‘It’s A Muslim Area’: How We Have Created A Language That Fears The ‘Other’

Posted on October 23, 2016 in Society

By Arijita Sen:

I recently visited my best friend in Nashik, Maharashtra. We were going to a place to fetch some delicious samosas and my friend had only heard about the place earlier, never been there. As we were travelling she suddenly started to panic and the anxiety was visible on her face and body. She even stopped listening to what I was talking about and asked me to keep quiet till we reach our destination because she’s anxious. I probed about her anxiety and she said, “It’s a ‘Muslim area’.” For a few seconds, I couldn’t understand how that could bring about anxiety and asked her about it but she was too anxious and didn’t answer. Once we reached safely and we bought our samosas, she opened up.

She said that once her brother had told her that’s it’s a ‘Muslim area’ and after dark no girls go there and even her work colleague had also highlighted the place to be a ‘Muslim area’. However, in that very ‘Muslim area’ was a Ganesh temple, right in the centre and many women walking around. I wonder how our Khan superstars are never designated as Muslim people? How people make a beeline for a Khan’s residence without thinking that it’s a Muslim’s house?

I also came across the Facebook posts of many of my friends from school, college seniors and colleagues after the surgical strikes. They were all well educated people, having studied in reputed universities and hold high positions in various sectors.

The posts directed towards people not going ‘gung-ho’ about the surgical strikes were on the lines of, “Why don’t you people get this simple thing: if you’re not with us then you’re with them. So, please go to Pakistan.” Alarmingly, there was no space for discussion or an alternate opinion in such posts. I observed on all social media sites that people who do not even know each other, from both India and Pakistan, were abusing each other and trying to belittle each other’s countries. There were news channels which aired programs to generate more anger among people and boost more such strikes. There were televisions shows which encashed on the popularity of the nationalism spirit and made shows to shower praises on the army.

There seems to be a dangerous common thread between both of these incidents. The thread is the linguistically created barrier between communities, countries and most importantly people. The language they use, oh! So easy it is to be dangerously precarious during interaction and conversation. It can only create walls.

The language usage of designating an area as ‘bad’ or ‘dangerous’ just because a certain community is a majority over there and the narrow understanding of ‘we’ and ‘they’ are most dangerous. It kills all opportunities for inter-group dialogue.

I know trans-national conflicts are more complex. But, do we not need to think or generate a discourse about the root of such crimes and conflicts? Is the demarcation of certain areas as problematic or spreading anxiety laden messages the only solution? I think it is not and we all have to generate our own discourses within our own groups if we want to break the cycle of violence and hatred.