On Bangalore riots.

All opinions about communal riots miss a fundamental point that needs to be stressed. The violence is not about any particular ideology. It is more about the conditions that facilitated the violence.

If ideology was the prime culprit, we would routinely see violence in our streets. It is true that most Muslims are enraged when the prophet is insulted. Even a rumour that this has happened will suffice. But then, a cursory glance over social media will prove that prophet Muhammed is insulted on a daily basis. Not just by people who hate Muslims, but also by seculars like me who just want to make a point against the emotional nature of Islam.

I don’t personally insult Prophet Muhammed or Ram or any such figures. That is not because I am afraid of their rabid supporters. Rather, I refrain from doing it because I believe that these personalities have grown more than what their lives actually were. Because they take up a larger space in society, they need to be “handled with care”, if respect is not the right word.

Coming back, if there were a riot for every single insult to Prophet Muhammed in India, multiple cities will be burning simultaneously. It is easy to write essays about how religion is the opium of masses and it motivates people to do unimaginable things. But so does money, which motivates some people to commit arson. If you look at it, looting and arson was part of Bangalore riots too. It was part of most other riots too. To see the religious angle alone would be myopic, if not connivant enough.

The violence happened because some anti-social elements, especially the communal ones, found it easy to take control of the situation. They pandered to the already angered masses to successfully push them towards their agenda. If it is my opinion that you desire, I should say this. The state has failed in preventing such eventualities from happening. Not just in Bangalore or Karnataka, but all over the country.

I am not limiting my criticism to any particular party of government. It is the collective failure of state apparatus that precipitated as shameless violence in Bangalore. Why was the panderers so successful in inciting violence?

A Muslim community that feels victimized and hunted down is a living reality in India. When the media and social media alike is fraught with vitriols that seeks to demonize them, how can they ever feel safe?

Never will I whitewash the criminals. Every single soul who unleashed violence and arson is a criminal and need to be prosecuted. But if we are not investing in neutralizing breeding grounds of crime and extremism, we may very well bid adieu to an era or fraternity and camaraderie that marked the first decades of our secular republic.

In a way, riots perpetrated by the minority community is a feeding stock for majoritarian nationalism. I know for a fact that the majority of Muslims and Hindus and others in India desire peace. Demolition of a Masjid or a Mandir, murder and arson aren’t exactly the things that get them excited. But as Mahatma Gandhi observed, this cycle of violence is making it impossible for them to live.

The problem with violence is not the immediate destruction caused by it. But the cyclic nature of the process that creates and sustains violence. Violence begets violence. If one form of violence leads to direct killing, other leads to creation of a pent up force that will be unleashed on communities much far away from the computer/mobile screen on which you type hateful messages.

The only sane opinion possible on the Bangalore riots is this. It was the planned activity of a few fundamentalist organizations to foment trouble. Whether you like it or not, August 5th wasn’t really a moment of national unity. Amidst the triumphalist marches, a lot of Muslims and secular people of India was silently fuming with frustration.

I agree, that shouldn’t stop you from going forward with the temple construction, but that a reconciliatory tone was missing is regrettable. Now, I am not trying to say that the riots happened because of Temple construction. That would be too reductionist. What I will say is that these countless actions of animosity and chest thumping will have its own implications.

If it is peace that you desire, you must act likewise.

The same is applicable to Muslims as well. You cannot just go about rampaging every single person who is insulting the prophet. We understand that this is a deeply emotional issue for you. But don’t you see that the IPC (Section 295A) is equipped with means to punish those who do it?

Now, you may say that the justice system failed you as in it failed to deliver justice in the criminal conspiracy that led to the demolition of Babri Masjid. But isn’t that a contorted logic? If it is justice that you need, how can you endanger the right to life of other people who doesn’t share your belief or reverence to Prophet Muhammed?

Also, the justice system has worked in your favor in a lot of cases. I agree that the monster unleashed by Mandir movement has shaken the very foundations of our republic. But if peace must come, shouldn’t you be able to make sure that such transgressions from your side is also not repeated?

How can you be so dumb as to play the part that Sangh Parivar desires you to play? How can you betray the hard work of honest Muslims who are working day night to mend the social contract that was broken by the Sangh Parivar as well as fundamentalists amongst the Muslims?

If it is peace that you desire, you must act likewise.

That’s my view on the Bangalore riots. It was planned by handful of criminals who make the most out of a social unrest. They go hand in hand with the likes of Kapil Mishra who instigated violence in Delhi, on February, 2020. And we, as a people has failed to create social conditions that make their work impossible.

We have allowed our fraternity to be damaged for momentary electoral gains. We have fallen prey to the most primal of emotional warfare that reduces us to our primordial identities. If it peace that we desire, we must act likewise.

That’s my two cents. Hope that I could make a little scratch on the surface.

Written on August 13, 2020