*Trigger warning: violence*
As the world sleeps, I sit to type at 4 am…
When I was in school, I loved watching cricket. India and Pakistan matches are always exciting, and once, when India beat Pakistan, I was jumping in joy with my friends. Leaving my friend’s house with a big smile, and walking towards my house, I was not prepared for what was coming. “Basit, tum haar gaye, tum haar gaye!” (Basit, you lost) a much younger boy said to me, from his balcony. I was shocked and understood that he was referring to my religion, and connecting me to Pakistan.
I understood it instantly because I was asked many times by several people, “Whom do you support in an India Pakistan match?”, My reply always was “India” but every time, it left a scar on my heart. Looking back now, I can understand that what they were saying was not their thoughts, it could not have been their thoughts; it was coming from their families – it shows me what kind of mentality their families had.
I avoided those kids, and stayed with other friends, who were Hindu, but came from good family backgrounds, rather than from families where young children’s minds were subjected to such prejudices, biases and stereotypes. Thankfully, the Hindu society had more of these kinds. I focused on the twenty good ones and not the one bad one. The only thing was, that my school had thousands of students, thus, there were several dozen such hate-filled kids; those kids, who were getting an overdose of anti-Muslim narratives.
I never hated them even though they caused me hurt. Maybe they did inspire hateful thoughts for themselves in my heart, but hate could never overpower my heart for long. Today, I am happy to tell those kids and their families, who were aiming to sow hate in hearts – you failed with me. You could not turn me into a hater. You put scars on my heart again and again, but you could not destroy my heart. With scars on it, it still beats in defiance to your purpose.
It was in the middle of a winter night when my mother woke me up in 1991 and told me that riots were happening because Babri Masjid had been demolished. She informed me that we would need to leave our house in the Hindu-dominated neighbourhood. It was a very scary experience for an 8-year old, to think that, there are mobs who could kill us for our religion.
My father or I had not built the mosque nor killed anyone, so by what justice should we be attacked; this was going in my mind. I still remember how my father was tuned into the radio set and listened to the BBC, and my mother was packing small bags and making me wear warm clothes. My family had seen anti-Sikh riots right outside our colony. My father had witnessed Sikh shops and homes burnt in our area and Sikhs being attacked in trains.
Haters inspire hate; it is a reason why the world has so many of their kind. People who carry a grudge and pedal narratives of hate and seek justice, by punishing others, who had nothing to do with the alleged crime. There were people amongst the Muslim community, who spoke on the incident, in a way, that would inspire hate among Muslims for Hindus.
However, I would like to tell the haters among the Hindus and Muslims, you failed to protect your heart from hate, due to what you believe others did. But, I did not fail to protect my heart from hate. I did not fail to protect my heart from you haters. Haters, you could not turn me into a hater.
In 2002, I was 19 years old and understood religious hatred. In my age of full consciousness, news reports and images of Gujarat riots started to pour in. How a Muslim mob had burnt a train bogey and in return how Hindu mobs were killing those Muslim people, who did not even know what happened and were not involved in burning the train bogey. Surely, the pregnant woman who was raped and her foetus brought out of her womb on the sword, with chants of “Jai Shri Ram, we did not let a Mullah enter this world”, were not the ones who burnt the train bogey?
Haters inspire hate, and I did feel hate in me, but I broke out, I broke this law, I refused to obey it. I still have a love for all you haters. You made a good try, but you could not turn me into a hater. And if I learnt to hate something from you, then I learnt to hate the feeling of hating someone. You could not succeed in making me hate you. As your sickness spreads from you to millions, like a plague from dead rats; your sickness failed to make me sick. I am more powerful and can take your combined attacks.
In college, I came across extremist narratives of my own religion. The people having those ideas, their fancy logic and their “Noble aim of making the earth a perfect place” and their method of proving wrong means right, if used for right purposes, did seem perfect. The only thing left, was it required me to become a hater of the other. It did enter me for a moment of my life, but then I could turn and tell them, you could not turn me into a hater. Your software installation started but failed to install. You could weaken me but not bring me down. Here I am, despite all your narratives, facts, truth – still a lover!
Rumours are, that a great conspiracy is being knit against the Muslim people. Rumours are going on and insecurities are being planted, that they seek to take away my Indian citizenship through a combination of CAB and NRC. Rumours are, that I, with my small kids, who do not even know how to talk properly, would be put in detention camps, if we are not able to prove through documents, my father’s place of birth in India.
Rumours are, I would need documents from before 1971 or 1951 (my father was born in 1945), which of course I do not have. Who in India would have? A country where 20 crore people sleep hungry every day, of which 7 crores are children, under five years; you cannot ask them to prove their fathers’ and grandfathers’ date and place of birth!
The rumours say, it doesn’t matter if a Hindu doesn’t have any documents, as he will be considered as a persecuted refugee, and given citizenship. However, I would be labelled an infiltrator because I am not Hindu but a Muslim.
These rumours have filled many peoples eyes and hearts with hate, at the sense of possible discrimination, injustice and mental torture. Images of clashes with police, protests and charged up speeches show how everyone has become a door for hate to enter into this world. But I am still not defeated, O devils of hate! I rebel against you all, to be a door of love, to enter into this world.
My religion is love and my God is love, and I say, Allahu Akbar! God is Greater! Greater than what? Greater than my citizenship, greater than my rights, greater than my pain, greater than being detained in a detention camp, greater than you, greater than what we humans are afraid of, greater than the sense of losing everything, greater than your narratives of hate, greater than the law you are slaves to, the law which says, “I will hate the person who hates me”…you do not defeat me.
O haters, bear witness, that here is a man you could not defeat. O dark ones, bear witness, that you could not pull me into your darkness. O people with dead and cold hearts, look at me; I am a snow leopard with a warm heart, standing on the coldest mountain peak, at the base of which you died and became zombies! You could not turn me into a hater. I still have love and I preach it against your wishes.
O killers of Akhlaq, come, here is my heart, put your knife in it, O brave ones, who lynched Tabrez, this is what you crave for, don’t you? O Hindu and Muslim haters, you can cut me to pieces and see me die in pain, but do look in my eyes in those moments, you will see I die undefeated, I die defeating you! I die in a state I was born with – hating no one.
In defiance to hate,
In allegiance to love,