The silence in the “liberal” space over the spate of communal violence in West Bengal is getting deafening. “Civil” society members, who were out there last week holding #NotinMyName protests against the lynching of Muslims by extremists from the majority community, have turned blind to the riot in Basirhat, which is the latest in a long line of communal conflagrations directed against Bengal’s Hindus by radicals from the minority community. In fact, in what is now an established practice in Bengal, a large section of the local media even blacked out the Basirhat violence in order “to maintain communal harmony”. To talk about violence against the majority community has become politically incorrect in this country since the 1950s, courtesy the strange version of “secularism” cooked up by the so-called liberals. So hearts bleeding for Junaid, and rightly so, do not want to know about the young girls in Bengal’s Tehatta who were brutally thrashed by the police for protesting the minority-inspired ban on Saraswati puja in their school. These people do not seem to care that similar bans are becoming commonplace in Bengal, or that the majority community needs to go to court just to be able to immerse Durga idols on Bijoya Dashami, as else the government would postpone the immersion because it is taking place a day ahead of Muharram. They refuse to believe that demographic changes in the border districts of Bengal due to illegal infiltration and the resultant radicalisation of a section of the state’s minority population have created a tinderbox situation, which is a security threat to the entire country.
If all this sounds “oh-so-communal” to polite ears that differentiate between communities while shedding crocodile tears, let’s “secularise” the issue by asking: why weren’t there any #NotinMyName protests against Akhilesh Yadav’s government in Uttar Pradesh when the minority community came under attack in Muzaffarnagar in 2013? Voices were raised aplenty against the “saffron hand” behind the riots, but why was Yadav spared? Where were these protests when, in 2012, Assam under Tarun Gogoi’s Congress government witnessed a bloodbath of Bengali Muslims? Why did the people who suffered, those who died, become forgotten statistics? Is it because governments run by a “secular” Samajwadi Party and Congress cannot be berated for their inability to control violence against the minority community? Just as a “liberal” Mamata Banerjee cannot be censured for her brand of politics, which protects and promotes a particular section of the population at the cost of another for the sake of votes? Must outrage be politicised to the extent that it appears inhumane?
What about beef lynching, you ask? There cannot be any justification of any lynching, either perpetrated by a mob fighting for train seats, or another bunch hunting for people carrying or consuming beef. It’s unacceptable. Violence cannot be allowed to be mainstreamed, normalised, or made par for the course. No amount of statistics about lynching then and now, or these being stray incidents, can justify something that is monstrous and should not have happened.
“Liberal” outrage is selective in nature primarily because it’s rooted in politics, although claiming to be apolitical. The main aim is to retain power and control—of the narrative, among various other things—that they lost to the man they repeatedly describe as the “fascist facilitator” of right-wing violence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Of course the government has to be shaken up to act against what is barbaric, but then questions arise about the intent of the outrage, when it becomes obvious that the leading lights of the “liberal order” are also known Modi baiters, who thrive on abusing the PM and have been raising the bogey of minorities under siege for the last three years, generally without the backing of facts.
At the same time, the government cannot be absolved of responsibilities in these few lynching cases. Law and order may be a state subject, but it is incumbent on the Centre’s part to ensure that the states implement on the ground the strong message given by the Prime Minister against cow vigilantism. There must be stricter enforcement of the law on the ground. It is time to disabuse the vigilante groups of the notion that they can get away with murder, just because “their government” is in power. In a democracy, the government always belongs to the people, and let’s keep it that way.
In what is now an established practice in Bengal, a large section of the local media blacked out the Basirhat violence in order “to maintain communal harmony”.
Truth be told, Indians are tiring of the cacophony over cow and beef. It is distracting them from the narrative of development that PM Modi wants to build. Personal spaces are sacred, where freedom of the individual is paramount. Dress and food habits are areas where there should not be any government intrusion. If we truly believe in democracy, if we want to emerge as a world power, that space is best left untouched. A nation’s greatness is measured by the way government treats its people, and curbs on food habits, in this case, impact them directly and sometimes violently, as evident through the lynching cases, so are unacceptable. We are neither China nor Pakistan.
As for the upholders of the “liberal” order in this country, their secular credentials will not be damaged if they speak up for the victims of Basirhat for a change, even if these people are Hindus. We are waiting.