We are human beings first
It was the 6th day of December 2017. In the evening a group of colleagues left our Central Kolkata office for the wedding reception of another of our colleague's son in the suburbs. Since it was a day of protest by various organisations/parties against the black day of Babri Masjid demolition, there were chaos all around with many thoroughfares blocked and traffic bottlenecks. Now one among us addressed the only Muslim colleague of ours(not entirely in a sarcastic tone; rather as a matter of fact) -- "Why don't you also join them"! Others also nodded in affirmative!
It seemed to me as if the barbaric demolition of Babri Masjid(much much before the fangs of Taliban got known to the world or destruction of Bamiyan Buddhas) and resultant communal mayhem since months are a matter of concern for the Muslims only! As if there lies no question of any Hindu or Indian to be ashamed and perturbed of the worst episode in independent India! All onus of protest need to rest upon Muslims only! While the Bhakts will obviously feel proud of that "muscular venture" and so there lies no reason for them to feel apologetic about; but the attitude of the non-Bhakts signify that Hindus(as community) don't have any moral obligation to protest as it was the handiwork of lumpens from saffron brigade!
But if few terrorists or a "lone wolf"(claiming to profess Islam) create havoc through bombs and bullets be it in USA UK France Egypt West Asia Afghanistan Pakistan Bangladesh Australia Kashmir or Bombay; it seems that all Muslims around the world are answerable to those barbaric violence even though perhaps brute majority of the victims of violence in the name of Islam happen to be Muslims only! Unfortunately I have seen how directly as well as indirectly, our lone Bengali Muslim colleague of ours has to face caustic remarks against Islamic terrorism(anywhere around the world) right within our office as if he is also no less "sinner" than the devil fellows with whom he coincidentally shares the same religion! Hypocrisy double standards and communalism at it's worst.
In this sad perspective, it is natural that road rage directed at the car of a Kolkata actress would instantly be communalised due to the Islamic antecedents of the criminals as if not a single Hindu flexes his muscle on the streets! Similarly attack on NRS Hospital Kolkata would be immediately portrayed in communal colours as the lumpens were affiliated to Islam faith as if Hindus never indulge in attacks upon Hospitals and Doctors!
However in this age of hypocrisy, perhaps no sector can be awarded absolutely clean chit in this regard! Let's have a look at the other side of the coin. People of various caste race region religion get engaged in Honour killings. In 2007 it was alleged that a Kolkata youth Rizwanur Rahman has fallen victim to it. While there exists no question of pardon to the killers, when all right minded people irrespective of demographic picture had condemned the incident; the fact remained that a section of media political parties and influential Islamic organisations tried to impart communal tinge in the case(as the accused family is a Hindu) and vitiated the environment. Same thing happened in case of Korpan Shah --- a mentally challenged man who was thrashed to death in NRS campus by the medical students on charge of alleged theft. Not to forget few of the alleged thrashers also happened to be Muslims! Yet instead of limiting to 100% condemnation of the incident and demand for strictest punishment of the killers, again a section of the media indulged in imparting communal colour to the incident as if Shah had been killed just for being a Muslim which is certainly not fair. Similarly in many many cases when the victim or the sufferer coincidentally happens to be Muslim though the reason behind the assault has no connection with religion, yet the incident promptly gets communalised! It seems all norms of human rights form the monopoly of the minorities only or if Shah had been a Hindu, lynching is permissible!
While we should never define a stray criminal or terrorist through his/her religion, in the same way we should not play a communal game also in respect of the victims if the motive behind the attack or injustice holds no remote connection with religion. Actually Indian society(and maximum societies around the world) still exist far far distance away from an ideal scenario where individuals(and their actions) are not seen through the prism of religion race language caste or colour. Only when people would publicly identify themselves as human beings first with all demographic identities relegated to absolute private domain, can this prejudice/bias/favouritism in respect of communal/racial/regional identity be eventually wiped off from the face of the society.
The writer is based in Kolkata