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Delhi Police raid on Kerala house searching for beef - then they came for me moment?

Shehzad Poonawalla

Updated: October 27, 2015, 2:52 PM IST
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'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.'

These are the provocative words of Pastor Martin Niemoller, describing the virtual capitulation of German society in the face of the rising Nazism, even as vulnerable groups were being purged and silenced. These words written over six decades ago hold relevance in the Indian context today even we watch the right wing Hindutva forces attempt an eerily similar persecution of those who it considers to be its enemies.

They began with bans on everyday freedoms and choices. Clamping down on what we could watch and what we could eat. They then moved on to the rationalists, gunning down the likes of Pansare and Kalburgi in broad daylight. Thereafter, social activists like Sudheendra Kulkarni and NGOs like Greenpeace were targeted, if their agenda seemed to be in conflict with their pseudo nationalism. And then they went for their old enemies-the minorities. Riding on the wave of Islamophobia, they attacked them on issues like "Love Jihad", "cow slaughter" and many more. Akhlaq, Noman and Zahid were lynched publicly, not for a crime they did not commit, but for belonging to a community that is slowly but surely being pushed towards a "Final Solution" of sorts. Today, they have trained their guns onto the Dalits. Beating them to death, immolating their children, comparing them with street dogs and questioning the equal opportunity guaranteed to them through the system of reservations in a deeply casteist society such as ours.

Now, everyone is on their radar. Nobody is safe from this ideological vigilantism in the name of Hindutva. Writers, critics of the government, gays and lesbians, NGOs, liberals and the media. Those including artists and writers who question this agenda are bullied into silence. They are attributed motives and labelled as anti-Hindu and anti-India. A tactic the Nazis themselves perfected to silence any and all dissent.

Until yesterday, we believed that we were safe in Delhi. The beef issue was Maharashtra's problem. It won't reach our doorstep. Then Dadri happened just about 55 kilometres away from our comfortable Lutyen's cafes. It was no longer the fringe that was carrying his agenda. It was the mainstream, providing political patronage and support to these actions.

Today, we woke up to the news of the Delhi police raiding the Kerala House over suspected "beef" rumours, at the instance of the "Hindu Sena". The State it seems has switched sides. It owes its loyalty to a brand of cultural and majoritarian nationalism that threatens to convert us into a "Hindu Pakistan". Let us make no mistake, this is becoming a pan-India phenomenon irrespective of the political parties in power. The response of the UP government in the Dadri case to send the piece of meat for testing to ascertain if the victim Akhlaq had indeed consumed beef demonstrates how the police and organs of the state have become complicit in this brand of pseudo nationalism.

Ministers and MPs in the central government come out in justification of acts that are a violation of rule of law and the constitution. The Haryana Chief Minister recently stated how Indian Muslims could stay in India if they chose not to eat beef and how Dadri lynching was justified because Akhlaq had allegedly made some offensive comments on the cow! In the midst of this, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has remained largely silent, mostly ambiguous and definitely inactive when it comes to dealing with all this. His condemnations have been conditional and hardly unequivocal. Even the President Pranab Mukherjee, notwithstanding the titular nature of his position and executive power, has been more forthright in condemning what ought to be condemned unconditionally. The PM is yet to find his 56 inch machismo on this one. Silence and inaction from the powers that exist now seem part of the larger agenda.

It's only a matter of time they come knocking on your door. Majoritarianism and this xenophobic nationalism always ends up degenerating into authoritarianism. Don't be fooled by the calm over your roof as the storm strikes your neighbour. Much like Pastor Martin, I doubt this storm will just blow over your own comfortable house.

(Shehzad Poonawalla is a lawyer-activist, Founder-Member of Policy Samvad and a Congress supporter. Views are personal, not that of CNN-IBN/IBNLIVE)
First Published: October 27, 2015, 1:41 PM IST

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