Communalism

Amarnath and Junaid: The 3 Mistakes in Chetan Bhagat’s Thinking

It takes a special kind of nastiness to deploy victims of one tragedy as weapons against other victims, to see in two similar crimes not the common thread of justice but an opportunity to play political games.

A victim of the July 11 terrorist attack on Amarnath yatris recieves emergency medical treatment (Credit: PTI); the author Chetan Bhagat (Credit: Wikimedia); Junaid, the young Muslim boy who was stabbed to death on a train near Delhi in June. (Credit: Indian Express)

Chetan Bhagat is one of India’s biggest selling authors and a man who has his pulse on the ethos of the middle class. In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on a bus carrying Hindu pilgrims from Gujarat, he posted a vacuous tweet of such sweet-sounding reasonableness that it instantly drew thousands of retweets and likes:

But his logic also left some people astonished. When asked by @anirbanblah whether his tweet ‘helps our country and makes the world a better place’, Bhagat replied: “Happy to discuss. Am not blaming anyone. Just asking for consistency in treatment. And being factual.”

So lets just be factual. Did the media report that Junaid was targeted and killed for being Muslim? One section did, and was correct to do so. But another stuck to the line that the fight on the train which eventually took the young man’s life was over seats and had nothing to do with his religion. In fact, the police and Hindutva-oriented people on social media are still sticking to this stand – even though the statements of the survivors and the men arrested make it amply clear that Junaid and his co-travellers were targeted by ordinary passengers on the train and then brutally assaulted precisely because they were visibly Muslim. Since then, at least one more disturbing incident of a ‘visibly’ Muslim family being attacked on a train has been reported.

Let us now turn to the seven victims of the terrorist attack on the Amarnath Yatra bus. Immediate media accounts correctly identified them as yatris (i.e. Hindus) and later noted that the bus driver who ferried the remaining passengers to safety was a Muslim (thereby emphasising that his passengers were not). If there was any confusion over whether the passengers were targeted for being yatris, this is again the fault of the Jammu and Kashmir police (which reports to the BJP-PDP coalition government in the state) who told reporters that the terrorists first fired on a police jeep and then shot at the yatris’ bus as they made their getaway.

Even so, I saw no media report that said the victims were killed accidentally – because they were caught in some sort of cross-fire. The only people who said so on Twitter were a handful of Kashmiris in denial, who were rightly called out by former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah. But they are the Kashmiri counterparts of the Hindutva apologists who say Junaid was killed “merely” over a train seat, a tiny minority whose moral compass has been corrupted beyond repair.

Similarly, I saw no media report that said the victims were killed because they were ‘Gujarati’ or were travelling on a bus with Gujarat license plates. No sir. Media reports identified the victims as yatris, acknowledged that they were fired upon as such, and noted how this was the first time since 2000 that Hindu pilgrims had been targeted by terrorists in this fashion.

In fact, most media accounts went on to speculate about whether the killing was the handiwork of the new breed of militant in Kashmir who are inspired by the ideology of the Islamic State – which regards non-Muslims and even Muslims who deviate doctrinally from Salafi teachings to be fair targets for murder.

Given the manner in which the Amarnath killings have been reported, then, it is not clear what “consistency” Chetan Bhagat wants to see. Is he upset that the word ‘yatri’ was used instead of ‘Hindu’ to describe the victims, while Junaid was described as a Muslim and not ‘a person out to celebrate Eid’? Can a yatri be anyone other than a Hindu? Would any reader or viewer of the news that night have been in any doubt about what had happened when she was told that terrorists in Kashmir had killed Amarnath yatris? Would she have been in any doubt about the fact that the victims were Hindus and that they had been killed because they were Hindus?

The fact is that Bhagat’s tweet is not merely about semantics. Perhaps he hasn’t thought this through – or has naively swallowed the logic of inflammatory channels like Times Now, whose editor described himself on air as “we Hindus” – but what he really ends up  endorsing through his “factual” demand for “consistency in treatment” is the idea that nobody in India cares about Hindus. That Hindus, despite being the overwhelming majority in India, are a discriminated and victimised community. That India is unsafe for Hindus. That they are being killed without anyone shedding a tear and without the media or the police or the government doing anything to save them because they are too damn busy “appeasing” the Muslims – who feign victimhood, lord it over the Hindus, and are the real cause of Hindu suffering. The minorities have all the rights, the majority has none.

There. Surely it is better to just be blunt about what one is trying to say instead of beating about the bush. Well, apparently not. For once this ‘view’ is explicitly laid out in all its conspiratorial glory, everybody can see, based on their own experience, how utterly ridiculous it looks. Even for a Chetan Bhagat storyline.

I am not even going to invoke data, which the Sachar Committee provided in spades, to remind us of the fact that Muslims are not having such a good time. Consider instead just these three inconsistencies in the fantasy plot Bhagat would have us believe.

Prime Minister Modi was quick to issue three successive tweets for the Hindu victims of Muslim terrorists in Amarnath. I applaud him for that. But I have no explanation for why he has yet to tweet even once for any of the Muslim victims of Hindu criminals. As Bhagat might say, “I am not blaming anyone. Just asking for consistency in treatment. And being factual.”

The survivors of the Amarnath attack were flown back home amidst assurances that the perpetrators would be identified and punished. They were not harassed with questions about whether they were properly registered with the Amarnath Yatra Shrine Board and had the requisite permits, etc. Again, I am grateful to the police for behaving the way the authorities in any civilised society ought to with victims of a crime. By contrast, the Muslim survivors of the mob terror attacks in Dadri and Alwar had cases filed against them while the attackers had MPs and MLAs from the BJP lobbying for their speedy release. One of the alleged perpetrators, who died of dengue, was even honoured by the presence of a minister at his funeral, and had the national flag draped around him.

Finally, here comes the biggest inconsistency. The same media (and the same activists) who stood firmly for the right to life of Muslim Indians in the wake of Junaid’s murder and who held rallies under the slogan #NotInMyName – and whom Bhagat is carping about – also took to the streets to condemn the killings in Amarnath and assert the right to life and worship of Hindu Indians. I am still waiting for Hindutva activists and fellow travellers to show some concern for the life of Indians who do not share their own religion. They remain unmoved by the victimhood of Muslims and continue to make excuses of one kind or other every time they are targeted.

The fact is that those genuinely concerned about human life do not distinguish between Muslims and Hindus. The only ones who do make such a distinction are Muslim extremists and their Hindu counterparts. And the politicians who seek to milk every tragedy for votes.

It takes a special kind of nastiness to deploy the victims of one tragedy against the victims of another, to see in two similar crimes not the common thread of justice but an opportunity to play political games.

Acknowledging the murders of Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan and Junaid, honouring their memory and demanding that their killers be punished does not in any way diminish the victimhood of the seven Amarnath yatris who fell to terrorist bullets on July 11.

So why not just say that, Mr Bhagat?

  • Ashok Akbar Gonsalves

    It is downright ASTONISHING to see Mr Chetan Bhagat – ostensibly one of our broader-minded, well educated/read/traveled and therefore expected-to-be-less-biased citizens – indulge in the same cheap competitive whataboutery that one finds in the shrill discussions on social media.
    And quite silly whataboutery too – because as rightly pointed out by Mr Varadarajan NO ONE claimed that the terrorist attack WASN’T about the religion of the yatris, or that it was a law and order problem! So Mr Bhagat’s tweet makes no sense – one wonders if he was trying to impress somebody.

    And about the minorities having all the “good stuff” at the expense of the majority, this is what the Demigod of the Bhakts had to say in 2014:
    (http://indianexpress.com/article/india/politics/inclusion-is-key-theme-of-narendra-modis-first-lok-sabha-speech/)

    “…He said that he did not consider “focused activity” for the welfare of Muslims as “appeasement” and advocated the need for the welfare of “all sections.” Today, he identified Muslim backwardness. “Even the third generation of Muslim brothers, whom I have seen since my young days, are continuing with their cycle repairing job. Why does such misfortune continue? We will have to undertake focus activity to bring about change in their lives. We will have to bring such programmes. I do not view such programmes within the prism of appeasement. I see them to bring about a change in their lives. No body can be called healthy if one of its organs is disabled. All organs of the human body needed to be fit in order for a person to be healthy. Similarly, all sections (organs) of the society need to empowered,” Modi said.

    Note that this was in June 2014.
    One wonders if the Demigod suffered instant memory loss after this speech, or had a brain transplant.

  • S.N.Iyer

    u
    Chetan Bhagat may be a renowned author of h books and fiction stories, But why do such “experts” decide to wite on any and every issue as though his opinion is based on any expertise. Stated life in the financial field, wrote a few books that became popular. Goodf- no ver good. But let him, please, not treat actual incidents as one would writing a fiction novel. We have already have one famous writer whose first book was a success, but got involved in other issues to keep her name alive. Let us no trivialise national issues!!

  • kujur bachchan

    “So why not just say that, Mr Bhagat?” Elementary – Because CHETAN BHAGAT is also spelled as MODI BHAKT.

    • Anjan Basu

      But he pretends to be a Bhakt by half. Hence his ‘smart’ tweets.

  • Reshma

    Now, when I see his comment, I find Bhagat a prototype of the blind follower who thinks on one line of bigotism who so called can be a writer for achieving popularity , but he doesn’t seem to be a rational or a natural thinker to be free from the enclosure of man’s envy, selfishness​ or beyond the boundaries of man made religion. He can’t​ be the person of free will and free determination.

  • Amitabha Basu

    A sharp and clear exposure of the mentality of the half-writer who thinks he is the spokesperson of the educated Indian. His later books hardly sell anymore.

    • Anjan Basu

      If any book of this half-writer sells well, it only does so because we have turned into a nation of half-wits

  • Anjan Basu

    You are right when you say Chetan Bhagat has no monopoly over idiocy. But you have to concede that he is a particularly good specimen of everything-by- halves: like his celebrated half- girlfriend, he is part scoundrel, part dim-wit and part smart Alec. He has no competition in the business of peddling halves. He has his pulse on half-baked intellectuals as nobody else that I know of has.

  • Usman Ali K

    He must have half-understood you, Mr. Siddharth V

  • Shuja Shakir

    Third example is Virendra Sehwag, who got on lease 23 acre prime agricultural land for his educational society from then Congress govt in whose praise he would never stop singing hymns in those days, but come 2014, look at the way he is changing colors..!!

  • kavitha srikanth

    Fantastic piece by Siddarth Varadarajan. The likes of Chetan Bhagat, who knows which side of his bread is buttered, need to be called out for their nastiness in this gory business of lynchings.

  • Kahula

    J. K. Rowling he is not

    • Dhan_c

      Of course not. How can he be. He is not white, is he?

  • Mithun

    It is easy to assign tags to people and put the in right and left camps. But I would also like to say that “there is no smoke without fire”. Most of the favorite issues of Hindutvadis like Love Jihad, Minority Appeasement, are highly exaggerated and often wrongly derived opinion of facts. But they are based on facts.
    There ARE Muslims who do marry for converting people. This is based on facts. But the numbers are often highly exaggerated and there is ‘no’ evidence to prove that these are not isolated incidences, but a grand conspiracy.
    Also many governments do go soft on Muslims which can be technically construed as appeasement. What many don’t understand is that the worst victims of Islamic terror and such votebank politics Are Muslims.
    Chetan Bhagat is either outright playing to the tune or he is genuinely mislead by wrongly interpreting data.

  • Hari

    Mr Chetan Bhagat – the Dhinchak Pooja of literature!

    You encourage him by writing about the nosense he utters. Stop it.

  • Mohamed Sajid

    Of course Amaranth Pilgrims were target for being Hindus,they were targeted by most sick mentality Terrorists (professionals). Junaid was killed in a train with people like you and me, first no one came to his help, in fact the people helped the killers by blocking the door for Juanid and his family. Is Chetan justifying both killing ? Some times best minds loose when they use hate as their means.

  • S.N.Iyer

    Glad you raised this point. Just as in the US black man killing a white man makes news. It is unfortunate that most reports in many Indian media name the religion or caste or some such divisive manner. In Karnataka it also subdivides people and incidents by subcaste or main caste. This is done as a matter of course. Ultimately it is an incident involving a fellow man where both are Indians first. Perhaps this is becoming more pronounced during the current regime. But Chetan BHagat may be regarded as a popular writer but of late he seems to pontificate in tweets, articles arrogating to himself as a great social thinker. One should ignore him on this role

    S. N. Iyer

  • the-third-eye

    Perfect.

  • Anjan Basu

    The trend is on the rise because the likes of Chetan Bhagat enjoy both covert and overt official patronage. Not surprising at all that Bhagat finds a place now on university literature courses. Books such as his demand minimal application of mind

  • alok asthana

    Exactly what happened in 2002 in Gujarat. It has till now not been established if the Godhara burning was anything other than a random goonda act, but it was immediately shown as a big blow to HINDUS, not just to train passengers. Same evil thinking at work here.

  • Jim

    And do you remember the names of all the people who died in the Gujarat riots? The point is, it is easier to remember one name or two than seven.
    Secondly, the names of all the yatris were reported in the media. So, if the readers – even Bhakts – failed to remember them, it is their fault.