Sunday, January 29, 2023
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Lies are the staple of every communal disturbance and Delhi riots are no different

In our bid to recover from Delhi riots, it is important that we recognize them as a deep psychic wound, and not just a body blow.

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When one wants to write about riots in India words fail. Whatever you want to say about a riot, it would seem, has already been said, including possible headlines. Even book titles. They’ve all been used and reused many times, in one form or another. ‘Riot after riot’ or ‘Anatomy of a riot’, for instance. The former being the title of a 1991 book by M.J. Akbar. In those days he loathed and reviled the RSS, blaming it for riots in India. Today, he would call it differently.

Of course, times have changed. And with the times, the blame-game too. But one line lingers in my mind from Akbar’s book. “Lies are the staple of every communal disturbance,” he had observed.

Indeed, the shocking evidence of stockpiles of weapons, including crude bombs, country-made firearms, and lethal projectiles exposes the lies in the “spontaneous uprising” theory. Hundreds of empty cartridges and rounds of gunfire, with over 80 sustaining bullet injuries and a body-count of 42. Planned and purposed disturbances to coincide with US President Donald Trump’s India visit?

It is against such lies that I write this column. Those lies, sedulous or seductive, that we allow to creep into our souls. The lies that corrupt and contaminate both our polity and civil society.

As also, our individual lives and our precious conscience, which is blunted, deadened or destroyed by them. Nothing is unholier or more hideous than such lies. Lies that corrode our very beings.

Even the emotions that accompany lies get tainted. Emotions, such as rage or fear, hatred or revenge, stripped of sympathy or compassion. Of what worth are such emotions? Or empty words that accompany them?

Also read: Misplaced anger: How media became punching bag for doing its duty — reporting Delhi riots

A partition within the country

The picture of a city divided, so movingly flashed on national television, remains stuck in our mental screens.

Under the Jaffrabad Metro flyover in Delhi, a barrier divided two communities, Hindus and Muslims. Like a border or boundary right within our own country. An internal partition in the capital of the nation.

Mobs on each side of the partition pelting stones, bricks, rocks, and other dangerous projectiles at one another; the police chasing one group now, another group then; smoke and dust engulf the surroundings; acrid flames of burning tyres; shops shutters down, but still set afire; a menacing, muscular man brandishing a country revolver pointing it at a law-enforcement officer. Across the barrier, shots going off at random and petrol bombs flung from rooftops.

Right next to a young female reporter, who is repeatedly asked her name, lies a dead body in the middle of the street, left abandoned, unclaimed. Someone’s son or, perhaps, father. Mutilated. Or charred beyond recognition.

All this was happening nowhere else but in one’s own city. So lived in and loved. Home to close to twenty million souls.

Also read: Hardest journey Babu Khan ever made, carrying bodies of his two sons killed in Delhi riots

When my city burned

As a Delhiite and citizen of India, I too am stunned and shell-shocked as my city — one of the world’s great, historic capitals, the site of ancient civilisations and the heart of a modern republic — limps back to normalcy after a devastating outbreak of dreadful violence.

Over forty persons dead. Both Hindus and Muslims, almost in equal measure. What is worse is the horror of several unidentified dead, in fact, close to a third of them, listed simply as “unknown”. Why “unknown”? Shouldn’t they have the dignity of being called Indians? Or will we start asking for papers of the dead? And what about the manner of their slaughter? Physical assault, stabbing, gunshots, stone-pelting: the official terminology cannot hide the disgust and inhumanity of our own acts, which resulted in their untimely deaths.

This is what we have done to each other. Let us get out of this atrocious blame-game that has now engulfed us. Let us take responsibility for what happened. No one should try to escape blame for the Delhi atrocities. Instead, let us all own up to our misdemeanours, whoever we may be — ministers, lawmakers, politicians, policemen, journalist, analyst, intellectuals, commentators, agent provocateurs, paid arsonists, assassins, professional agitators, neighbourhood musclemen, casual combatants, amateur rioters, unwitting participants or ordinary Delhiites. All those who had both something to gain and something to lose. Both perpetrators and victims. Accomplices and witnesses. Active contributors and passive onlookers. Social media crusaders and unorganised hate-mongers. Let us all admit to our own share of responsibility.

Riots, like wars, begin in the minds of men. But their cure lies not in men’s minds, but in their hearts. It is hearts that we must try to heal.

Also read: Under political pressure or a scapegoat? Where Delhi Police chief Amulya Patnaik went wrong

Nothing right about a riot

Even as we try to recover from this riot, we must recognise the deep psychic wounds, not just body blows it leaves behind. To nurse and repair our divided city, we must first remove animosity from both our hearts and minds. We must also deplore those who incite hatred, whatever their reasons or justifications may be. Mutual recriminations, retaliation, mimetic acts of viciousness or violence — all these need to stop forthwith, regardless of which side we are on politically or ideologically.

The state must maintain law and order. It must protect the lives and properties of its citizens.

We must rise as one to take our stance against such riots as we have witnessed. “Riot” may well half-rhyme with the word right, but there’s nothing in the least that is right about it. It is all wrong, from start to finish. It is unacceptable in today’s India. It must not be allowed to fester or explode again. That is the message that we must shout out loud as Indians.

The author is a Professor and Director at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. His Twitter handle is @makrandparanspe. Views are personal.

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  1. Loss of more than 40 lives is tragic. These immortal lines from the film Pyaasa ring in my years.

    Zara is mulk ke rahabaron ko bulaao
    Yeh kooche yeh galiyan yeh manzar dikhaao
    Jinhen naaz hai hind par unko laao
    Jinhe naaz hai hind par woh kahan hain
    Kahan hain, kahan hain, kahan hain

  2. ‘‘I can’t use my brains to question the Quran as it’s a word of God.’’ Close my eyes and ears and my brains. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

  3. First and foremost, it is important to understand the root causes of this issue. Otherwise, we will be looking at preparing for the symptoms and the issue will continue to RE-appear. I was once a very accepting person and I became a member of a whatsapp group. Mind you, this is a group of the alumni of one of the leading schools of India. There in, there were 10-15 guys spewing venom against each other. I did my research and shifted my stance.

    A senior, in another conversation, explained it simply. Once there was a Hindu, a Christian, a Jain, a Buddhist, a Jew and someone who didn’t believe in any religion sitting and discussing. A new guy came with a long beard. These guys said, there are all types here – you also sit down. And so he did. Soon after, he started spewing what he had been taught in the holiest of his text. When others started discussing, he said it was not up for discussion and he had a personal right to follow what he believed in. He then got 2-3 more and then started demanding his rights. Soon after, he invited 4-5 more and once he was in majority, the whole rhetoric changed. Now it was accept or die.

    I will not say a word about what’s correct or incorrect in the religion we call Islam but encourage the people to not spread lies and do their own research. It takes a simple google query and you will have so much material as a tonne of people are educating others on what we are facing as a world civilisation. Even the seemingly moderate moderate Muslims – those standing up for the pro CAA piece are telling their own kind that it is not yet time and they are still in minority in India. They haven’t changed their faith and nor will they tolerate any questions about the holiest of the holy – the Quran however liberal they may sound. So you can’t question it, you can’t disrespect it and there is a proper way it is supposed to be implemented. The three stages as laid out by Muhammed.

    Also, just type Muhammed – Uncle – Lord Shiva in Google and you will come to know a lot about the so called Prophet and how he came to power. And this, is exactly what his followers are doing. Wake up and don’t go by a group which puts its weaker sections in front to generate sympathy while they get behind and kill.

    In summary, never attack but know how to defend.

    Ps: the comment about the liberal Muslims – all they will say is the guy who commented on this is mad. But have a look. And see their silent support for years and years given to the warriors who kill. And then these guys come in and say, they don’t know Islam. Do your research and read about the filth that is there in Quran. Don’t take my word for it. Just read about the so called peaceful religion and make your own opinion.

  4. So sad at the saffron washing commentary – there is no “both sides”. To pretend that Muslims in vulnerable areas were stockpiling weapons because they want to riot is a fantasy from Amit Shah’s febrile mind. It is obvious to many that the machinery of the state is against them, the police will act as a colonising power, and there is no hope of help from the state when they are attacked. It is easy for Mr. Paranjpe to forget Godhra – but Muslims cannot, and us HIndus with a conscience – and a real sense of dharm – cannot pretend there is no link. So Mr. Paranjpe – please stop your own lies. Own the systemic concerns- and if you are to speak, maybe some reflection why your institution which helps educate our bureaucrats has done such a shoddy job when vast swathes of the nation do not trust them to be minimally competent.

  5. Dear Makarandji, I known you as someone who is a disciple of sri aurobindo and the mother, but this article has proved to me that you have not understood them. The reasone why I have to be so harsh to you is because how can you forget what sri aurobindo has written in essays of the gita about violent side of our existance; – the mother goddess kali, shiva in the rudra form or krishna as kaalosmi in mahabharata.

    How can you be so blind to the persistant provocation by one community for almost 2 months and say both sides should share responsibility. Your appeal for peace and love has total lack of deeper understanding of human psychology let alone the aurobindonian psychology. This is not to say that I want violence or sri aurobindo favoured violence but it has to be seen as it is rather than loath over it and have meek and impotent appeals for peace. Peace is hard to earn and hardest to keep. First let us diagnose what is wrong. One community is fed constant lies on CAA and NRC, they are constantly made to sympathise with pakistani majority people than Indian nationals, they are made to feel the exclusion of pakistani muslims as their own exclusion. Here, their connection and brotherhood to pakistani majority is made more palpable than their own indian hindus. This attempt is the real cuase of festering hate, lake of trust and even riots. First we have to correct those deeper fissures of identity before dreaming of mercy, pity, peace or love. Meanwhile let mahakali act swiftly and clear the road for the work of mahalakshmi and maheshwari. Don’t shy away from this aspect of cosmic purusha.

    Riots were bound to happen given the forces in play in our county as of now. Let’s pray to bhavani bharati to awaken the real spirit and consciousness of oneness in all indians and whole humanity- the only true oneness, the oneness of the spirit, the vedantic atman. And that oneness doesn’t shy away from violent side of our existence.

    • The communists , congress, christians, muslims have equated their hate of BJP with hate of Hindus.

  6. Pious words do not stop vile plots to instigate the minorities by vested interests. What is needed is the steely resolve of the state to go after the conspirators ruthlessly, irrespective of which academic, media, NGO or political position they occupy.

    • Muslims and muslims alone and their misguided blcoades based on lies about CAA is responsible for the riots. No one else.

  7. Well said, Professor. You are absolutely right in saying ,’ It must not be allowed to fester or explode again. ”
    but if you can, please covey to Mr Modi and Mr Shah that they are the supreme leaders, if they wished not a single untoward incident could have happen in Delhi.
    And look at MR Shah in Kolkata’s rally , he seems very much eager for another bush fire . The tone, the language and the intentions are not exactly the same, you wish to have.
    And in Delhi Modi friendly Media showed heavy arms and ammunition in Tahir Hussain’s house. it’s surely an act of destruction, but in Delhi riot Muslim owned houses, shops, school and Durgah also burned to ashes, was that, happened with out using petrol bomb, desi Kattas ? was someone chanted a Mantra and everything got Bhasm in a second ?
    So, please mentioned equally that the, goons came chanting Jai Shriram and killed, stabbed, looted Muslim localities. Unless and until people like you keep stop short of naming Right side the scene, In the name of Shanti March along with Kapil Mishra people will again and again come on streets and shout slogans like Desh ke gaddaron ko…and Modi Modi ke samman main Deshbhakta Maidan main…
    Please accept the fact that, We have a dangerous disease, and with out acceptance there is no solution.
    You are in a noble profession, please uphold values it posess so dearly.

  8. The writer is trying to be like Mahatma Gandhi. The riots are not new to India. If riots are to be discouraged then all those who planned and played in to it must be flushed out and punished in court of law expeditiously. But first punish the Nirbhaya convicts.

  9. Keep carpeting the forest floor with twigs and dried leaves, then do not be surprised if all that kindling comes to life with a spark.

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