A woman walks past the burnt tyre market in Gokulpuri, Delhi | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
A woman walks past the burnt tyre market in Gokulpuri, Delhi | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
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Evil has many names. Some of the ones we have heard in the past few days are: northeast Delhi violence, communal violence, riots, clashes, gang war and the latest addition, pogrom. The only question here is, what’s in a name?

Not much.

As the Delhi violence death toll reaches 34, Indians are also reaching a point of losing perspective. Several activists and echo chamber-loving academics are lost in needless debate, on whether they should refer to the violence as a riot or as a pogrom. But how does it matter when even one life lost is one life too many?


Also read: Delhi riots neither designed by Modi govt, nor Islamic conspiracy. It’s far more dangerous


Academic jargon is privilege of few

To focus on anything else other than recuperation and justice is downright disrespectful to the people who lost their lives and those who lost their livelihood when shops and houses were burnt down.

Fighting on the terminology of this horrific event is really not the need of the hour. While it is true that the state reeks of willful inaction and the Delhi Police has been rightly accused of allowing and abetting the violence, engaging in academic jargon (one which is accessible and understood by only a few elites) to spell out the same is really not the best way to create awareness among people about state-backed violence.


Also read: The Delhi pogrom 2020 is Amit Shah’s answer to an election defeat


Tell that to Fatima and Rashid

The dictionary definition of a pogrom is a “mob attack, either approved or condoned by authorities, against the persons and property of a religious, racial, or national minority”. Try explaining that to Fatima, an old woman from Khajuri Khas whose sole source of livelihood, a fruit cart, was destroyed in the riots.

What also bugs me about the word ‘pogrom’ (as much as the meaning itself) is that I had to google it for ‘political correctness’.

Debating on the terminology of such a polarising incident perfectly encapsulates the classic trap that India’s intellects and liberals constantly fall into. They live in a bubble, far removed from the riots. Their jargon is only reserved for those comfortable with abstract papers grounded in complex theory. Trust academia to make itself even more difficult to understand in times of distress. It is of no use to Mohammed Rashid whose house was burned down by a mob in Ashok Nagar.


Also read: Gujarat 2002 was independent India’s first full-blooded pogrom. Delhi 1984 was a semi-pogrom


Cherry on cake

Another example that proves academia is removed from reality is academic Ashutosh Varshney referring to the 1984 Sikh riots as a “semi-pogrom” in a 2002 essay. Was it not eerie enough to qualify as a ‘complete pogrom’? I don’t think Bhagwanti, who lost 11 relatives that fateful night in 1984, could care any less.

As this needless debate of whether it is a riot or a pogrom goes on, on Twitter, we will find that more Muslims have died, their houses and livelihood gutted. With fake news and viral videos of the tragedy piling up, we certainly don’t need academic jargon to take the cherry on top of the cake. It is time to log out of your Twitter account and engage in a language useful, yet accessible to all, at least in times of distress.

And for the record, it is most definitely a pogrom.

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10 Comments Share Your Views

10 COMMENTS

  1. The reality is 35 people are dead and crores of rupees lost. We will never know who the organizers were. Only low level goons deployed will be caught, that too just the stupid ones who did not cover their faces either to impress their bosses or display their heroism.
    Who gained from this mayhem and how ?
    Did Modi Government / BJP gain ? if Yes how.
    Was it the opposition that gained ? if yes How.
    Was anyone trying to pressurize the judiciary for influencing the out come pronouncements of the 9 Judge bench which takes up sensitive issues, besides the CAA, NRC etc.
    But one thing for sure the western media had a field day through their agents in India.One only needs to follow a specific Indian channel to know what the western media and Sanders has to say. We have our own, outside India who are called the left, liberal intellectuals basically indulging in India bashing and more so since the present dispensation has come to power.
    All of us reading the PRINT are privileged ones and are unlikely to ever go to the streets. The best we can do is to think and if anyone of has an idea of managing without measuring it could help the country of 140 crores to run with individuals without any identity. NO AADHAR NO NRC

  2. This was no riot or clash. Even usually “neutral” or pro-establishment journalists have testified to the fact that they were asked to prove that they were Hindus. Any one who still says that it was a riot (which implies violence from both sides) is either totally brain-washed or is deliberately twisting the truth. Names do matter because that helps us demand justice. Yes, the dead and their kin don’t care what spin Shah is now trying to give to the matter but justice is something that even the dead would want.

  3. This article is symptomatic of distrust among masses being created against academia and intellectual life in general. Elitism within intellectual institutions is a chronic problem, and needs to be called out and addressed. However, it cannot be denied that much of anti-intellectual propaganda is aimed at silencing critical voices of resistance.

    And yes, it matters whether you call it a riot or a pogrom. Because language plays a vital role as to how truth is presented and registered.

    When media platforms try to act ‘neutral’ by calling it a riot and not a pogrom, and thus shielding the perpetrators within the ruling establishment, it is upto the academics and intellectuals to call out this dishonesty and cowardice, albeit by debating over the term to be used.

    While media across the globe has reported the unfortunate incidents rightly as “state-sponsored anti-Muslim mob violence by a Fascist government”, our own media finds it more convenient to publish such crudely rhetorical articles based on false equivalency rather than to grow a spine and speak truth to the power.

  4. I have to laugh at the stupidity of people thinking ‘liberals’ can plan this. Liberals cant even tie their shoelaces. anything to deflect attention for Amit Sha’s ineptitude eh?

    • Objective is achieved and the intended message has been sent. Concerned populace has started to move out of the area. The gains will be consolidated for the next elections. The leadership is hopeful for the future.

  5. liberals are now panicking as the whole sinister plot that begins from opposing a humanitarian law is coming out in the open. Make no mistake more damage has been suffered by Hindus, hence urgent need to term a riot as pogrom.

  6. Academicians of politics and social sciences are at most times disconnected from the real societal realities. Nothing new in that. The question about debating over the “right terminology” is testament to the narrow mindedness of most academicians. No wonder people question formal education many a times.

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