I was told that articles should preferably not be written in the first person, but here I am, breaking this rule. I have always been reluctant when it comes to not following rules. And, writing this article on such a controversial topic is a violation of some of the ground rules set by my father. He hates it when I write something like this, something that might put my life on the line. LOL!
But wait, he might be right. I might not be safe if I belong to the minority section in India.
Let us go back to the year 2013, that’s when communal riots hit Muzaffarnagar, in Western U.P. I was born in a town famous for jaggery and spent 18 years of my life there. We all possess a deep love for our hometowns, and I was no exception. But the city also rewarded me with a wound which I believe might never heal.
One afternoon, I came back from school, took a nap and prepared to leave for my tuition classes. Suddenly, we heard a man shouting in the street, “Jhagda hogaya jhagda…darwaaze band karlo” (There has been a communal clash. Close all the doors). We thought that it was a random fight because such clashes were normal there.
We got worried, though, when a curfew was declared in the city, and the news of people being murdered on the outskirts of the town hit us. That night, we were unable to sleep. Minutes felt like hours every time I closed my eyes; I could feel the chill of fear in my spine. We were so scared that all the five members of my family slept in one room.
Matters took a turn for the worse when we began to hear people shouting. Once, when my dad managed to peek through the door, we could actually see stones being pelted and bottles flying above our heads. Cries of “maar do… maar do” ripped the air. Rebels and goons from both the communities were out on the streets, causing mayhem.
I still remember how my daddy held us in his arms; he could not hide his fear. My mom and dad kept praying the whole night. My sister was a kid then, so she could not actually fathom what was happening.
What about me?
Well! I was numb. I kept looking at the sky from my window. Stones flying around, people screaming. I could actually see death. I knew that those goons would spare none. But we were lucky that some sensible people were still alive in both the communities and finally, they managed to bring peace.
Unlike us, people living on the outskirts had no luck. Mass-murders took place, women were raped, and people were burnt alive.
Wikipedia states that only 62 people died during the riots. I can assure you that the number was much higher. People from both religions died; only the political parties profited out of this massacre; the common man lost everything.
I wonder why it happened. Why had so many people given up everything, including their lives?
The answer lies in the fact that we Indians have become hyper-sensitive towards religion. Hatred has prevailed so much that we now place religion before humanity. How can we forget that we are humans first, and then Hindus, or Muslims, or Sikhs, or Christians?
How difficult is it for us to understand that Hindus and Muslims can cohabit in peace?
The night scarred me for life; I can still feel the fear gripping my heart when I hear people shouting or when boys indulge in innocent fights outside my college campus. It feels as if the sound from the same fanatic, bloodthirsty mob is approaching to kill people.
However, there’s one thing which gives me hope that humanity and love for one another still exists. The night did scar me, but it didn’t create any bitterness or bad blood between my best friend, who is a Jaat, and me. Surprised? Yes, we have been best friends for 10 years now. I am a Muslim, and she is a Jaat! We have to rely on these small instances of friendship and humanity and keep our hopes alive.