I knew that a man had been murdered because of his religious identity, because the murderer believed that he was ‘rescuing‘ a Hindu woman from the ‘evil’ clutches of a Muslim man. None of that bit was true, but a life was lost. And I, I tried to avoid the details of the story because of what those details were. However, I am a journalist – I may wish to run away from certain news pieces for a while, but I can’t hide from it for long.
On a quite stressful Saturday afternoon, as I worked on some edits, I saw that video. I saw the video that showed a mirror to the society we’ve become. I saw how hatred could overcome all human consciousness, and how assumption could kill – literally.
My stomach churned. I didn’t know what I felt, but I did know how I felt. Horrible. I saw a video of a man being murdered. I saw him being beaten, hacked and hacked again – even though his body had become lifeless after a point.
How did we become like this?
I don’t know what got our society to this point, but we have reached here.
Could it be the silence of the State, the failure of the judiciary or the lack of tweets and speeches the Prime Minister makes? Is it our silence, our assumptions and our rigidity that has got us to the point where murder is okay? Is our own brain’s process of othering people who are responsible for the numerous hate crimes that have painted the country red in the past few years? Well, yes.
We didn’t start off as people who would kill people from another community because of what they ate, who they loved and to what god they prayed to. It started with every time you were asked to keep some distance from your Muslim friend of the opposite sex, should you ever fall in love. It was every time when you’d go out to eat in a ‘Muslim area’, you were asked to see if, in case, they served you beef. It was every time, we were asked to be ‘careful’ of them because they are ‘others’ and are ‘different’.
This takes me back to the two years I spent at Jamia Millia Islamia, a central university. I’ve had to mention it being a central university every time, because I’ve been asked if I used to go to a ‘Muslim college’ too many times, and nobody believed how my ‘Muslim college’ gave holidays for ‘Hindu’ festivals. I also recall the days before I joined Jamia when certain relatives would indicate to me that I shouldn’t get into a relationship with a Muslim boy because they are ‘dangerous’ and that I could get hurt. Several Hindu autorickshaw drivers have also refused to go to Jamia Nagar – they never said why, but their awkward silence said it all. And I know it is not one sided – my Muslim friends have also been warned of us Hindus too.
I think that it is this divide, this fear of each other that has got us to where we are. But right now, it is the minority being targeted because the State is saffron and is spilling minority blood by staying silent on the crimes of the majority. And while the screams of Afrazul, Akhlaq, Junaid and many more get muffled under Modi’s next trip or the “Padmavati” row or perhaps another Hrithik-Kangana incident – we must promise to not let their voices die.
This needs to begin with every small step. It needs to begin by removing the boxes we’ve confined ourselves and other people to. It will begin with mutual respect, love and compassion. It will begin when more people speak up against hate crimes (can begin faster if Narendra Modi speaks up enough too.)
I’ve felt so strongly against hate crimes ever since I can remember. But what got me to write, is that video. I still can’t shake it out of my head. How can one human being be so cruel to another? He was just a man who meant something and maybe even everything to someone. He could have been something to you, he could have been something to me. But Afrazul is gone. And his blood is on the murderer, the State and everyone else who didn’t speak against it, loud enough.