By KP Sasi*
Two recent reports deserve our attention:
The first one is the case of a young labourer named Amrit, s/o Ramcharan and his friend Mohammad Yakub was travelling to Basti, UP from Surat, Gujarat. Suddenly Amrit became unconscious. Since the passengers in the truck protested, the boy was dropped on the road side in the middle of the night. Amrit’s friend, Mohammad Yakub also got down from the truck. Later, somebody who saw this Muslim boy crying helplessly with his friend on his lap, made arrangements for the Amrit to be taken to hospital in an ambulance. But Amrit died by the time he reached the hospital.
The second report is already shared widely. It became viral on the social media because of a very touching letter. The moving letter was from a migrant labourer who `stole’ a cycle as per the reports. The letter was addressed to the owner of the cycle. “Main majdoor hun, majboor bhi. Main aapka gunehgar hu. Aapki cycle lekar ja raha hu. Mujhe maaf kar dena. Mujhe Bareily tak jana he. Mere pass koi sadhan nahi he aur viklang baccha hai (I am your culprit. But I am a labourer and also helpless. I’m taking your bicycle. Forgive me. I have no other means to reach and I have a specially-abled child. I have to go to Bareilly),” After reading this letter, the owner of the cycle refused to file a police complaint. The name of the owner of the cycle is Prabhu Dayal. Interestingly, the owner of the cycle, Prabhu Dayal, did not see the action of Mohammad Iqbal Khan as a `theft’. But the media persons who did not lose their own cycles, reported the incident as `theft’.
What is not reported, but what can be read between the lines is the notion of harmony that exists even in the most difficult moments of the lives of the marginalised sections in India. The first report tells you that young labourer who died was a Hindu and the boy who helped him throughout and cried for him was a Muslim. In the second case, the `victim’ or the `survivor’ is a helpless Muslim migrant labourer and the compassionate owner of the cycle is a Hindu. This reality unfortunately, does not catch the attention of our media people. Religious harmony is not a news item for the media. If the incident was about violence based on religious faith, our media would have splashed the news in a different manner, enough to exaggerate the existing rift in a sensational manner. But harmony is no news item.
This is a country where thousands of reported and unreported incidents of communal harmony take place regularly. This is a country where Hindus help Muslims and Muslims help Hindus. This notion of harmony is still there among most of the Indians, whether they belong to Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Sikhism or any other faith including atheism. In fact, this notion of harmony is still the dominant rule in our mainstream behaviour and not the sentiment of communal violence.
Those who preach and practice violence on the basis of religion are still a very small community when compared to the large majority of people who believe in harmony. And harmony is expressed as a natural practice and communal violence is expressed as a result of hate campaigns generated by the communal forces in an artificial manner. It is so easy to isolate the hate mongers of communal violence if the mainstream media really decides to do so. But, when the media becomes a vehicle for communalising news, the complexity of the situation aggravates beyond control.
One can find during the same COVID Days, the desperate attempts of the Hindutva forces to communalise even this crisis. There are many examples to illustrate this. It was during these times that Kama Sodi, a Christian by faith was attacked brutally with long sticks by the obviously Hindutva motivated forces, for having conducted the crime of organising a prayer meeting in his own house, with the presence of a pastor. The incident took place in Kodalmetla village in Malkangiri in Odisha, where Sodi was almost beaten up to death.
Again, in Jharkhand recently 16 families are getting persecuted due to their faith in Christianity. The local goons are threatening them with physical attacks, if they do not leave their Christian faith. One should remember that Jharkhand is also a state where BJP could to get the Anti-Conversion Law passed. Shibu Thomas, the founder of Persecution Relief, who reported the incident is of the opinion that the incidents of communal violence have been aggravating in those states where the anti-conversion laws are passed. Odisha was the first to pass the anti-conversion law and Jharkhand passed this bill in 2017.
Similarly, in Gujarat which has also passed this bill, the Hindutva forces tried to separate and segregate Muslim patients affected by Coronavirus from the Hindu patients in hospital. They even called them Hindu wards and Muslim wards. There were complaints that in certain places in Gujarat, the Muslims could not come out even to buy their essential vegetables due to fear, following the result of the Hindutva campaign that Muslims are spreading Coronavirus. The Hindutva forces also campaigned in local areas to restrict Hindus from buying their essential items from Muslim vendors. Boycotting Muslims was a strategy used by the Hindutva forces, just before the communal genocide in Gujarat. Again, under the cover of COVID-19, the Government also arrested Muslim students and youth in Delhi and even slapped cases under the draconian law UAPA on them. For more details, please refer here
However, there is only one major aspect, which can give us some relief. The truth of the matter is that people whether they belong to one faith or other or no faith do not wish to face violence. And violence on the basis of faith is no priority for them. It is a priority only for those who wish to acquire power, control and assert a superior identity.
During the last one century, from the partition period onwards to be precise, India has witnessed several major events of communal violence. But what is to be noticed is that you can find the same Amrit, Mohammad Yakub, Prabhu Dayal and Mohammad Iqbal Khan in all the major incidents of communal violence in India. You can see it in the Sikh genocide in Delhi, Mumbai communal violence, Gujarat genocide, Kandhamal genocide and every such major events of violence based on hate. Love and compassion are still the most moving sentiments that people in this country would like to believe in. We are still here as a country because of this contrasting reality between love and hate. We were even carrying the heavy weight of the communal hate mongers as nationally recognised politicians because the people in India refuse to hate even the hate mongers.
Time will come when more and more people address the crucial significance of harmony in our civilisation, which could easily be splintered with multiple fractures due to the politics of hate. Let more and more Mohammad Yakubs and Prabhu Dayals conquer our hearts in our future destiny and let more media persons understand their own roles in shaping and strengthening this world view of harmony in India.
*Film maker, cartoonist and writer