By John A. Raju:
I am an engineering student worried about the job placement & what companies are going to come up next year, my Grandma worries about the skyrocketing onion prices bringing tears to many households in India, my Dad worries about the rising diesel prices and my Mom, though not a jewelry enthusiast, still likes to talk about the record gold prices are reaching and how it is going to burn holes in our pockets by the time my sister gets married. What we certainly aren’t worried about is whether we are going to wake up tomorrow morning alive or dead, burnt or cut up, on account of our faith.
Living in Kerala, we only get to read and not really experience what communal riots are, what tragedies and devastation they cause to families and the horrors that normal people who are similar to me or my family, with their set of problems & aspirations which should make their life challenging yet fun, have to go through. Yet I believe that probably 90% of the Muslim or Hindu population that suffered or participated in the Muzaffarnagar riots would gladly have gone about their daily business rather than take part in a meaningless apathy-fueled bloodshed triggered and nurtured for the electoral gains of power hungry politicians or for the furthering of the agenda of a few narrow minded extremists.
What the riots achieve is a feeling of distrust and fear where none existed, a chasm in the fabric of everyday life of those involved, a fissure that can only get wider once it has been created. Before the riots, no one would think twice about visiting one’s neighbour, no one would think too much about the saffron tilak or the topi on your friend’s head. But in the aftermath of the riot, you don’t want to be labelled by your community as a traitor for talking to your detractors, and you are not sure if the kerosene you are going to lend to your former friend will be used to burn your home. Of course, the ones with sense know that the hate fueled by a few are the cause for the conflicts where none existed.
We have repeatedly heard that no religion or faith teaches us to hate or disrespect anyone. But when a few misguided brutes manipulate the masses to pit one human against another on the basis of their faith, there is no place for preaching of love or patience. In the face of a riot, you run around frantically trying to protect your family and maybe land a few blows on the ‘enemy’ side with whom, until yesterday, you were probably discussing Sachin’s cricketing exploits sharing some warm home made food.
Wisdom comes when we learn from past mistakes and apply that knowledge to our present. It is time that Hindus and Muslims stop being manipulated by those with selfish anti national agendas and start thinking rationally rather than emotionally. Those who further and fuel communal riots must recognize that the ones dying and killing in the name of faith were also people with their own dreams for their families and themselves and that dream would never have involved shedding blood in any form for anyone, if they could help it. Anyone preaching hate on the basis of faith is only contradicting what he stands for and the greatest damage is that the youth, with their fired up emotions and boiling blood are brainwashed to stand and fight for such communal forces.
Let the middle class worry about their domestic problems, their futures, their ambitions and aspirations. I hope to see an India where a beard or a name ending in Khan or Ram does not become a reason to keep looking over your shoulder rather than towards greater horizons.