Pride and the nation

Muzaffarnagar is the district in Uttar Pradesh,India where riots broke out in August 2013.  A chilling account of the monstrous violence perpetrated during this riot was published in a weekly news magazine in December. It was disturbing to read the extent of brutality, bestiality and bloody human cruelty towards fellow villagers simply because they belonged to another religion and community.


What is it that makes men turn into monsters during such situations? How do they gather the nerve to raise a weapon, thrust it through another human, hack the bodies, sodomise them and burn them? It is a cruelty that no other species on earth heaps on their kind or other kinds. And after committing such abominable actions, how do these men live their lives as if nothing has happened. How do they conduct daily acts of labour and love among their families? How do their wives, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, who may be aware of their involvement in the killing and the raping sprees, live with them in peace?


Living in the comforts of my home, far removed from the scenes of these riots, keeps me insulated from a direct impact of the happenings there. But after reading the accounts of the riots, I am disturbed immensely and try as I might, cannot think of anything else. Rapes and riots has become so much a part of Indian society that for years one read about them in the papers and moved on. Until the most brutal of them all woke me up along with the rest of the nation. Nirbhaya’s courage in fighting till the end during her gang rape and afterwards in the hospital shook me up last December. For the first time in my life of fifty years I went on a protest march only so as to calm my nerves and channelize my rage and feeling of helplessness.


My heart goes out to the survivors of the riot: women, children and men in the relief camps who are now braving the cold harsh winter in addition to their already subhuman treatment at the hands of their attackers. Even as many others who have returned to their homes are making the enormous effort it must take to achieve some semblance of normality after such harrowing experience.


It is disturbing that political parties are pointing fingers at each other and rubbing salt in the wounds of the victims. In recent days the entire political class, government machinery and most of the media went into a rage over a woman diplomat’s strip search at the hands of law enforcement agencies following accusations of visa fraud in the US. It is devastating to know that the very same people among the political class, government and media remain untouched by the plight of the riot affected. The pride of the nation is seemingly hurt when an outsider so much as flicks it with a finger nail, but is presumed to remain intact when our own people stab it with knives and batons.


The people ofIndia, all of them – which ever class, caste, region, political affiliation – need to realise that the honour of our whole nation is violated when some of us turn into beasts and brutalize our women, children and men. Neither any attack by terrorists in current times nor invasion by armies of other nations in our long history has injured our pride or hurt our humanity more than our own pathetic inaction towards our own people’s attacks on their fellow citizens in the name of religion and/or caste.


The “Bharat Mata” we so reverently hail on each national occasion or political rally is engulfed in sorrow and shame over the brutal conduct of some of her people through decades since our independence. There have been riots and brutalities all overIndiasince 1947 till date. Some of us with intellectual attachments to different political ideologies or affiliations to different political parties like to compare different riots through the years in terms of scale and extent of brutality. Debates are conducted and columns written about which riot was bigger, more heinous, lasted longer and who is more to be blamed. A kind of “your riot is worse than mine” argument and often political game. The details of extent of damage, number of victims and position of people who instigate the riots are important and legally to be handled to see that the perpetrators are punished. But the damage done to our nation and its so-called pride is equal whether one person is brutalised by another in the name of religion or caste or gender or if 200 or 1000 people are brutalised. The extent of damage is more but the hurt to the nation is never less because a lesser number of people are affected. Unless we realise this and accept this we cannot change anything.


Every time we hail the mother who symbolises our nation and say “Bharat Mata Ki Jai,” the wounds on her body aggravate in pain, for our words are in complete divergence to our deeds. Those among us who brutalize others share a big portion of the blame. But the rest of us, who watch helplessly without raising our voices against such inhuman abominations that go unchecked and unpunished are almost equally to be blamed.

It is high time we Indians made serious efforts to inform and educate our own people to join hands and together fight against this beast of riots that is let loose by chance incidents or cruel machinations of a few against the vulnerable amongst us. It is time we formed a movement not unlike the movement against corruption: a movement for prevention and containment of riots. For only when we make efforts to stop the beast and neuter it forever can the social and spiritual health of our people and the pride of our nation be slowly repaired and restored.