December 6, 1992. About 150,000 people gather to listen to speeches by the leaders of BJP and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad at the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. Incited by the passionate hate speeches made by leaders such as LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, this crowd later stormed the Babri Masjid. With weapons in their hands and deep-rooted Islamophobia in their minds, they climb atop this historic mosque and tear it down within the next few hours.
As this sacrilege occurred and hundreds were injured, missing, and murdered, the police stood and watched. They claimed to be powerless against the brute force of the masses.
While the global community and millions of Indians condemned this communal violence and vandalism, many caste privilege Hindus said it was a moment of great pride, and a step closer to restoring the “former glory” of the Vedic Age. This formerly glorious society they speak of is one built on the oppression of the marginalized, womxn, minorities, and those at the intersections.
January 6, 2021. President Donald Trump, who has been falsely claiming that the election was “stolen” from him, encouraged his supporters to “fight like hell” to “make America great again” and “take back our country” at the “Save America” rally that morning.
Instigated by his suggestion of violence, supporters of US President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol in hundreds in an attempt to disrupt a joint session of Congress. This session was in place to count the vote of the electoral college and confirm President-Elect Joe Biden’s victory in the recent US Presidential elections.
Apart from spreading terror, this mob vandalized public property, broke doors and windows, and was heavily armed. This insurgency has led to the death of four civilians.
Trump supporters breach security and break into the Capitol.
Where were the police? Why didn’t they stop them?
Recall the violence- the guns, the water spray tanks, and tear gas BLM protestors were met with. Recall the open firing directed at students in Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jamia Millia Islamia during the Anti-CAA protests.
Reality glares us in the face – the systems which we have built around us are designed to be instruments for the oppressor. The same people who were apparently powerless against the rioters at the Capitol on the 6th of January and at Babri on the 6th of December 29 years back, did not even think twice before shooting at students, minorities, and People of Colour.
Words have the power to influence people as much as the fear of guns does. So, we have to note the words used to describe events of such kind, when organized by different groups of people.
The right-wing media hailed the attack of the Babri Masjid as a ‘rally’, ‘protest’, ‘demonstration’, and even went as far as denying the violence in the entire incident. Meanwhile, words such as ‘attack’, ‘uprising’, ‘insurrection’, and ‘terrorism’ were used to describe protests against the communal and exclusionary Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Similarly, several right-wing media outlets in the United States which referred to Antifa and peaceful BLM protestors as terrorists to delegitimize the movement were quick to defend the white supremacist mob by using gentler words as well as diluting the magnitude of destruction.
The message sent by the Republican party in the US and the BJP in India is loud and clear. The race, gender, caste, class, religion, and sexuality of people determines who is the terrorist and who is the patriot. Organized and peaceful protests against injustice are called riots, vandalism, and violence is a display of nationalism.
The lynching of Muslims, People of Colour, and other minorities in India and America with the comfortable support of state mechanism screams, “Oppressors are not your friends, but neither are the police!”
In countries that claim to be the flagbearers of democracy, large communities of people carry the scars of the past and continue to live in fear. Yet those who are culpable of serious crimes against humanity are unapologetic, worse- they’re hailed, heroes.