage against brutal authority, protesting at Shaheen Bagh leverages Constitutional rights, represents citizens’ resistance against authority’s unconstitutional attempt to segregate, practise insidious camouflaged apartheid, isolate, and then annihilate. Pretence does not change fact.
What the people of Shaheen Bagh showed is silent courage against oppressive unconstitutional abuse of authority, defiant before hate-fuelling State-promoted legislative bias, seeking those violating the Constitution adhere to the principles, values and ideals that shaped the country, notwithstanding nefarious smugly arrogant misgovernance and malfeasance that shames those who point minorities towards either the border or the graveyard. In any system, a judiciary that looks away when it sees denial of rights, cannot but be seen as complicit.
The women and children at Shaheen Bagh did capture the imagination of the nation and the press, excluding maybe channels and papers receiving hand-outs. They did not come out of boredom, nor live meaningless lives. Nor for that matter is there any veil in their homes: if there is a veil it is over the writer’s mind. They came to make a statement, to shame authority selectively leveraging camouflaged repressive mechanisms, to face goli maaro saalon ko squads, to draw attention to the need for protecting their children from covert agenda of deprivation via sleight-of-hand plied under cloak of ostensibly innocuous legislation.
Quoting Eric Hoffer, the writer claims “Both in Nazi movement and those religions which frown upon feminine activity outside home, it is women, in early stages, who play the key role in coming out taking the place of men.” Just a minute, boy: whose idol is Hitler, yours or mine?
If there is a religion that “frowns upon feminine activity outside home”, it is not Islam, but another, not a religion per se but a political agenda cloaked in a religious colour: one that those who seek to suppress human rights of minorities subscribe to. When the Gita says: “And when immorality prevails, O Krishna, the women of the family become corrupted; when women are corrupted, social problems arise. (1.41)” does it suppress Hindu women, or seek to build a moral upright and wholesome society? What is good for you is bad for me, and you decide that? Wonderful.
Hitler is again approvingly quoted “…. ladies thirsting for adventure, sick of their empty lives…” revealing the writer’s admiration of the thinking that exterminated millions of Jews…the sick mind speaking words all ideologues claiming kinship find appealing.
He asks, “Why do women, who can’t show their face outside home, need permission of their men to venture out, want to lead a movement?” He assumes hundreds who came out to face imminent brutality of apartheidic exclusion and confinement camps, allegedly unable to leave home, suddenly acquired mysterious “permission” from their “men”, were so “permitted”: baseless conclusions of convenience interspersed with expedient “explanations” to prop up rubbish plied.
Paraphrasing what he quotes leads us to unpalatable truth: “pent-up frustration and humiliation of decades of exclusion and deprivation of political and civil rights, treating co-citizens as an “other”, an allegedly “external enemy”, perceptibly vulnerable because of biased executive actions and systemic judicially ignored injustices” is what drives even the weakest to a stance of resistance. Hit-and-run authors unwilling to recall and face responses of acclaimed intellectuals, Universities, world leaders, eminent speakers at United Nations, reveal underlying bias.
He asks, “Why do we see so many children put in the front line against the forces say in Kashmir, in Shaheen Bagh or in Palestine?” seeking to fabricate an insidious “link” of Shaheen Bagh with Israel opposing Palestine, seeking to concoct a connect with resistance in other places where Muslims are treated with hostility, buying into the Hindu Rashtra pursuers’ desire: Israel and Hindus must unite… against Muslims, projected as the common “other”.
“Who coaches them?” he asks. Proper question: What forces them, if not majoritarian power games politicians play? “Why do their parents leave them unprotected?” he asks. Truth: they don’t: they are forced to take along even children whom they cannot leave behind, taking protective risks as measures to prevent imminent planned genocidal exclusivist incarceration that authority has planned for those very children.
He says “his organization” (Swanchetan Society for Mental Health) worked with victims on being asked by NHRC, but his book Infidel Next Door relates “religious persecution and violence where original inhabitants (of Kashmir) resist religious conversion and struggle to keep their faith” (i.e., they fight forcible conversion), features Aditya, Hindu priest on a quest for justice for “his people”, Anwar, an imam’s son (linking masjid and Islam, to drive the point home) “who will stop at nothing to create an Islamic Kashmir”… leaving no doubt about where the man is coming from to “deliver an insight” into struggle between “plurality of Hinduism” and “monotheism of Islam”… never mind plurality contradicts only-Hindus-in-India…
He says major camps were swarming with international media personnel, vying to write about atrocities, exaggerating at times…but fails to quote a single exaggeration, carefully avoiding describing conditions at any camp. Did he file any complaint, when he knew the State being party “involved”, exaggerators would at the drop of a hat be barred, as were just about everyone who could matter from elsewhere post 370 abrogation? No.
To be continued.
Shafeeq R. Mahajir is a well-known lawyer based in Hyderabad