The society we are building today is increasingly being run by thugs: those who are convinced that they know everything. They decide what is right and what is wrong, and have taken upon themselves to fix things.
There are countless examples of this kind of vigilantism, of mobs running amok, indulging in arson, beating, looting, killing, lynching and worse, and then getting away with it. The keepers of the law stand and watch, if pushed to register a complaint by law-abiding citizens or through judicial intervention, they leave enough loopholes in the FIR that the accused get off scot-free or after a mild reprimand.
Let us focus on a particular incident when some took upon themselves to correct what they perceived was wrong. They went out and covered in black paint the text on a signboard erected by the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC). What had offended them to such levels of vandalism was the fact that the text on the signboard read ‘Babar Road’.
Since the self-righteous gents had arrogated to themselves the authority to set right what they perceived to be historical mistakes, they went about correcting them in the only way they know.
There was no need to write to the municipal authorities, drawing their attention to the alleged wrongdoing. There was also no need to find out why, when and by whom the decision to name a road after Babar was taken. It was not at all necessary to behave like a civilised citizen in a democratic country. All that was needed was the conviction that you were born to fix things your way.
Thus, vigilantes belonging to the self-styled Hindu Sena went about setting right one of the things that they thought was wrong.
Vishnu Gupta, the president of the Hindu Sena claimed that this was the handiwork of his organisation. The view of his group is that Babar was a foreigner and therefore he had no business having a road named after him in Delhi. The Hindu Sena also wanted that the road be named after a great Indian personality.
The Hindu Sena
In August 2016, the ‘Hindu Sena’ organised a protest in support of their demand that Balochistan separate from Pakistan and become an independent state. Pakistan has incidentally been accusing India of instigating separatist tendencies in Pakistan, this demonstration by the Hindu Sena would have given Pakistani intelligence agencies quite a lot of satisfaction.
Earlier, in June 2016, the Sena organised a birthday celebration for Donald Trump, who at the time was a candidate for the US presidency. The group had earlier organised a meeting to pray for his electoral victory.
They had attacked and vandalised the offices of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to protest against Indo-Pak negotiations in January 2016.
In another incident, Gupta had called the police and informed them that Kerala House was serving beef in their canteen. The police said they were considering action against Gupta (under Section 182 of the IPC) for furnishing false information with the intention of using law enforcers against another person. What happened when the keepers of the law were through considering the issue is something that we do not remember hearing about.
Self-proclaimed champions of what is right
These instances should give the readers a fair idea of the nuisance value of these self-proclaimed champions of what is right. The history that they have read is based on selective memory. When they say Babar was an outsider, they are saying a whole lot of other things without explicitly stating them. They are suggesting that all Muslims are outsiders. But they, the proclaimers of this commandment, are Indians.
In this day and age, when science is everyday unearthing information that is redefining how we understood human evolution and its spread, we have these pupils of some obscurantist institute of half-baked ideas coming up with theories that no sensible school of scholarship will accept.
We now know from detailed studies conducted by archaeologists, anthropologists, paleoanthropologists, geneticists and experts from diverse fields of research that the human race had its origin in Africa and the ancestors of all humanity began to move out of this region almost 70,000 years ago. Some of them had reached the southern parts of India and also Australia, almost 60,000 years ago.
So beginning with this first movement, people have gradually spread out all over the globe and therefore the ancestors of everyone who lives in India, or anywhere else in the world, is a migrant.
The only descended from the first lot of settlers in the Indian sub-continent are the tribals or the Adivasis. Everyone else has come after them. All those who migrated into South Asia can be divided into two broad categories: those who arrived during pre-historic times and those who arrived in historic times.
The Aryans, the Greeks, the Scythians, the Parthians, the Kushans, the Turks, the Mongols, the Mughals, the Persians and the Afghans are all recent arrivals. Each of them arrived in historical times, each of them arrived after the evolution of human society into the Iron Age.
Some arrived earlier and some a little later. All of them have arrived, through the North-West and are therefore outsiders. Calling them foreigners is a little extended, because the time when people came and settled in the sub-continent or elsewhere in historic times, there were no countries as we know them today. There were no travel papers till well into the 19th century and in many parts of the world, till the early 20th century.
The problem with the assertion that the likes of Gupta make about someone being an outsider, while they are convinced of being natives themselves, stems from the kind of mentality exhibited by a former chief minister of Delhi, herself a migrant to the city, who said we have to stop this relentless migration into Delhi.
The episode of painting the name of Babar with a tar-brush, is therefore, not to be taken lightly. This wanton act of vandalism, perpetrated by Vishnu Gupta and a handful of his lackeys represents a very serious trend in our city.
The confidence that you can take the law in your hand and nothing will happen to you originates from knowing that you might actually get people to support you, and that you might get both political patronage and mileage on a media that thrives on purveying this kind of muscle-flexing.
It is this unchallenged and arrogant sense of entitlement that emboldens the thugs who roam our streets to get away with blue murder.
Sohail Hashmi is a filmmaker, writer and heritage buff.