LUCKNOW: For centuries Lucknow has been the epicentre of the famous Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb (culture, etiquette) where people belonging to different religions have lived in peace and camaraderie. The city is also known as Lakshmanpur, after Lakshman the younger brother of the mythical or legendary Lord Ram.

It was in the mid-eighteenth century that Lucknow gained importance as the capital of Awadh, under the nawabs and then the British. In recent times, however, the city’s cultural fabric has steadily been rent apart by some people who arrogate to themselves the baggage of Cultural and Religious crusaders.

The most recent case is the attack on the two young Kashmiri dry fruit vendors on the streets of Lucknow. The incident which went viral on social media yesterday marks a blatant violation of our social norms by assorted members of the self-anointed moral and religious police, who dare to publicly assault common people in what is nothing but a slap on the face of democracy.

Mohammed Afzal Naik and Abdul Salaam, who make a living by selling dry fruits, were heckled, assaulted and harassed by a group of men in saffron kurtas and white trousers, who told them and passersby that they were attacking them because they were from Kashmir.

In the video widely shared on social media, the men, who belong to yet another right-wing fringe group are seen slapping, punching and beating the Kashmiris with sticks, loudly abusing them all the while.

The attack was part of the engineered backlash which scores of Kashmiris have faced ever since the government alleged that it was a 20-year-old Kashmiri suicide bomber who drove an RDX-filled vehicle into a convoy of the Central Reserve Police Force in Pulwama, killing over 40 troopers.

The Kashmiri traders assaulted by these right-wing hoodlums were saved by the intervention of a couple of passersby, who convinced the men to allow the police to deal with them, for an unspecified crime. “Those people saved us. They're good. They had reached before the police,” one of the two Kashmiris said.

Zafar Rizvi, the man who intervened, is being flooded with messages of gratitude and with violent threats. Many organisations in Lucknow have organised events to protest against this shameful incident. The Rihai Manch is organising a dharna to express disaffection and remonstration against the incident.

The police, under an upright SSP swung into a prompt action and arrested the hooligans within a few hours, lodging a criminal case under Sections 147, 323, 307, 504 and Section 7 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, in Case Crime Number 80/2019 at the Hasanganj police station in Lucknow.

The attackers are now in judicial custody awaiting prosecution.

The All India Democratic Women’s Association, the Akhil Bhartiya Janwadi Mahila Samiti are organising an open session with the victims of assault.

Such events and platforms attempt to showcase the sad state of affairs prevailing in a peaceful city like Lucknow, where intolerance, bigotry and fanaticism are becoming increasingly common.

Last month the Supreme Court directed the governments of 10 states, including Uttar Pradesh, to take “prompt action” to ensure Kashmiris living across the country do not face social boycott or attacks. For sporadic incidents of violence and alleged harassment were reported across India against Kashmiris, including students, in the aftermath of the dastardly Pulwama attack.

A 24-year-old journalist from Jammu and Kashmir working with an English daily in Pune was allegedly attacked by some local youths last month. Attacks on Kashmiri students were reported from Dehradun, Jodhpur, Ambala, Panchkula, Delhi, and Patna.

Polarisation and terrorism know no religion. Such acts as witnessed in Pulwama and its aftermath pose a grave threat to all Indians and our future.