The scene of violence in the name of emotive issues has been continuously throwing new patterns of instigating and orchestrating violence. In recent times we saw the major violence following the demolition of Babri Mosque (1992), Godhra train burning (Gujarat carnage 2002), murder of a Swami (Kandhamal 2008), on the pretext of love Jihad (Muzzafarnanger 2013) among others. The gross pattern seems to be to spread hatred against sections of society and unleash the hate, which gets converted in to violence. In last couple of years, what has dominated the scene of violence has been the accusations related to slaughter of cows, beginning with horrifying murder of Mohammad Akhlaq down to the killing of Junaid, Cow-beef have been used as a ‘weapon of hate’. In this very series follows the Bulandshahr killings of two men, one of them being a Hindu police officer.

This tragedy goes on to show the underbelly of communal violence, which in due course brings into its orbit not only the religious minorities but people from the majority religion also. As such the violence does not involve much killing of majority community, though they also suffer in small number. In this case, in Bulandshahr, we see the major victim is not only a Hindu but an officer of the state police. While full details are yet to come out with SIT probing, whatever can be gleaned from the media reports is frightening enough.

In beginning of December 2018 a large congregation of Muslims, Ijtema, took place in Bulandshahar. The congregation had participation of Muslims, by rough count of around fifty lakhs. These religious congregations do keep taking place in different parts of the country. Nearly seventy Kilometers away from the place of this congregation, in village Siyana of Bulandshahar, this incidence came to notice. It seems someone had thrown the remains of a slaughtered cow in an agricultural filed. The villagers noticed carcass, reported it to police, which planned to initiate the action as per law. As the carcass was being taken away in the tractor, some 40-50 youth from outside descended on the village and took charge of tractor. As per some reports the beef was thrown in the field by those belonging to Bharatiya Janta Morcha andBajrang dal. Reports by some journalists, report (video) shows that the whole incident was orchestrated by outsiders.

The youth took the tractor to the police station, lodged the FIR and created ruckus. Yogesh Raj, local Chief of Bajrang Dal, who lodged the FIR, was booked as the prime accused in the incident. Various versions are in the air. What followed led to the death of Inspector Subodh Singh in a brutal manner. Sudarshan TV’s, Suresh Chavanhke, the right wing channel close to RSS, tried to link up the violence to the Muslims-Itjema. As per Chavanke’s tweet the violence was indulged in by the Muslims participating in Itjema. This was countered by the police authorities who tweeted that the incident had nothing whatsoever to do with the Itjema, which was at a place far away and was a peaceful event.

Many other theories also started being thrown up. One being that one Jitendra Malik, who is part of Rashtriya Rifles posted in Kashmir, was present on the spot and was the culprit of the violence. His elder brother denied the charge and promised to prove the innocence of his brother. Malik was brought back from his duty in Kashmir, but nothing much seems to have been proven about his complicity. The usual question is who did it? Before that let’s see the very revealing facts related to the Inspector, SHO, who as per his sister was killed in a planned manner. Subodh Singh was the one who had investigated the Mohammad Akhlaq case leading to arrest of many culprits. It is said that it was he “who always took the right stand especially on Hindu-Muslim issues”. Probably he was not letting Hindutva groups to have their divisive ways. The local unit of BJP related organizations had written to the officials demanding transfer of Singh. The other highlights related to the incident are mixed, disturbing and appreciable both types. One is that many of those who had come to attend Ijtema were sheltered in the Shiva Temple. SHO Singh’s teenager son appealed for peace and harmony in the area. He said "I would appeal to the entire country, please stop Hindu-Muslim violence. People get violent at the slightest provocation. People should understand and think that they are bound by the law." In response the DSP in a moving face book post stated “I salute Abhishek who even after losing his father is not speaking the language of hatred and violence,”

On the other side the Chief minister of UP, Mr. Adityanath, in the aftermath of this tragedy commented that incidents related to Cow slaughter are increasing and need to be curbed. This ‘Cow-Primacy’ got reflected in the statement of BJP MP who advised the investigating team to examine whether SHO came under attack as he failed to check the cow slaughters and cow smuggling! The murder of Singh a serving police official is relegated to second place in Yogi-BJP scheme of things. These are disturbing signs of times where the politics is being dictated by Modi-Yogi, in which emotive issues are taking precedence over human lives, which does not disturb them so far as these serve their political agenda of polarization!

Meanwhile the sense of insecurity is reigning supreme in the village, where the incident took place. The villagers who repeatedly affirmed that their village had braved all the communal incidents like Babri Demolition violence Muzzafarnagar violence, etc. is now fearing for their safety, feeling insecure in the places where they have been living in peace in decades.

In the trajectory of patterns of violence, Bulanshahr is yet another pattern of probably a planned violence, where the major victim can be from majority community itself; yet another victim of cow politics!

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

He returns to people’s thoughts wherever love, freedom and truth are assailed

Literature vs Traffic, an art installation by Luzinterruptus Michigan Photography

No installation will make him look dated and embarrassing, not even the ridiculous official caricature of him only as a pair of glasses for promoting some pet ideas of those who are brought up despising him

When historical narratives become semantic beggars, anecdotes help in lighting up collective memory. Some years back, I was in Berlin. This was the post-perestroika and unified Berlin. As I was walking outside the grand buildings of Berlin University, where Karl Marx had been a student a century-and-a-half ago, I noticed a curious installation. This was just outside the university library. It was designed to take one by complete surprise and shock. On the pavement, as one walked, one suddenly saw a small cavity covered in glass. It was the size of a cellar, or a war-field bunker. Inside it, there was some light, but not bright enough to show at once what was inside. As one peered into the dimly lit room under the glass roof, one noticed a single shelf of books, with no books on it. Perhaps, just one or two books were on the shelf, lying lifeless. The inscription placed next to the glass surface read, “This is the place where Adolf Hitler burnt books of many thinkers in May 1932 after dragging them out of the library.” The inscription brought home the brutality of the regime that took pride in attacking free thought. The installation was an apt statement for the tradition of Marx brutalised by Hitler.

The eloquent installation has remained in my memory as an unforgettable experience. It suddenly surfaced again when sometime ago I walked past a similar installation. This time, it was in Michigan, a bastion of free thought, fighting to preserve its identity in the present regime in the United States of America. This installation, created by the little-known Luzinterruptus arts-collective in Spain, was made up of 10,000 books spread on Liberty Street. They were opened, as if someone had been reading them, but was only halfway through. Many of them were children’s stories, some about text and design and some travellers’ tales. But the larger bulk included books of philosophy. The inscription placed coyly on one side said, “You are welcome to walk over these books, take them away and do what you like with them.” For any book lover, the scene was painful. It brought home with utmost clarity that the phrase ‘post-truth’ means an utter contempt for ideas.

A day after I had passed by the installation in Michigan, the American television channels were reporting how pipe-bombs had been delivered at the CNN office and the residences of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The analysts were unanimous in claiming that this was a moment when the entire nation must condemn in one voice and a joint communiqué be issued to warn the ones who had dispatched those lethal things. They also pointed out that probably it was Donald Trump’s tirade against the democrats that had emboldened the perpetrator to use such violent devices. One would have expected some shade of remorse in Trump’s statement on the horrifying incident. There was none, though, when he actually spoke. Rather, he used the tone of a scolding school teacher and reprimanded Obama and Clinton, “No one should carelessly compare political opponents to historical villains”. This was exactly like Narendra Modi responding to violence involved in mob-lynching or attacks on suspected beef-eaters. Capitalism had many ills; but it had a certain ethical decorum. The post-truth political regimes have turned capitalism more naked by throwing away even the pretence that capitalistic democracy had of being based on consent and dialogue. Criticism and questioning have become bad words in the post-truth crony capitalism of the Trumps and Modis of the world. Obviously, books are here to be trampled upon.

A related anecdote that comes to my mind is about the Kasturba memorial in the Aga Khan Palace in Pune. Kasturba Gandhi died there when she, Gandhi and Mahadev Desai were imprisoned in it at the height of the Second World War and the Quit India movement. Recently, I had the privilege of hosting a large conference in Pune in which writers from 87 countries participated. I thought it would be a good idea to bring the writers to the Kasturba memorial, and so I did. I had imagined that these writers from far-off countries would look at the place, have a few photographs and then would want to leave. To my surprise, they suggested that they would like to sit down on the ground and observe silence as a tribute to Gandhi and Kasturba. The genuine respect and love they inspire even among those who are complete strangers to their work and ideas is phenomenal.

Although Hitler was younger than Gandhi by some 20 years, the two can be seen as contemporaries dominating the world-stage. It was approximately at the same time that Hitler burnt the books and Gandhi defied the colonial salt law and chose to be jailed. It was the same time when Gandhi came up with his idea of ‘civil disobedience’ as a statement of one’s moral courage in the face of injustice and Hitler started demanding ‘complete obedience’ towards the supreme leader. Hitler justified and promoted violence in every form, Gandhi devoted himself to preaching non-violence. Hitler made propaganda the basis of his continued right to dominate, Gandhi spoke of truth as the path towards freedom.

It is an irony of history that the world is celebrating the 150th year of Gandhi’s birth, 2018-19, precisely when the tendencies for which Hitler was known have started characterising rulers in many countries. Was Gandhi’s idea of truth so fragile that the world would forsake it not long after his death? The writers gathered in Pune brought home to me poignantly that Gandhi is still seen by the larger humanity, irrespective of one’s nation, creed, language and race, as the prophet of freedom. He returns to people’s thoughts wherever love, freedom and truth are assailed. The post-truth era in history will no doubt make him sound as relevant as he was in the times of colonialism and Hitler’s festival of violence. No installation will make him look dated and embarrassing, not even the ridiculous official caricature of him only as a pair of glasses for promoting some pet ideas of those who are brought up despising him.

The author is a literary critic and a cultural activist

e.mail : ganesh_devy@yahoo.com

courtesy : “The Telegraph”, 07 December 2018


Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features