As a woman, when I’m driving down Delhi’s roads late at night, every time I see a police patrol car, I feel safe. But the problem is my gender is not my only identity. I am a Muslim too. And today in India, as a Muslim woman, I think about the safety I have in my own city the minute my religion is known.
Following the communal clashes in North Delhi’s Jahangirpuri that took place on Hanuman Jayanti, 21 arrests have been made so far, of which an overwhelming majority are Muslims (16). Police have gone after VHP and Bajrang Dal and also disclosed that no permission was given for the procession. Usha Rangani, DCP North-West, said the police found three firearms and five swords from the possession of the main accused — Ansar and Aslam.
Amid this flare up and the crackdown, I have a question. In India, is it allowed to brandish shotguns, pistols, swords and baseball bats in a religious procession? Because if it is not, why have we not seen swift action against all such participants of the procession?
Something similar was witnessed in Karnataka.
Police officers in the state have admitted, though anonymously, that Hindutva organisations deliberately tried to turn up in front of mosques in Kalaburagi and Raichur, blaring music on loudspeakers with communally provocative lyrics, all the while brandishing swords.
But police have, by and large, acted with reluctance in all such cases recently when it comes to thwarting these attempts at stirring emotions. Something that’s bound to hurt a particular community.
This article is not about police brutality, although it can be. But because Muslims asking for their rights in today’s India is too much, I’ll simply make this about police apathy. The Muslim experience with the upholders of law and order.
What if a Jahangirpuri-like procession was taken out by Muslims, with provocative music being played in front of temples and young men in the ‘party’ carrying swords and pistols? Would the police stand by and watch? I, as a citizen, would expect arrests. But clearly, in all of this, the scales of injustice are weighing towards one side.
Unless you’re living under a rock or you are deeply Islamophobic, you’ll feign ignorance and pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. I will still present scenarios to drive home the point.
A religious procession called Shobha Yatra is en route in North Delhi’s Jahangirpuri, with young men and some minors carrying pistols, shotguns, swords and baseball bats. The police are standing-by, overseeing this procession. Stone pelting breaks out. 21 people are arrested, 16 of which are Muslims.
BJP’s Mandir Prakoshth head, Karnail Singh raises slogans of “Jisko Is Desh Mein Rehna Hoga, Jai Sri Ram Kehna Hoga (If you want to live in this country, you must say Jai Sri Ram)” right outside the mosque which was the epicentre of the violence that started in Jahangirpuri just a day ago on 16 April. Police simply escorts him away from the area despite his actions intending to spread communal disharmony.
One more example. A Ram Navami procession is taking place in Madhya Pradesh’ Khargone district, under ‘strict’ police vigil. As per on-ground sources, Khargone’s Muslim-dominated area Talab Chowk saw an argument break out between the police and one of the participants of the procession right before the communal flare up. But the police did not arrest this person. A rumour was spread thereafter that police were not allowing the procession to pass from the Muslim dominated area which led to the clashes. Misinformation was spread within the participants of the Ram Navami procession and nobody was punished or held accountable for it. Why?
Later, houses, shops, eateries and buildings of Muslims are bulldozed to send a message to alleged “rioters” who had stone-pelted the Ram Navami procession. Though some Hindu properties were also bulldozed, it is the Muslims who majorly faced the brunt of the State. Madhya Pradesh home minister Narottam Mishra, soon after the Khargone clashes, says, “Jis ghar se patthar aaye hain, us ghar ko hi pattharon kaa dher banayenge (The houses from where stones were pelted will be turned into rubble).”
Social media is abuzz with videos showing both sides of the Khargone story. Without saying which one is wrong or right, it needs barely one brain cell for anyone to realise that only one side can’t be wrong. If one side was provoked, the other was the provocateur. But only one side sees law taking action?
Are we now at a stage where all-encompassing power lies with those who are known as politicians while the police stand by as mere spectators, just following orders? Because I’m not sure if law and order is now only reserved for minorities while the majority can get away with almost anything.
The author is a political observer who tweets @zainabsikander. Views are personal.