By Asaf Ali:
Advocate Shahid Azmi was silenced in the year 2010 for standing against the lies and for fighting the cases of innocent Muslims who were falsely implicated by the State under false charges. He didn’t succumb to forces who wanted him to remain silent. Thus, the only way to silence such a brave soul was to pull a bullet down his heart to extinguish the hopes of innocents. The atmosphere of terror created by these people is still alive. The recent case of the Bhopal encounter is a fresh example of that. Remember, they were all undertrials. It seems apparently very easy for the ‘forces-in-hand-with-the-oppression’ to quell the voices that resist them.
The way Fatima Nafees, mother of Najeeb (who went missing after being beaten up by students associated with ABVP in his hostel at JNU), was dragged and arrested by the police at India Gate is totally humiliating and unacceptable. What was the crime of Najeeb’s mother except that she was crying for justice for herself and her son? Well, it seems that the biggest crime she has committed has been that she is a Muslim. Rather than grieving with her and assuring her justice, the state is giving a clear message that there is no scope for justice for people like her.
In what times are we living? is our conscience dead? Can’t we see what is happening around us? How can one live in peace in these times? Are we living in a democracy? Is justice selective? After 70 years of gaining independence, how is the state treating its citizens? What are we afraid of? This madness is going to devour us one day if we remain silent now and there will be no time to regret it.
Najeeb’s mother is fighting to get her son back alive and safe. Any sane person can understand the pain of losing a child; not knowing whether he is dead or alive. Even if he is dead, the only thing a mother can do is respectfully lay his body to the eternal abode. Even that is being denied to her. The state of Najeeb’s mother is no different from those mothers and ‘half-widows’ of Kashmir, who are waiting from dawn till dusk in the hope that their sons and husbands will return someday. Talk to any mother or father who have lost their children in the war, you will see only hope in their eyes. A hope that is eternal, like a blazing fire which can’t be put-off. They are putting everything at stake to get justice; for them to know whether they are alive or dead will give their souls a small respite.
In a remarkable 6 minute video, Shahid tells us the way how to keep the struggle going. Even after his death, the struggle for justice he fought continues as nothing has changed yet. Just that the oppression has grown more strong. The biggest enemy of the people ironically turns out to be the State only. The only way to tame the State, as he puts it very succinctly, is to carry on the struggle in an “institutionalised way.” The Muslims of this nation, it is primarily on them since they have become the primary targets of the State to reorganise themselves and give a tough resistance to the goondas of the State. The struggle has to be carried at different levels whether through political, academic, or any other means. The lack of coordination between the people and the institutions that are fighting for justice affects the struggle for justice. As Shahid puts it brilliantly, there has to be documentation and research centres, human rights network at all levels; national, district and unit. Most important is the coordination. The struggle is not easy but if continued forward in a well-coordinated way, I hope we will not see any more missing cases and fake encounters. It needs sacrifices also but those sacrifices will not dim the hope for justice. The brutal killing of Shahid Azmi was not an end to the struggle but his death has given us a hope. The enemies will shriek with fear if all the oppressed unite together. Shahid is a martyr. He lives forever like a hero as he has told us a way how to do it by doing and showing to us how it can be done.
It is a fact, people’s movements never extinguishes no matter how much the oppressor oppresses. In Ahmedabad, the survivors of 2002 violence are still continuing their fight for justice. On October 12, Praveen Togadia, the hate-vomiting orator of Hindutva, in his speech on Vijaya Dashami at Rajkot, compared Juhapura, a Muslim-concentrated area in Ahmedabad where nearly 4-5 lakh Muslims live, to Raavan, Lahore and Kashmir. He had mentioned in his speech, “Our fight is not only with Pakistan but small small villages and cities like Juhapura” that are “breeding terrorism.” The saddest part is that State seems to be comfortable with these figures who are openly vomiting cries of war against the very own citizens of this nation. Apparently, a day before the respected PM of secular India had set a very good tone for the upcoming UP elections by boosting the morale of this nation by his chants of “Jai Shri Ram…Jai Shri Ram.” Further, Amit Shah in his speech on November 6, while starting the election campaign in UP, particularly equated Muslim leaders from SP and BSP with goondaism, promised to stop the alleged forced ‘exodus’ of Hindus from Kairana and his concern for Muslim women as if he is a feminist and a hard-core believer of gender equality (not forgetting the widows of 2002 riots in Gujarat who are still fighting for justice).
Nonetheless to say, the State is being hijacked by the haters and powerful. In these extreme situations, spaces that were apparently safe, liberal, secular, accommodative, and progressive are bending to the onslaught of these forces. JNU is one such example. Najeeb’s disappearance is an alarming situation for all who have a foresight to understand the perils and dangers of where this nation is heading to. It is a symbolic gesture to strangle the voices who are fighting against the injustices of the State. It is also our responsibility to protect these spaces and support these voices.
The irony of the times is that how we act now will decide our tomorrow. Though, there will be definitely a future but the question is who we are going to decide the future with. The killers of Shahid or people like Shahid? We have to decide.