As I start a countdown for the big judgement, it is not the fear of violence that grips me; it is, instead, a sense of humiliation and helplessness. That we have reached a stage where the rabble-rousers are pontificating about peace is shameful enough. Our newspapers give them their front pages, and barely write a word about the campaign of hatred and violence they have been a part of. One understands the newspapers’ compulsions – after all, it is we, the people, who have voted these ideas to power.
I have seen numerous appeals for peace. It is almost a clamour – or even a stampede – for peace. Why, even the chief justice of India wanted to be sure that his pronouncement would be heard and obeyed in peace. He invited officials from Uttar Pradesh to talk to them. I was surprised by the underestimation involved in this cautionary exercise. Does not the learned CJI know that bricks decaying in Ayodhya were collected from villages and towns across India? It is not a UP-specific issue anymore. The concerned CJI should have met the home secretary of the India instead.
I was outraged when I saw appeals for peace from the authorities of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University. An impression has been created that it is the Muslims who have to keep calm, and not react, for they are easily inflamed.
I read posts quoting Allama Iqbal, in a bid to persuade the unfaithful that Ram was ‘Imam E Hind’. We thought he was God and his message, if there was and is one, is for humanity across continents and generations. But Hindu ambitions are small. They are busy nationalising their Gods. So, the line form the great poet comes handy.
The irony cannot be missed. The same Iqbal was seen as divisive in his prayer ‘Lab Pe Ati Hai Dua’. Education department officials found its singing by school children in Pilibhit unacceptable.
It doesn’t end there: ironies abound. Victims are expected not to complain. And they have not. Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan, Alimuddin, Junaid and numerous others were killed for being Muslims. But largely, other Muslims have remained in their homes. They have tightened their lips. They have cautioned their young. Muslim parents school-going children have advised them to endure insults and bullying that they face from their ‘friends’.
Muslims have waited for the country’s institutions to act, the humanity of their neighbours to assert itself. They have been disappointed. If the protests appear sectarian this is because most of us failed to participate in them. We all know that sectarianism is bad and divisive. Muslims are therefore advised to keep their dismay, their anger to themselves, not go public for it might disturb the serenity of the nation.
As I write these lines, the clock goes on ticking. In that tiny sound, I hear millions of heartbeats, crying for justice.
Is justice possible in India? Before that we, in the tradition of Ralph Fox, will need to start writing prose. He had said that prose is in fact the art of calling things by their name. How do we start? Will we call that piece of land in Ayodhya what it is, as advocate Rajeev Dhavan has put it, a ‘crime scene’?
We do not live in divine time; we are limited by human time. And that time tells me that here stood a mosque. We remember it, our parents remember it. Surreptitiously, idols were brought in. Then the mosque was vilified through a concerted pan-India campaign. And then it was demolished.
A crime was consecrated. Criminals were crowned rulers. And the crime was forgotten, by those in whose name it was committed.
The demolition of the mosque was a physical act. But the symbolism of it was not lost on Muslims. It was a message to them, that everything important
There is rubble all around the crime scene, and Ram Lalla has been left by his so-called devotees to look over it. In fact, the infant God has been profaned by placing him amidst the debris of a violent, illegal act.
Muslims are used to crimes against them being ignored. They have seen hate-mongers being given state funerals. They have seen them on the highest seats of power of India. So, whichever way the case goes, they will endure it. That we may forget the difference between just and unjust is what should worry us. For when a people lose this sense, they cease to be people.
Apoorvanand teaches at Delhi University.