Silence is culpable

Silence is culpable

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.  ~ George Orwell

India has changed. I hate to say it, but that is the truth. It is no longer the nation I grew up in. The question is, ‘Do we want to continue to remain silent and allow this to happen? Or are we going to do something about it?’ The greatest strength of the corrupting forces is the silence of the good people.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Cowardice asks the question – is it safe? Expediency asks the question – is it politic? Vanity asks the question – is it popular?  But conscience asks the question – is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; But one must take it because it is right.”

That time has come. It has come for each one of us in India and for each one of us who calls himself or herself, ‘Indian’. We are not at a crossroad. We are at the brink of the precipice. If we go over, there will be no return. I am not sure that we are, even now as I speak, able to reverse what we allowed to be started. But I don’t want to die without having tried. I debated long and hard with myself about writing this article. ‘What is the use? Who cares about what I say? Let people choose whatever they want? Who will change because of one more article? After all there are several people today who are writing more or less the same things.’ I said all these things to myself and then concluded that it is not about them. It is about me. In that place, my heart is at rest.

Today the plight of the Muslims, Dalits and Christians is that they seem to have been all but abandoned by the three pillars of democracy, the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. And this, for no fault of their own, except that they happen to believe in a religion different from the dominant one, i.e. Hindutva Hinduism. The final nail in the coffin is the Press and Media, which is supposed to be the conscience of the nation. It is the single most powerful force of civil society which can raise a voice against government action or apathy and ask questions to the highest offices of power. In India today, both (with honorable exceptions) have reduced themselves to the role of being ad agencies for the corporation-bureaucracy-politician nexus. They sing their tune. They don’t report news. They state opinions as fact. Their entire effort seems to be to support the divisive, hate filled mindset, that is being propagated and is being used to win elections. Hate sells. And is being bought by our society in general. The general profusion of hatred and its open expression with impunity is to be placed squarely at the door of our so-called national media.

Finally, we have an opposition which busy in fighting among themselves. An opposition which is tainted by corruption, nepotism and partisanship like everyone else. Yes, there are minor exceptions. But they are minor. They show what can be done, if there is a will. But is there a will? In the last four years we have not seen any evidence of the opposition parties coming together on matters of principle to push strongly for change. Much more energy and heat seems to be expended in fighting for seats and shooting themselves in the foot in the process. Their chief claim seems to be, ‘At least we are not as bad as them!’ That is not a particularly inspiring slogan if you ask me. I know someone needs to be voted in. I know I must say, ‘VOTE FOR………………Because they are so inspiring.’ But sorry, I can’t. No wonder I am not a politician. I am a simple fellow trying to make sense of a world that seems to have gone insane. My point is, if you want to lead, you must differentiate. You must be able to say, ‘We are different for this wonderful reason.’ Is that the case here? Sorry to be undiplomatic.

http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/2/13571/Why-Has–Congress-Not-Expelled-The-Man-Who-Also-Led-the-Hindu-Ekta-Manch-March-in-Kathua

Another very disturbing issue is that this is eroding our co-existential culture. This is as true in our cities as it is in rural India. Segregation in South Africa was an officially endorsed policy under Apartheid. So, it could be fought and was eventually abolished. In India our Apartheid is not officially endorsed but unofficially supported by what is in our hearts and it is equally effective. With one big benefit; that because it is not ‘official’ it can be conveniently denied when challenged. You can’t fight against something that doesn’t exist, can you? But proof is easy to find. Go to almost any Indian city and try to rent an apartment, pretending to be Muslim or Dalit. Just call yourself by a Muslim or Christian name and see what happens. We no longer live in mixed communities and therefore do not understand, appreciate or value each other. Unlike in my childhood. Therefore, it’s easier to be prejudiced and to stereotype, to demonize and hate. It is a self-reinforcing, vicious cycle that can have only one end.

In one line, what is happening is the ‘ghettoization of India’. Hate speech is the means by which this is being achieved. What is happening today in India is not about Muslims or Dalits. It is about India.  My motherland. Your motherland. It is not enough to chant Bharat Mata ki Jai, if we fail to stand up to defend our Mata. It is India crying out in pain and begging for help. It is time to stand up, stand shoulder to shoulder for the integrity of our nation. If we don’t recognize the nature of the beast and terminate it, it will devour us all. Not a single person in this country will be left untouched.

Kathua didn’t happen in isolation or overnight. It is the culmination of innumerable hate speeches, made and tacitly supported that created a mindset where a nephew and uncle invited each other to satisfy their lust on a poor 8-year-old girl. Is this our society today? Are you happy to be called a member of such a society? If your son starts a conversation planning to rape a girl and invites you to join him, are you ready for it? Sorry to be blunt but this conversation actually happened in the Kathua case, between and uncle and his nephew and they jointly violated an 8-year-old and that too inside a temple. So, is this about Hindus and Muslims? Or is this about our humanity itself?

In the Unnao and Kathua cases, the Government and the Prime Minister made a statement only after countrywide protests. The incident happened in January. The Government’s statement came in April. That statement too was not specifically directed against the perpetrators of the rape and murder of Asifa but was a general statement about the protection of women. Statistics of hate speech after the NDA has come to power show that hate speech has gone up 500%.

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/under-narendra-modi-government-vip-hate-speech-skyrockets-by-500-1838925

The reason is not hard to find. In behavioral science and training, whether it be of animals or humans, we call it ‘positive reinforcement’. This means that the person who adopts the ‘approved’ new behavior is allowed to taste its sweetness, so that in encourages him to do it again. In training hunting dogs, trainers allow them to eat from the kill, so that the dog is encouraged to kill again. Same is the case in training falcons. Same is the case in training humans, you reinforce the new behavior by allowing them to enjoy it or by giving them prizes for it. This is what has been happening in India.

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/5-cases-no-action-despite-hate-speech-cops-give-wide-berth-to-vips-1786546

You may challenge me and point to all the marches and demonstrations, all the status pictures changed in WhatsApp, FB and so on, that are now happening all over the world, demanding #JusticeforAsifa. All the clever Tweets and Snapchat and Instagram messages. All the screaming for the death penalty for the rapists, some frankly very creative ways suggested to inflict maximum pain and suffering. But hold on a minute. After all, didn’t we see all this outrage in the case of Nirbhaya? And then? Did attacks on women end with that or with the law that was enacted? You know the answer. Not only did attacks not end, they increased. So, what’s the reason to believe that this will be any different? After all, Asifa’s parents are poor people, nomads to boot, who probably never vote. The rapists belong to the Ruling Class and have powerful supporters, including law makers, law enforcers and lawyers. Asifa’s parents have one gutsy woman lawyer. I hope she proves to be someone who can change the path of destiny; not of Asifa’s family, but of my nation.

To prove my point above about how after all the shouting has died down, we continue in our ways, here are some incidents of violence against women that have happened recently and continue to happen because we don’t care.

http://m.indiatoday.in/lite/story/vijay-jolly-former-delhi-bjp-mla-rape-case-sexual-assault/1/889555.html

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Four-BJP-leaders-among-accused-in-Gujarat-rape-case/article17243603.ece

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/gujarat-bjp-leader-jayesh-patel-booked-for-rape-2861797/

http://m.hindustantimes.com/delhi/court-frames-rape-charges-against-bjp-mla-two-others/story-A3YQLzZccEwUiaEbq7k0xM.html

http://m.timesofindia.com/india/Karnataka-rape-case-Ex-minister-Halappa-arrested/articleshow/5910459.cms

http://m.timesofindia.com/city/bengaluru/BJP-MLA-faces-rape-charge/articleshow/25456565.cms

http://m.indiatoday.in/story/maharashtra-bjp-leader-madhu-chavan-booked-for-raping-ex-party-worker/1/269987.html

http://m.hindustantimes.com/india-news/mp-bjp-leader-aides-booked-for-raping-dalit-woman-who-went-to-him-for-help/story-7qldU6P4mk5dC45XHvYoVK.html

http://m.timesofindia.com/city/mumbai/bjp-corporator-booked-for-rape-in-mumbai/articleshow/56692941.cms

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/crime/181216/tribal-girl-gang-raped-by-local-bjp-leader-in-madhya-pradesh-for-36-hours.html

http://m.ndtv.com/bhopal-news/madhya-pradesh-ex-minister-raghavji-accused-of-sexual-abuse-arrested-527827

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/BJP-leader-arrested-for-alleged-molestation-on-flight/article14376671.ece

http://m.hindustantimes.com/bhopal/mp-bjp-leader-among-six-arrested-for-rape-trafficking-of-minor-girl/story-ILdY4N1xVMgaZU7b5WDXhJ.html

http://zeenews.india.com/news/uttarakhand/former-bjp-leader-gets-life-term-in-rape-case_879518.html

http://m.indiatoday.in/story/rape-case-puts-delhi-health-minister-harshvardhan-in-a-spot/1/282289.html

http://m.timesofindia.com/india/Woman-claims-rape-inside-BJP-office-in-MP/articleshow/17788070.cms?referral=PM

http://m.hindustantimes.com/india/bjp-leader-arrested-for-raping-daughter/story-mexPvdgci1rbBr5aUqmrKM.html

http://m.timesofindia.com/india/Modi-minister-Nihal-Chand-summoned-in-rape-case/articleshow/36453742.cms

http://m.ndtv.com/assembly/chhattisgarh-bjp-legislator-accused-of-rape-woman-found-dead-at-aides-house-540525

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/crime/091016/woman-files-rape-case-against-bjp-leader-in-bengaluru.html

http://m.timesofindia.com/city/raipur/Chhattisgarh-BJP-neta-raped-killed/articleshow/49707149.cms

http://zeenews.india.com/news/uttarakhand/bjp-mla-harak-singh-rawat-booked-in-rape-case-know-what-happened_1913262.html

Hate speech happens because it can happen. Because it is allowed, encouraged actively or tacitly. Because those who do it, know that they can get away with it and despite the stringent laws against it, they know that those laws are for the books but will never be applied to them. The enforcers of the law, the police, seem to have accepted the role of ‘lackey to the politician’ and are happy with it and IPC (Indian Penal Code) and CrPC (The Code of Criminal Procedure) be damned. Once again there are notable and honorable exceptions that prove the rule. You would have to be blindfolded, not to see this. As for our Constitution and what it guarantees, well, I don’t think you need me to explain that.

Here is an example of what I mean by creating a mindset of hatred.

https://www.indiatimes.com/news/india/yogi-adityanaths-men-telling-hindus-to-rape-dead-muslim-women-is-beyond-shocking-230679.html

Both Yogi Adityanath and Maharani Vijaya Raje Scindia can be seen sitting on the stage, while this man is calling upon Hindus to exhume dead Muslim women and rape them. Both remain silent. Silence is support. Silence in assent. Silence is culpable.

Question: Does this constitute hate speech? If so, what action was taken? We know that Yogiji was made the CM of UP. But was any action taken against the speaker?

Sadly, this is not the only such speech. There are dozens of such speeches, each more outrageous than the other by luminaries and leaders who are center stage. I am not talking here about some small-time village leader. I am talking about people who are seen and called ‘national leaders’. This has created a situation where hatred and its expression have become mainstream and are done without shame, because they are applauded. Here is one example:

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/cancelled-ola-cab-as-driver-muslim-says-man-followed-by-ministers-on-twitter-1841140

As always, the comments are even more ‘interesting’. We have reached a stage today where someone not only openly says something like this, but it is condoned and supported also openly by others, some of whom are very prominent people in the leadership of the nation. I know some of you are going to say, ‘If D. Trump can do it, why not others?’ My answer is, ‘D. Trump is not my Gold Standard. Is he yours?’ We need to decide what kind of nation we want ours to be. We are not a part of any other nation, be it Pakistan or America or anything else. We are a sovereign nation and we must take our own decisions. In this case, ‘we’ means, ‘Hindu’. India is a Hindu majority nation. It could have been a theocracy on Day-1 if the Hindus wanted it to be. Instead it chose to be secular with equal respect for everyone. Something has changed since then. We know what that is. The question is, ‘Do we want this change?’ If the answer is, ‘Yes’, then I have nothing more to say. If the answer is, ‘No!’, then I submit to you, my Hindu brothers and sisters, it is in your hands. Because you are the majority. Majoritarianism is a non-inclusive ideology. While a majority that cares for, respects, appreciates and protects minorities is the surest sign of civilization. We need to make that choice.

We are progressively seeing a situation where those who raise a voice and have the courage to stand up to the divisive forces of extremism are targeted, harassed and silenced. Currently, the brave lawyer (Hindu) who is defending the victim of the Kathua case, is a case in point.

http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/3/13572/Shoot-Me-Kill-Me-But-Dont-Fabricate-Lies-Advocate-Deepika-Rajawat-Hits-Out-at-Zee-Suspends-All-Social-Media-Accounts

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/kathua-gangrape-victim-lawyer-i-may-get-raped-killed-deepika-singh-rajawat-anti-hindu-5138992/

And she is not the only one. We all know about the Gauri Lankesh murder. But she was not the only one either.

http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/8/13583/India-Sees-Surge-In-Attack-On-Journalists-

Is this the nation we want to create? Is this the nation we want ours to become?

To give the devil his due, this is not new. And it is not something that the BJP or RSS invented. True, they are in the driving seat now and so must answer for what happens during their watch. But just to make a list of this litany of shame, we have the Gujarat Riots of 1969, followed by the Sikh Riots of 1984, then the Bhagalpur Riots in Bihar of 1989, then the Bombay Riots of 1992/93, then once again Gujarat Riots of 2002. One common factor in all of them and the numerous incidents of violence against minorities; the perpetrators always walk away, scot free. Positive reinforcement works.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india/chronology-of-communal-violence-in-india/story-jJtcgvxFYh5N3jhSw7H4KN.html

In Kathua, the Bakarwala tribe has moved from the region out of fear. Which is exactly what the perpetrators wanted and that should concern the law as much as the act of rape itself. It was a premeditated act of aggression with the aim of creating terror. So, it was a terrorist act. Let us see what action is taken. The underlying narrative we need to look at is something that is happening in many places in the country, more so in Assam. A demographic purge is happening with the idea to move minorities out, so that the vote swing factor is canceled out. The fall out is that these people move to areas where ‘their own people are’. You would think this strengthens the community there who can now pick their MLA. This in practice creates one minority MLA in an assembly of opposition, rendering him ineffective and a target of government apathy.

Here is another case, which happened as we speak:

http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/2/13575/Jharkhand-Villagers-Flee-As-Mob-Unleashes-Sheer-Terror

Interestingly, you will notice, and this is the case in almost every such incident, all this violence, looting and killing is done in the presence of the police. Nobody can accuse the police of not coming in time. They always seem to be present when minorities are subjected to violence. They bear witness while those who indulged in the looting and terrorizing, walk away with their loot, free. Is this the role of the police? Or is their role to stop the violence and bring the perpetrators to justice? Well, you should ask your friendly, neighborhood policeman or woman. I am not one of them. Just for the record, the police and the bureaucracy are empowered by the Constitution of India, no less, to stand up against any illegal instructions of politicians and implement the Rule of Law by the book. They don’t need to wait for directions. And they don’t need to succumb to illegal instructions. But they do. Why?

As for the courts, let me just mention three prominent and most recent cases and leave you to figure out what is happening.

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/2002-gujarat-riots-maya-kodnani-acquitted-in-naroda-patiya-massacre-case-1840220

Good to know that the one hundred Muslims died of natural causes and nobody killed them. Or maybe they didn’t die at all.

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/all-accused-in-2007-mecca-masjid-blast-acquitted-by-hyderabad-court-1838077

Great relief to know that there was no blast in Makkah Masjid. Or maybe it was an act of God, because it appears that no human being did it. But why did the judge resign immediately after giving this judgment? Ask Pontius Pilate why he washed his hands after giving his judgment.

Finally, let me share with you this totally amazing case of how saving lives and taking them seems to be the same. Be careful when you next have a pressing urge to save any lives. Who knows what kind of soup that may land you in.

https://scroll.in/latest/859258/gorakhpur-hospital-deaths-dr-kafeel-khan-cleared-of-graft-still-faces-attempt-to-murder-charge

http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/2/13590/8-Months-No-Bail–Dr-Kafeel-Khans-Health-Deteriorates-Wife-Rushes-to-Delhi-in-Search-of-Justice

https://youtu.be/dBL5pVYSmsY  Interestingly, even the parents of the children whose lives he saved are silent, when the savior is paying the price of his soft heart and devotion to duty.

And of course, we expect that little Asifa will get justice because we run a hashtag campaign #JusticeforAsifa. Where is the boundary between hope and delusion? Between optimism and fantasy?

Just a moment. Who is this mob? Are these trained mercenaries brought in from somewhere? Are they thugs from Chambal? Are they professional killers and highway robbers? No, they are not. Go look in the mirror to meet one of them. They are you. They are me. Look at those around your dining table in your home. Look at those worshiping with you in your place of worship. Look at those who work with you in your office. Look at those you deal with in the market. You are looking at mob members, who at the drop of a hat, have no compunctions about breaking and entering the homes of their neighbors, raping their daughters, looting their hard-earned savings, destroying their lives and laughing all the way home, laden with the loot they accumulated. They do this because they can. They do this because there are no comebacks, no accountability, no punishment. As long as the victims are Muslim, Christian or Dalit. How does this happen? Remember this question every time you hear a derogatory comment, a curse word, a snide remark, a nasty joke, with a Muslim or a Dalit as its butt.

That is how it happens. Hatred is nurtured in our homes, in our hearts and is ingested with mother’s milk in our cradles. That is where it must be fought and stopped and replaced with love, with acceptance, with appreciation of difference. It must be fought because all hatred is fire. Fire burns everything and everyone. And the result is always ash. Remember that the religion of a murderer is cancelled when he/she commits or instigates murder. Remember that the religion of the victim doesn’t make them ‘guilty’ and ‘deserving’ of being murdered. Remember that when we support a murderer or a rapist, we are supporting our own murderers and rapists in the future. Because injustice to one is injustice to all. All murder, rape, plunder, all acts of aggression are wrong, no matter who does them or to whom they are done. That is the only principle which can keep us from going over the brink, into the void from which there is no return. Your silence makes you culpable. By remaining silent you are supporting the crime. So, why are you silent? Don’t tell me. Stand in front of a mirror and tell him/her.

Many people tell me, ‘The vast majority of Hindus are not like this. They don’t want extremism to succeed. They don’t hate Muslims and don’t support Hindutva ideology.’ My answer is, ‘Really?’ The fact is that all those we see protesting against the extremist agenda are the ‘usual suspects’; Hindu socialites, intellectuals, artists, Dalit activits, Christian priests, leftists, liberals and the odd white-capped or burkha-clad Muslim. I sound dismissive, but I am not. I bow to them in reverence and love and undying gratitude for having the courage to stand up when nobody else is doing. I am mentioning this only to show that they are not the so-called vast majority. So where is this vast majority of Hindus who allegedly believe in human rights, equality, freedom of religion, gulab jamoons and rasagollas? I don’t see them. Do you?

Extremist orators seem to be fond of drawing parallels between Indian Muslims and Jews in Hitler’s Germany, casting themselves proudly in the role of Hitler and his Nazis. The question we (normal, garden variety, peaceful, moral, kind, compassionate, cosmopolitan, educated, suave, fashionable and erudite Hindus) need to ask is, ‘By inference does that not put us in the role of the silent German majority which allowed concentration camps to be established, gas chambers to be built and six million, innocent Jewish men, women and children, old and young, even babies, to be exterminated? It was this majority that would never have dreamt of defining itself as ‘murderous, genocide supporters’. But they were. Hitler, after all, didn’t kill a single Jew, at least to my knowledge. Yet six million died for no fault other than that they believed in another religion than that of the Germans. And remember that they were also German citizens. Yet it was their own government, sworn to protect all citizens equally, which put them in concentration camps and then in gas chambers. Why? Because their friends, compatriots, fellow citizens chose to remain silent. Silence is culpable.

In the words of Castillo, the Guatemalan poet and activist:

One day the apolitical intellectuals of my country
will be interrogated by the simplest of our people.

They will be asked what they did when their nation died out
slowly, like a sweet fire, small and alone.

No one will ask them about their dress, their long siestas after lunch,
no one will want to know about their sterile combats with “the idea of the nothing”
no one will care about their higher financial learning.

They won’t be questioned on Greek mythology,
or regarding their self-disgust when someone within them begins to die the coward’s death.

They’ll be asked nothing about their absurd justifications,
born in the shadow of the total life.

On that day the simple men will come.

Those who had no place in the books and poems of the apolitical intellectuals,
but daily delivered their bread and milk, their tortillas and eggs,
those who drove their cars, who cared for their dogs and gardens
and worked for them, and they’ll ask:

“What did you do when the poor suffered, when tenderness and life burned out of them?”

Apolitical intellectuals of my sweet country, you will not be able to answer.

A vulture of silence will eat your gut.

Your own misery will pick at your soul.

And you will be mute in your shame.

(Otto rene Castillo,
Guatemalan Poet and activist)

Once again, Hitler’s gas chambers didn’t happen in isolation. They were the ultimate culmination of centuries of oppression of Jews all over Europe and Russia. They were the ultimate expression of centuries of silence of ‘good’ Russian people, French people, German people, English people, Austrian people and many such people all over Europe; all good, religious, moral (or so they would have defined themselves) and kind people, for whom, killing a Jew or remaining silent when someone did it in their name, didn’t cast any aspersions on their own morality, kindness or religion. They would have gladly risked their lives to save a puppy caught in a house on fire but would also stand silently and watch while a Jewish man or child was set on fire. That is exactly where we, the vast and silent majority of Hindus, stand in India today. If India is to change, we Hindus must take the lead and change it. The minorities can’t do it alone without our support. We Hindus must stand with them, around them and ahead of them. My question is, do we want to continue to stand and watch until we are ourselves engulfed? Or do we want to drive the change we want to see, by being it ourselves?

It will be salutary for those who draw parallels between Jews in Hitler’s Germany and Indian Muslims to consider two facts: Even Hitler and all his silent accomplices, couldn’t exterminate all the Jews in Germany and those who remained, came out of the trial by fire, tempered as hard as steel. And those who remained silent, perished with Hitler and his active companions, when Germany fell to Allied Forces in World War II. Being silent didn’t save them from the consequences of the actions of their compatriots.

I am clueless about how as an ordinary citizen of this country, I can raise a voice and be heard, so that action can be taken to save our society from going over the brink. Where do I raise a voice? Who is there to listen? Who has the authority and the will to bring about change? It seems today that we, as a people, have no self-respect, no principles, no values and no shame. You don’t like what I’ve said? So, prove me wrong.

The biggest lie that is peddled to us and which we swallow without examining it, is that our leaders are ‘our’ leaders. The reality is that our leaders are a different species, who manipulate and rule us, because we are easy to manipulate, and we collude in this manipulation. They are our leaders. That is how they become our leaders in this poor, blessed democracy of ours. By manipulation. We know this. We have suffered this, election after election. But we still fall for the same stories, the same lies, the same betrayal. The truth is that today everyone has failed us. Who’s us? You. Me. Your neighbor, your parents, my parents, your wife, my wife, your husband, my husband, your children, my children, one of whom called Asifa, died in unspeakable terror and agony. Why did she die? Because she was ours. If she’d been theirs’, she’d have had Z-class security.

But hold on a minute, just in case you forgot. Who pays for their security? Who gave them their status? Who pays their salaries? Who pays for them to live in the style they live in? Who pays for them to travel all over the world in the name of service to the nation?

YOU.

Big question to you, “How much longer do you want to continue to do this?

What can you do?

Ask questions:

  1. What’s the action being taken in the Asifa case? Are the culprits going to be hanged?
  2. What’s the action taken in the Unao case?
  3. Why is Dr. Kafeel, who saved the lives of 200 children, imprisoned?
  4. Why are the parents of those children silent?
  5. Why are all these great leaders of ours, silent in all these cases?
  6. What action has been taken in the Gauri Lankesh murder?
  7. And the many other murders of anyone who raised the voice of dissent?
  8. What action has been taken in the more than hundred cases of lynching by Gaurakshaks?
  9. What action has been taken for the numerous encounter killings by police? Extrajudicial killings. In one simple word, murder.

I can go on but won’t.

Meet each other as people, as human beings, not with your religious and caste labels. Meet in your localities, villages, buildings, offices. Tell each other your stories. And discover that it’s really the same story. We are one. We all want safety for our children, education, good affordable health care, food on the table, decent jobs, to be treated with dignity, to be respected for what we are. Same story whether we are Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Dalit, Christian, God fearing or Godless. Same story. So, what’s the fighting about?

Truly we’re not that stupid, right? Wrong. We are, that stupid. That’s why we are where we are, and they are where they are. We elect them, keep them, support them, pay for them and then they treat us like dirt. So, who is at fault?

Meet each other and ask these questions.

Believe me, it doesn’t matter a damn to you what my religion is or if I have any religion at all. And vice versa. What matters to both you and I, is whether we and our children have a future in this land? Our motherland.

Guess who decides that?

Wake up, take charge, enforce justice. Or keep moaning and groaning until the next Asifa or Nirbhaya or Kafeel. Except, then, the name might be your own or your daughter’s.

In the famous words of Pastor Neimoller who wrote about Hitler’s Germany”

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

 

Urdu? What did I do?

A language, any language, is not simply sounds and script characters which represent thoughts. A language is the soul of the people. It is the vehicle which connects their past to their present, their present to their dreams. It is the means by which one generation leaves its legacy for the next. In my view the single most significant event in human development is the evolution of languages. It was this process that enabled human beings to preserve their thoughts, teach others, learn from history and talk to generations yet unborn. Language is the elixir of eternal life. Or as close to it as we are likely to come.

Among the many strange developments in our country is a resurgence of hostility against poor Urdu, which is wrongfully alleged to be the language of Muslims. And since Muslims are people non-grata their language is language non-grata. No matter that it has nothing to do with Muslims in the first place. It is seen as that and so it must become unseen. There is a long history to all this and for those who are interested in it, please read this excellent article:

https://thewire.in/226180/a-country-where-sanskrit-deserves-preservation-but-urdu-doesnt/

While I lament the completely undeserved hostility to Urdu, which is in the nature of cutting your nose to spite your face; I must say that nobody and no government can kill a language that people want to use. The very birth and rise of Urdu is testimony to that. Farsi was the official language of the time. Yet Urdu eventually supplanted it without any official support, simply because the people wanted to speak it, wrote in it, transacted business in it and so on. When you read the history of the development of Urdu literature and poetry you can’t help being struck by the enormous vitality of the language, its ease of expression, it beauty of turn of phrase, which thanks mainly to the fact that it was understood by the masses, gradually and then rapidly supplanted Farsi. English was repressed in South Africa during the rule of Afrikaners and Afrikaans was strongly propagated to the extent that even today most South African people speak Afrikaans. Yet we know that Afrikaans is dying and will die, and English is alive and well and growing.

The same is true of English in this country which has seen its share of hostility yet all the Hindutva and other chauvinists, send their children to English medium schools for one reason only; because without it they will not have access to the global culture. Languages must cater to the aspirations of people. What happened with Urdu as well as with almost every other Indian language, is that they didn’t keep up with scientific development. Indeed, Urdu has some of the most beautiful poetry, especially love poetry in existence. As an Urdu speaker, I can’t tell you how it has the power to move me to tears. English poetry on the other hand leaves me cold. There is no other word to describe that. However, when I need to work, think, write my thoughts to an audience that spans borders, it is English that enables me to do so. When I am explaining any concept in science, psychology, sociology or politics, it is English that has the words to describe precisely what I need to say. With Urdu (or Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu) I find myself translating the English to create cumbersome and ungainly expressions that make little sense.

Call it my lack of expertise in the Indian languages compared to my mastery of English, the fact remains that this is my experience. Talk to a million others like me and you will find that there are rather a lot of us around. Take that forward and ask how many like me are likely to teach Urdu to our children and you have the perfect diagnosis of the fatal ailment that besets Urdu. I was teaching a leadership course to a group of senior Muslim scholars in Urdu, simultaneously translating my material from English to Urdu when I realized, very painfully, this fact, that Urdu simply doesn’t have the words to translate the concepts I was talking about. I did my best and by explaining where I would have used a single word, I managed to do my job, but the fact was clear; Urdu no longer speaks to the modern person. It is like Arabic in a way that has more than twenty words for horse and camel, but not a single one for DNA, corpuscle, neuron or clavicle. Ask yourself, which is more important?

There are many Indian languages which have died over the years, not because someone actively prohibited them, punished those who spoke them and burnt all their literature and poetry, but simply because the people who spoke them, chose not to do so any more. Not a single one of them was spoken by Muslims. Not a single one of them was the target of any Governmental hostility. Yet they all died. Languages die because they no longer have words to express what people want to say. This doesn’t happen overnight but is a gradual process, where they fall into disuse. This is what is happening to Urdu. It simply doesn’t have the words to cater to our modern world or way of life. The world today has little value for the arts, for sublime thoughts or lofty ideals. It speaks in the language of the present, material, prosaic but real.

Gul o Bulbul kay fasanay hain bahut khoob magar

(Stories of the flower and Bulbul are beautiful but)

Roti tho kamana hi paday ga is mehfil kay baad

(I still have to earn my bread after this gathering)

This is the harsh reality of our life today. No matter how brutal or crass that sounds, language must be utilitarian first. Urdu seems to have lost that race. Incidentally I wrote that couplet just now to illustrate the dilemma of Urdu.

Today Urdu is dying in India, mainly because traditionally Urdu speaking people, Muslims and Hindus, have stopped speaking it. This is the inconvenient truth that those who complain about the impending death of Urdu choose not to face. Ask how many of those who talk of the need to protect Urdu, subscribe to Urdu newspapers? Ask how many children in their homes can read or write Urdu? Ask how many can quote, or even read or memorize Urdu poetry? I am not talking about Islam at all. The language of Islam is Arabic. Not Urdu. I am talking about Urdu literature and poetry; how many can read it, understand it or quote it? The answer is clear and visible before our eyes. But we like to blame the Government when we must look at ourselves first. The fact that Urdu is not the medium of instruction in schools or that it is not an ‘official’ language, is neither here nor there. Urdu’s history is witness that it was not the medium of instruction in schools nor was it the official language yet it supplanted Farsi which was both. It did that without governmental support and despite governmental neglect. It did that for one reason only; because people decided they wanted to use Urdu and not Farsi.

Languages die, not because of the aggression of enemies but the neglect of friends. Aggression may actually help a language which will go underground and remain alive and gain strength thanks to the dangers it faces above ground. This is how Arabic remained alive and well and was taught in secret to Muslim children to enable them to read the Qur’an during the more than eighty years of brutal repression of Islam and all its symbols in erstwhile Soviet Russia. Soviet Russia then became erstwhile. Not Islam or Arabic or the Qur’an.

The situation is not hopeless. Far from it. But the solution doesn’t lie in the hands of the Government. It lies in the hands of people. Our hands. The hands of those who claim to love Urdu. Start speaking it yourself. Subscribe to Urdu newspapers. Teach Urdu to your children at home, if schools don’t teach it. Listen to Urdu poetry and support Urdu poets. Read Urdu books and write in Urdu. No power on earth can stop you from doing any of this. You don’t need any money or time or resources to do any of these. Just the will to get up and do something instead of complaining and blaming the Government. This Government has much it must be held accountable for. But neglect of Urdu is the responsibility of Urdu speaking people. Not the Government.

Yes, the Government of India must support Urdu because it is a truly Indian language. It was born in India, is spoken my millions in India and is a part of the history of India. But before that, Urdu speaking people must support it. If people do it, what the Government does or doesn’t do, will not matter. If people don’t support it, no Government can keep any language alive. Sanskrit is the example to illustrate that. Politicians taking oaths of office in Sanskrit proves nothing. Ask how many speak Sanskrit at home or read Sanskrit papers. Much like Usha Utup singing Hindi songs.

Give a dog a bad name…

Give a dog a bad name…

I want to begin with a brief thumbnail view of global geopolitics since the collapse of the Soviet Union under President Gorbachev. This was an event that was widely applauded and rejoiced, including by Muslims worldwide. Little did they realize what it would lead to. For a military state, an economy based on war, an enemy is essential. When the Soviet Union decided to call it a day with playing sparring partner, the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) needed someone else to justify its existence and to continue to make money for those who run it. It is important to understand that the political entities we call nation states are incidental in this scheme of things. The people who run the show are not bound by any nationality. They are truly global in that they operate from anywhere and across all national boundaries. Laws that bind us and monitor our transactions don’t bind these people. This world is run by a handful of men, not countries and politicians. That is why I am not naming any country; not because of any reticence to do so.

In their search; or I should say; as per their plan, they chose Global Islam (GI). I am coining that phrase to differentiate it from Islam as a religion. The religion of Islam is of no interest to MIC. What is of interest is the ability to take GI and project it in the space of the ‘Other’, which is critical to continued success even survival of the MIC. GI was ideal because it satisfied all the criteria necessary for an effective ‘Other’, which are:

1.      Mysterious:
a.     So that all kinds of lies can be attributed to it with impunity
2.     Different:
a.     ‘They’ are not white, not European/American, not Christian
3.     History:
a.     Bad memories of having been defeated by ‘them’ in the Crusades as well as ‘they’ having been the only opponent worthy of the name to European royalty and the Church for centuries
4.     Ineffective globally:
a.     I don’t think this even needs an explanation
5.     Compliant internal leadership:
a.     Well, since they were placed there by MIC and remain on their seats at MIC’s pleasure, what choice do they have?
6.     Immunity:
a.     If they are attacked, killed, countries destroyed, it is no skin off our nose
7.     Nebulous:
a.     No specific state for one to be accused of aggression. A nebulous cloud called by whatever name seems fit, Axis of Evil, Islamic Terror etc. So, attacking it is easy and no single or group of states can protest in the UN.
8.     Polarization:
a.     Is easy for all the reasons above and language was invented to legitimize invasion, murder and plunder.
9.     Internal conflict:
a.     They are divided amongst themselves and prone to being instigated against one another, so very susceptible to manipulation.
In the words of Fredrick Bastiat, “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of people living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” That is precisely what is happening today in the world and the Muslims are caught in the middle in the proverbial place between a rock and a hard place. There is an old adage, ‘Give a dog a bad name and hang him.’ It means that the poor dog didn’t do anything to be hanged but was the victim of a media campaign against him. Dogophobia got him and he was hanged. That is what those who spend their time and money behind demonizing Islam seem to want to do. Islamophobia is a multibillion dollar industry which like the pre-World War II, anti-Semitism of Germany and Europe is run by those who are trying to make hay while the sun shines.   
That is how the deaths of over a million civilians (plus half a million children under the age of ten) in the Iraq war is brushed aside, even though the entire war was based on lies. The massacre of civilians in Bosnia is a post script, the occupation of Palestine and the daily atrocities being heaped on the heads of an imprisoned population are acceptable and the ongoing genocide of the Rohingya people is not worthy of mention. These and many other instances of mass murder, carried out by the MIC military directly or their proxies, which I have not bothered to mention as my point is made, have only one thing in common; i.e. the victims are all Muslim. The mainstream media is the thought steering tool for the great unwashed and ignorant multitude which gets its knowledge exclusively from the TV screen. They are brainwashed to believe that when a Muslim (or many Muslims) dies, he had it coming. But if he fights back, he is an insurgent, terrorist and embodiment of evil.
They don’t have the intelligence to ask how a man fighting an occupying army for the right to live in his own home can be an insurgent? This is like the British judge, sitting in judgment on the last Moghul Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, who had no answer when the King asked him by what right he was being judged by a foreign occupier in his own land. But when you are on the right end of a gun and the other on its wrong end, you can get away with anything, so Bahadur Shah Zafar was banished from his own land and his sons and grandsons were executed. Why? Because they were his sons and grandsons and the British believed in tying all loose ends. Same logic in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and through proxies in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and many other places today. The same logic drove Vietnam and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese at the hands of invaders, French and American.
I wonder how many Americans know the meaning of the term ‘Double Veteran’.

Rape of Vietnamese women by US troops “took place on such a large scale that many veterans considered it standard operating procedure.”  It was “systematic and collective”; an “unofficial military policy”.  One soldier termed it a “mass military policy.”  Indeed, rape followed by murder of Vietnamese women was “so common that American soldiers had a special term for the soldiers who committed the acts in conjunction: a double veteran”. Legitimizing of atrocity is a natural result of the process of dehumanizing the ‘other’ and believing that they are ‘vermin’ to ‘exterminate’ whom is the noble duty of the ‘brave and virtuous’.
In support of my contention I quote an article about the Jewish Holocaust which captures the entire process very well. It is a matter of wonder to this day, how the people of Germany not only watched in silence as 6 million Jewish and other people were systematically murdered, but helped in the process by constructing gas chambers, transportation systems and all manner of horrific methodologies which I will leave you to read about on your own.
I never tire of quoting Pastor Niemöller’s words about this, which exhort us to stand up before it is too late. Today the world is once again sitting in silence while the MIC juggernaut rolls on; not asking key questions that must be asked, not taking powerful stances for justice, imagining that by doing so, they are saving themselves.
As Pastor Niemöller says, that is what the Germans also thought, until at the end of the war, they contemplated their own devastated cities, lives and homes. Payment always comes.
Martin Niemöller
(14 January 1892 – 6 March 1984)
First, they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out,
because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.

This narrative of the ‘Other’ has today, legitimized any kind of atrocity as long as it is done to Muslims and has made hatred of Muslims acceptable everywhere. Just like it had legitimized every atrocity against the Jews in the last century and the Vietnamese (communists) in the 60’s and 70’s. It is necessary to see the signs and recognize them for what they are and not allow ourselves to be fooled by these age-old games.
That is why in India when a twelve-year-old Muslim boy is stabbed multiple times and killed in a train before his own younger brother, the entire carriage load of people looked on and cheer the murderers. Ask them what the crime of the boy was. Ask them if the boy had harmed them. Ask them why they did nothing. All these questions have only one answer; he was a Muslim. And so, all these things become legitimate and acceptable. In Myanmar, the Rohingya people are being systematically slaughtered, raped and burned alive by the Burmese army and the world watches in silence.
In India once again, in a gathering of upper class, educated people one man, on the topic of the Rohingya genocide, says that what is happening is acceptable and should happen. ‘Muslims need to be killed’, he says. Nobody protests. Nobody is shocked. Nobody is outraged. One person, not a Muslim, raises a voice protesting, asking if one should not be compassionate; asking if murder is not a crime, no matter who does it. No to all of the above because they are “MUSLIM”. What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you understand this simple fact? I can quote many more examples but I think this is enough. After all we all read the same papers and watch the same channels.
As you can see the narrative needs to be changed. But since that is linked to the well-being of the MIC, how can we, garden variety common people, do it? I am going to attempt to put down my thoughts about what I believe needs to be done for three reasons:
 1.      I will not allow what is not in my control to prevent me from doing what is in my control. I can’t influence the global narrative (or at least I don’t know how to do it at this point) but I can influence the local one, so I am going to try that and share my thoughts with you.
2.     No matter what the spin doctors want us to believe, the rule of the MIC can only result in more and more misery for common people, less and less safety and security for us and more and more hatred in society, all in order to make the 1% ever wealthier.
3.     No matter how powerful the Dons of the MIC think they are, ultimately their power depends on those who follow them. Without the unquestioning obedience of their followers, they are powerless. That is the reason we must ask questions; uncomfortable questions. Be it about climate change or about global dominance. That is why they spend a colossal fortune on mind steering through the media, films, social media and other means of communication. If George Bush and his gang were really powerful they would have been able to invade Iraq without telling a barrage of lies to the UN and the whole world, first. And if those who listened to the lies had asked the right questions, two million people would have lived. It is as important as that, to ask the right questions at the right time.

Please see my article for more on the need to accept our autonomy and understand that ultimately each one of us is personally accountable. The reality is that unless we decide to believe the false narrative and fall into its trap, nobody can force us into it.


A couple of questions that you may like to ask, even today:


1.      When Saudi Arabia is being held complicit enough in the 9/11 bombing incident for the US Congress to pass the 9/11 Lawsuit Bill, permitting victims to file suits against them, why did President Donald Trump sign an agreement to supply them with $110 billion worth of arms?

2.     If ISIS is really so bad, then how is it that despite the overwhelming presence of the US and Allied forces in that theatre, ISIS continues to have an uninterrupted supply of weapons and ordnance, fuel and supplies and cash funds? After all, if you tried to transfer $10,000 to Iraq or Syria, you would have everyone from the IRS to FBI to your neighbor’s dog, breathing down your neck. But there appears to be no problem with billions of dollars being freely transferred and payments for arms and ammunition being credited when it comes to the ISIS. So, who is the enemy and who is the friend?

I am sure you have all read the famous poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” an 1854 narrative poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson about the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War and its very famous line: “Ours is not to question why, ours is to do and die.” This is the philosophy that keeps hatred of the ‘Other’ alive, enables genocide, sacrifices the poor and empowers the 1% to remain secure and become wealthier. 

Imagine a world where the soldier questions why he is being ordered to kill innocent people. Imagine a world where the person manufacturing weapons of mass destruction questions what value he is adding to society by working in such a place and what legacy he is leaving behind for his family. Imagine a world where people manufacturing cigarettes and alcohol see films on lung cancer and alcohol related car crashes and then make a choice whether to go to work or not. I can imagine more scenarios but will instead leave you to do this on your own. Sit with your children and make a game of it. Imagine a world without war. Imagine a world without the 1% but instead with their wealth shared by those who share the dream of global prosperity. Not global dominance by military might. Wars happen for one reason only and that is because they make profit. Take that away and you would have taken away the reason for war. That is the road to peace. Not attempting to silence all opposition to the dominance of the 1%.

If you are ready to sacrifice your life and happiness to put more caviar and champagne on the tables of the 1%, go ahead but count me out. I want a world where my family, friends and I are safe, can live peacefully together, earn a decent living and leave behind a legacy for the next generation. If you don’t like this idea, then you should stop reading this right away. We don’t live in little compartments in this world. We live in a world connected in far more powerful and meaningful ways than social media. This doesn’t simply mean that we can go from place to place faster or communicate across great distances instantaneously but that what happens to one, affects everyone. 

The Butterfly Effect of Chaos Theory is not restricted to weather. It affects us in all aspects of life. Those who refuse to recognize it and insist on living as if they live alone in the world, will become its victims.

It’s time for all butterflies to start flapping their wings to create a hurricane of world opinion that will drive out all injustice and oppression, no matter where it may be. 
Negative or positive, the choice is ours

Negative or positive, the choice is ours

Negative people look for things to complain about and find them. 
Positive people look for things to be grateful for and find them. Make your choice
I’m sure you’ve heard this before that every day we wake up, we have a choice. We can choose to see the day as positive or negative. And guess what, the way we choose is the way it turns out.
This is not magic.
The reality is that the way we expect the day to be drives our own behavior and that produces the positive results for us.
I had a friend who was my mentor and continues to be an inspiration every time I feel that life is tough. He was my manager, my first manager when I lived in Guyana in 1979; my boss, my friend and as I mentioned, my mentor. In Guyana, he was the BOSS. He ran the whole Kwakwani Mining Operation and I was his assistant. New, foreigner, wet-behind-the-ears, first job, zero experience. Yet in the five years that I worked for him, he made me a man. He took what I came with – the training and upbringing of my parents, the mentoring of Aunty Mohini and Uncle Rama, of Nawab Nazir Yar Jung and Nawab Habib Jung and K. Kuruvila Jacob and my teachers in school and life – and gave it a finish. Learning is never finished but it goes through stages. One of the major thresholds that I crossed was when I worked with Mr. James Nicholas (Nick) Adams. I have written about these years in my book, ‘It’s my Life’, so if you are interested, please read it there. I left Guyana in 1983.
I returned to Guyana in 1997 when I was invited by the Prime Minister, Mr. Samuel Hinds, who was an old friend from my days there when all of us worked in the same company. My dear friend Arjun Reddy and I spent a very pleasant week in Guyana as guests of the Prime Minister. God bless Sam and Yvonne’s hospitality. Nick by then had retired to Linden and we spent some lovely days together. Nick told me that he was planning to migrate to the US as his family was there. I didn’t think that was a great idea because he had his own house in Linden and had a very nice and comfortable life. But life has its decision points and only those who live it can make those decisions.
I next met Nick in 2009 when I was in New York and discovered that he had a job as a doorman in an apartment building in Brooklyn, New York. I almost wept, until I saw the big smile on his face and he said to me, ‘You know Yawar, I am so fortunate. I sit in a cool air-conditioned lobby all summer when New York is sweltering and in a nice heated lobby when it is freezing. I get paid just to be here. I am so grateful to God for this because at my age I still need to work and if this job wasn’t there, what would I do?’ I took a deep breath and said to myself, ‘Boss, this is about you. Not him. This is Allah telling you something. Nick is the means by which this message is coming to you.’ In the course of conversation, he said to me, ‘There is an old Jewish lady who lives in a small but very nice flat on the top of this building. She lives alone. Every once in a while, especially in winter, she calls me and requests me to get her a sandwich from across the street. She is old and it is difficult for her to wrap herself up and go across the freezing and often slippery street, so she asks me. I always do this for her. My colleagues, other doormen, object. They tell me that I must not do it as it is not part of my job description. How to get the sandwich is her problem, not mine. But I don’t listen to them. I just do it because that is the right thing to do.’
I am listening to him and saying to myself, ‘This is what he taught me all his life – that life is a bank account. Deposit into it when you don’t need it and you will have it when you need it.’ Here was a man who radiated positivity in situations where others would have given up and curled up, ready to die. At the age of seventy-five, he lost his job due to cancer and had hip replacement surgery and so couldn’t work any longer. His lovely wife Kathleen was working but they needed a home. Then the old lady in the apartment died. A couple of days later, her son comes to Nick and says, ‘My mother wrote in her will that you should live in her apartment as long as you live. I have come to inform you and to make a request.’ Nick says to me (on the phone, when I called him as I did from time to time), ‘I was overwhelmed with thankfulness for what God did for me. I needed a house and He gave me an apartment in Brooklyn in one of the best apartments, rent free for life. So what was the man’s request. The man says to me, ‘My mother had her furniture. I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t need it and to store it would be prohibitively expensive. So, can I please leave it in the flat and you are most welcome to use it?’ Nick says, ‘Every time you think God gave you something and are grateful, He gives you more. I needed a home. He gives me a furnished home, free for life.’
I am saying to myself, ‘Here is a man who is living the Ayaat of the Qur’an where Allah said exactly the same thing – if you are grateful to me I will enhance my blessing.’ Nick’s cancer continued and towards the latter part of his life it became very painful so he was mostly sedated. But on the occasions when I could talk to him and asked him how he was feeling, he always replied, ‘I am very well. I can’t thank god enough for what He has done for me.’ I thought to myself, ‘Here is a man who has the option to think of so many negative things that have happened in his life, but he chooses to think of the positives things and is grateful for them and not a negative or ungrateful word from him.’

Allah appreciates those who appreciate His blessings and refuse to complain about the trials that are also part of life. I saw that in the life of Nick Adams. Two weeks before he passed away, he accepted Islam and died a Muslim. His memory illuminates my own life, especially when things are difficult. And his mention and story do the same to many others all over the world. May Allah who gave him Islam, give him Jannah.
When the voiceless get a voice

When the voiceless get a voice

If there’s one overwhelming sign that numbers mean nothing and organization means everything, it is the plight of Dalits and Muslims in India. Dalits and Muslims are officially 17% and 13% of the population. That means that together one in three Indians is a ‘Dalim’ – Dalit Indian Muslim (my coinage today – in case it ever makes it to the Oxford Dictionary like Ayya and Ayyo have done). Yet these two are the most powerless and oppressed communities in the largest democracy in the world. That sounds like an oxymoron because in a democracy where one man may not have food, clothing or shelter, but he has one vote (and so does every woman); how can it be that the most populous segments of citizenry are the weakest? But so it is. Like snake charming and the Indian Rope Trick, this is also the essence of being Indian.

To know what the meaning (linguistic) of Dalit is, please see the website of the NCDHR http://bit.ly/2e5Kcso
Do notice the ticker tape at the top which gives you an idea of what being Dalit means in real life terms, not merely linguistic. But to understand what it means, there is only one way; be reborn as one. I believe that it is literally impossible to understand what it means to be Dalit (untouchable) unless you are born as one. I have had the privilege of living off and on with my Gond friend, Shivaiyya (his photo graces this article and I have written about that in my book, ‘It’s my Life’ (it’s on Amazon and Kindle). I would spend every waking hour with him all my summer and winter holidays which I spent with my dear mentor and friend Venkat Rama Reddy. Shivaiyya belongs to the Gond tribe (forest tribals are also Dalits) and was my hunting partner. He and I would walk about the forests of the Aravalli hills in search of game. In that process we would share food, time and stories. Especially on cold nights sitting by a small fire trying to keep warm and alive. When you are in that situation what you have a lot of, is time.

Once we became friends, Shivaiyya talked freely about his life and circumstances to the 17-year-old boy from another planet who was his friend. This story doesn’t have a happy ending; quite common in Dalit stories. The last I saw of Shiviyya was in the 70’s when I went off to Guyana. Then in 2012 more than 40 years later I visited Sethpally village in Adilabad District where Shivaiyya lives and went looking for him. I found two things; one changed and one the same. Shivaiyya now had cataract in both eyes and no money to have it operated. And Shivaiyya still had the smile that I remembered so well.

All the rest was the same. Same mud and grass huts, emaciated cattle walking into the forest to graze every morning and little Gond children (3rd generation from the ones I walked with) still following them collecting dung because that was the main produce of those cattle, not milk. Too many more details to go into here. Read my book. That’s my tribute to Shivaiyya and his people and all those who walked into my life. The purpose of this story is to tell you that despite having lived so closely with Shivaiyya (and with many more over the years) can I say that I ‘understand’ what it means to be Dalit? The answer is, ‘NO!’ It is not possible to understand that unless you are born one. And that it is because until then you don’t understand what it means to be born into a cage. There is a difference between visiting prisoners and being a life convict where only death can set you free. That is what it means to be a Dalit in India.

I am a Muslim from one of the so-called Ashraf castes of Indian Muslims. Then there are the Ajlaf and the Ardhal (which consists basically of Hindus of lower castes who converted to Islam thinking that they would now be treated as human). How sadly they were disappointed to find out that what the Prophet of Islam declared (absolute equality of all people irrespective of race or origin) and what Indian Muslims practice are two opposite things. Please see these two articles which explain the situation very well. Same situation in Christianity with even graveyards segregated.

Masood Alam Falahi’s excellent book, Zaat-Paat aur Musalman deals with the caste system among Indian Muslims in detail but to the best of my knowledge it has had as much effect on the Indian Muslim caste system as the many anti-untouchability laws have had on the situation of the Dalits in Hindu society. The caste system among Muslims in India goes back to the time of Qutubuddin Aibak, the founder of the Delhi Sultanate in the 13th century and the politics of convenience. Like all kings he was interested in ease of administration and so did nothing to change the social order amongst his subjects. He realized that if he tried to abolish caste, it would raise all kinds of conflicts with the powerful Brahmins and Kshatriyas which he could neither afford nor was he interested in. Islam came a far second as it does to this day with all manner of politicians and political groups all over the world. Sultanate scholars (Ulama) declared that the invaders were superior to the locals (not surprisingly) but they went on to declare that they were also superior to local Muslims (Hindus who converted to Islam). It didn’t end there. They also declared that among local Hindu converts, those upper caste Hindus who converted to Islam would retain their class superiority over lower caste Hindus who also converted to Islam. The Prophet of Islam declared that all human beings are equal. Indian Ulama starting with Qutubuddin Aibak’s Court Muftis declared that some human beings are more equal than others. 

Please see Falahi’s interview below.  http://bit.ly/2ebngLY 

Muslim kings, and the Muslim ruling elites more generally, in collaboration with so-called upper caste Hindus, supported the caste system and the oppression of the so-called ‘low’ castes, both Hindus and Muslims. As Mullah Abdul Qadir Badayuni’s “Muntakhab Al- Tawarikh”, Maulvi Sayyed Ziauddin Barni’s “Tarikh-e-Firoz Shahi” and Kunwar Mohammad Ashraf’s “Hindustani Maashra Ahd-e-Usta Main” make amply clear, they refused to allow so-called low or razil castes, both Hindus and Muslims, to be educated or even to enter their courts, which was preserved as a monopoly of the ‘high’ caste Hindus and Muslims. 

In fact, Muslims’ caste-consciousness runs so deep Allama Iqbal reprimanded them in a couplet: “Yun to Syed bhi ho, Mirza bhi ho Afghan bhi ho/Tum sabhi kuchch ho batao ke Musalman bhi ho? (You are Syed, Mirza and Afghan/You are everything but tell me are you Muslim?)”.

What is tragic is that this caste system didn’t end with the Delhi Sultanate but continued to be supported by the Ulama of India all through the history of Muslim rule in India, into the period of British rule and to this day into post-independence free India. Free from the British, but still chained by caste. Falahi has quoted from the published works of Indian Ulama and I was shocked to see some of the names. May Allah have mercy on those who tried to change the religion that He sent and who denied to the people what Allah had promised and who contradicted His Messenger Muhammad. Truly these people have some serious answering to do before Allah who many have met and all the rest will meet. The greatest disservice to Islam and Indian Muslims was that it took away from Islam one of its cardinal benefits, equality and non-discrimination; all for the benefit of ruling elites. Everyone else be damned.

This is my own history of how I came to be interested in Dalit affairs. The result was that when I returned home from America in 2000 and was invited by Chindu, a newly formed organization to promote Dalit art and Dalit human rights to help them in leadership development, I gladly agreed. It is a matter of honor for me to be listed among their teachers http://www.chindu.org/teachers.html I was also honored to be invited to be on their Board of Directors, on which I served for five years before I left due to other engagements.

So what is this article about? Rather late in the day to ask this but it is neither about Dalit history nor my own. It is about what I believe needs to be done today and done at the level of a national emergency to bring about measurable change in the situation of Dalits (and Muslims for that matter) so that 33% of the population comes into the mainstream of productive employment. It is suicidal for any nation to have one third of its population living in and subject to conditions which won’t stand the light of day. They can only be a drain on the economy and add little value while breeding all kinds of extremism as anger grows at the situation they find themselves in for no fault of theirs. So what is necessary to bring this about?

There are two things which are required to remove caste discrimination:

1.    Changing religious sanction for discrimination and bringing up a new generation which believes in and lives by the new ideology of equality.

2.    Create a level playing field where irrespective of caste the historically oppressed can compete on equal footing with the historically preferred.

I am an idealist. But I am also a realist. So while advocating the first with all my heart and soul, I admit that it is beyond my capability to bring this about except in my own life. That I have always done but to try to change people’s beliefs is at best a long term matter and can’t be done by force. Laws must be passed and have been passed. Equality must be and is a guaranteed right in our Constitution. But as everyone knows, there is a huge gulf between what the law dictates and what happens in practice.

It is not in the scope of this article to go into how the anti-discrimination laws actually work when it comes to implementation especially where cases of discrimination are sought to be redressed. I will leave you to lose some sleep over this research if you are interested with the guarantee that the amount of sleep you will lose searching, will be far less than what you will lose once you find what you are looking for. I hope then you will join the ranks of those who are trying to bring about this change and together we can hope to achieve something in our lifetimes.

It appears that to discriminate, to look down upon others is such a powerful need of the human being that even where religion decrees the opposite as in the case of Islam and Christianity, people who claim to follow those religions seem to find ways to discriminate and legitimize it by creating convenient self-serving arguments in the disguise of theology. The fact remains that Allah made people equal and no argument or Fatwa of any so-called A’alim can change that Hukm (Order or Ruling) of Allah and His Messenger. Class inequalities have always been prevalent in all societies but what is particularly heinous about caste inequalities is that there is no escape. Class inequalities also have this element to various degrees in different societies. But when caste comes into the picture, religion sanctions it and so the force is much more powerful. Mobility out of your caste is practically non-existent and when such people are faced with the same situation even when they try to escape the oppression by changing their religion then the situation appears truly hopeless.
For the record Islam doesn’t recognize any caste or class inequality at all. 

Allah says: Hujuraat 49: 13. O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may recognize (honor, appreciate) one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is the one who is the most pious. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.
Rasoolullah  said in his last sermon of Hajj, popularly known as Khutbatul Wada (Farewell Sermon):

All mankind is from Adam and Hawwa (Eve). An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab. A white has no superiority over black nor does black have any superiority over white except by piety (Taqwa) and good action. 

Let nobody blame Islam or its Prophet  for what people do in its name.

Discrimination comes out of a lack of self-confidence and self-hate where a person feels confident and good about himself only when he compares himself to someone else and feels superior. You can’t talk about equality of Dalits until you remove all inequality of all the Varnas. For it to work, you have to dismantle the entire system, which is not easy to do when it is sanctioned by religion. The reality is that you either have caste or you don’t. Like pregnancy you can’t have it partially. In 1933 Dr. Ambedkar said, “There will be outcastes as long as there are castes, and nothing can emancipate the outcaste except the destruction of the caste system.” So either there is no inequality between Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vysyas and Sudras or you can’t say that Dalits are equal to…to whom?? Gandhiji made this mistake when he was unwilling to talk about dismantling the Varna system but wanted the Dalits to be included into it as the 5th Varna. For this he invented the term Harijan (Children of God). However, that was not a solution because even if it had come about, it would have meant that the Dalits would still be the lowest and have to be beholden to those who deigned to recognize that they were at least human.

The second matter has also sought to be addressed firstly by creating ‘Reservations’ in education and jobs for Dalits by lowering the standards of entry (not Muslims who are equally discriminated against but since they are not part of the Hindu caste system, they don’t qualify. I consider this poetic justice for their having joined the discriminators when they had the upper hand and so I say, ‘Jolly good.’). The purpose was to try to help those who had been discriminated against for centuries and so didn’t have the advantage that wealth and education brings by making it easier for them to enter institutions of higher learning and to get jobs.

This action, irrespective of the good intentions behind it, created more problems than it solved. It had a reverse effect by retaining discrimination in another form and actually increasing hatred against the historically deprived people who are seen as ‘stealing’ the rights of others. That others stole their rights in broad daylight for centuries is neither here nor there because logic, historical data and reason have no place in emotion based hate mongering which is standard political strategy in our country. Xenophobia ennobled by affiliation to a higher cause (religion) supported by gross, deliberate ignorance always works wonders.

American politics today is a classic example of the efficacy of this time-tested method. Historical data from the Affirmative Action movement in the United States of America where after its official beginning in 1961 http://bit.ly/1U1f509 decades in time and billions of dollars in Federal funding notwithstanding, has not resulted in achieving even a fraction of what it was supposed to do. To this day there are more African American young men in prison than at university or in the higher echelons of the corporate world and Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for President in 2016. Truly fact is stranger than fiction.

So what works and how can we bring that about?

What works is quality. So create quality. Focus on creating quality and the rest will follow.
Here is what I believe we should do.

1.    Create world class primary and secondary schools in Dalit areas but open to everyone. Let anyone who wants a world class education send their children to these schools. However, what happens to this day even in government schools our villages, segregation of children based on caste, will not happen here. All children will be treated as children should be treated, equally with love and compassion. They will sit together, study together, eat together, rest together, play together and be trained to the highest standards in education.
There are numerous instances where upper caste children will not sit with Dalit children in government schools and Dalit children are relegated to a separate seating area. When the government insists that this kind of discrimination will not be allowed, upper caste Hindus don’t send their children to these schools. However, it is interesting to note that everyone goes to the Christian schools in the area and sits in the same room without demanding segregation. The reason is that the quality of education which those Christian schools provide is incentive enough to put caste considerations on hold.

Of course if the anganwadi cook is Dalit, upper caste children won’t eat the food he or she cooks and teachers may discriminate against Dalit children, but at least there is no ‘official’ discrimination against a child because he or she was born in a particular family.

2.    Create a Vocational Training Center in each school with vocational training as a part of the curriculum. To learn a trade and work with your hands must be a compulsory part of education. This will teach children dignity of labor and give them the joy that you only get from creating things with your own hands. It will give them also training in systems, quality, time management, leadership and teamwork; all of which are excellent life skills that one needs and which are not part of our standard school curricula. The centers will also provide employment for artisans and experts in different arts and crafts who are scrounging for jobs today and in the process many are even losing their skills.

3.    Create a Center for Entrepreneurial Development where students of these Vocational Training Centers (and others) are trained in setting up small businesses. All kinds of training in hiring, organizational development, selling, raw material procurement, product development and organizational leadership can be provided so that new businesses have a good chance to succeed. The Center will also run a mentorship program where new entrepreneurs will be mentored by experienced entrepreneurs and will have access to consultant services through the Center.

4.    Create a Venture Capital Fund which will offer interest free loans to entrepreneurs. These will be given after a rigorous annual selection process where hopefuls will have to present their business plans and pilot projects to a team of experts who will decide on the viability of the project. This is to ensure that businesses funded actually succeed and the process can continue ad infinitum. 

http://bit.ly/2dHP5YZ is a very interesting TV show about venture capitalist/entrepreneur interaction. I know that reality is not exactly so neat and neither do decisions to fund always get taken so fast but it is a very good example of participation of haves and want-to-haves which can lead to everyone-has-more.

In short what I am suggesting is that while we need to continue to work to change our beliefs and ideology to promote justice, we need to do something that is more easily doable and can show results and will hopefully also result in a change of heart which must eventually come. The world wants quality products and services. If we prepare people well by enhancing the standard of education, then they will be respected when they gain entry beating others over the same high entry standards. More importantly it will enhance their own confidence and self-respect which is more critical than anything else. That will be real service. That will truly add value and will take away discrimination over time because when people can stand on their own feet, they don’t need others to affirm their humanity. Those who provide quality will automatically get clients, customers and friends and will not be beholden to anyone.

In time, it is my hope that we can completely dismantle the caste system in all religions. Any religion which considers one human being superior to another because he was born into a certain caste is not a religion that I recognize as coming from the Creator. 

Caste prejudice is a shame on our honor as human beings, which we must remove.