A series of violent incidents aimed at the Muslim community have been occurring at regular intervals across the country in the last few years.
A video of one such brutal killing of a young man shot by the police during a demolition drive in Sipajhar village in the district of Darrang in Assam has gone viral in the social media.
The police were tasked to evict these people from the land they have supposedly encroached upon illegally. The naked brutality has shaken our consciousness.
The 28-year-old man ostensibly came running towards the policemen with a stick in his hand to protect his habitat. The 1,500-strong policemen and paramilitary soldiers present there opened fire at him in retaliation with the bullet piercing his chest. The person could have been overpowered without firing a shot as the policemen present outnumbered him by many times.
The standard protocol followed while firing at civilians is to shoot below the waist so as not to kill but disable from being violent. Yet, the person was shot in the chest. But the sordid saga did not end there. A photographer who was hired by the district administration to shoot the event reportedly stomped over the dead body of the victim in a macabre dance of barbarism and cruelty.
Assam has a plethora of riverine islands and riverbanks which get inundated due to floods every year. Either the peasants shift to a new island or when the water recedes they cultivate these tracts of land facing immense hardship. They have been doing so for decades and so in a way own these tracts of land. They have not been issued papers by the state administration. They were issued notices the previous night and the next morning, the forces began demolishing their homes. They were denied time to even collect their belongings and were set on fire by the policemen.
Most of these landless peasants are Muslims of Bengali origin and so was the person who was shot dead. The political motive and the communal character behind this demolition drive becomes abjectly clear when the state government led by CM Himanta Biswa Sarma announced that the land reclaimed would be used to re-settle “indigenous” Assamese (Assamese Hindus) and “Bangladeshis” would be given land elsewhere to re-settle.
This brazen display of violence targeted towards Muslims and Dalits have become routine and there has not been any public uproar against it either. This insularity to barbaric violence directed at a fellow human being and complete apathy stems from hate and hatred is different from anger. Anger is accompanied by pain and can be cured by time, but hatred cannot because there is no pain.
We need to enquire the root of this hate. One factor contributing significantly to this surge in violence is the fact that the perpetrators of these crimes have been provided state patronage and assured safe passage through the punishing course of law. As a result they strike with impunity. The victim is left alone to fend for himself.
Of course, as a society we are being fed a pernicious diet of hate from powers that be but we as a society cannot absolve ourselves from being complicit in this. Our silence amounts to complicity and this will one day boomerang on us. We would have no one but ourselves to blame for it. All the sobriquets that have been coined starting from “termites”, “infiltrators”, “cow-killers”, “temple-breakers”, “love jihadis” and “andolanjeevi” to delineate us from them will only serve to further widen the gulf that already exists.
This malaise of hate and violence has its roots in the hierarchical structure of our society which for centuries has legitimized discrimination against people belonging to lower caste and used very violent means to enforce its writ on them. This is at the core of this malady. Most of these people are guided by bias which they have picked up as part of their growing up. Hence, this herd behavior is exhibited.
We need to free our society from this hate-induced violence. This is possible when we understand each other. Understanding leads to acceptance. Acceptance leads to peace and harmony. Once we accept the other, there is no revulsion. This was the inherent message of Gandhi. Since we recently celebrated Gandhi Jayanti, this is good time to reflect and introspect.