'Dear President, Do Intervene': Muslims On the Streets After MoS Threat to Kill
NEW DELHI: Muslims who have been the target of vitriol for months now, with the hate campaign culminating in the lynching of Mohammad Ashfaq at Dadri on the basis of rumours, are now stirring out of fear into action. A dharna as a spot reaction to the hate speech of Minister of State Ram Shankar Katheria, had representatives of all communities protesting silently with placards, “I Am A Muslim, Come Kill Me.”
This dharna marks a shift whereby the protest to such hate speeches that have dotted the Indian landscape with increasing periodicity and verocity over the past two years has moved out from silence, to active resistance along with other affected communities, organisations and individuals.
Parliament was stalled as Opposition MPs protested against this Agra meeting where a call for the ‘last battle’ against Muslims was given, seeking action against Katheria. This was not forthcoming, and since then the Minister has been on television maintaining that he was not correctly quoted. The speech is on tape with the Indian Express being the only newspaper to report at length on the meeting targeting Muslims brazenly, and threatening violence.
The minorities have been feeling the pressure that has moved from the poor households of say western Uttar Pradesh where violence turned hundreds of Muslims into refugees during the last Lok Sabha elections, into elite homes. Jurists, lawyers, academics, journalists, students, professionals---in fact Muslims from all spectra---when contacted by The Citizen did not want to come on the record, “not right now”, but admitted to a deep sense of insecurity as “Muslim is being turned into an ugly word.”
The concern is widespread with Muslim organisations now preparing for large meetings to raise the issues creating this insecurity. A 2nd Social Leadership Summit (2016) is being held over the weekend by the Movement for Empowerment of Muslim Indians and the Association of Muslim Professionals where the participants drawn from all walks of life, are also expected to discuss the current environment and the responses therein.
The Jamiat Ulema e Hind is organising a large stadium meeting to discuss the current situation as well with other communities being invited for the Convention in Delhi. Interestingly the protests, even if called by Muslim organisations, are in conjunction with other groups with the emphasis on inclusiveness and not exclusivity. Organisers when spoken to insisted that this was essential as they were looking for communal amity, and security for all.
Prominent citizens, who also sat in the protest at Jantar Mantar against the hate speech at Agra, said in a letter to President Pranab Mukherjee “We are writing to you with an appeal to dismiss the minister and advise the government to take immediate action against all those mentioned above in hate speeches and creating an atmosphere of intimidation and insecurity in the country.
As you are aware the communal incidents as well as atrocities against the Dalits have increased many folds in the past 18 months. There are attacks on intellectuals, artists, human rights defenders, minorities, students. All dissent is suppressed.
We request you to intervene urgently.”
In the past days the President has been receiving political leaders, delegations of journalists and others, as well as a host of written representations seeking his intervention to protect the Constitution from attack. He has remained non-committal but given all who met him a “patient hearing.”
Some responses from Jantar Mantar: 'This is the rock bottom moment for democracy in our country. Two days ago an officer of NMC is reported to have said that he cannot sleep nights because of the tremendous insecurity suffered by minorities and today none other than a Central Minister and one who is entrusted with the most sacred portfolio, Education has given its most heinous proof. ‘Nothing less than indictment by all elected representatives and immediate expulsion is called for' said former Planning Commission member,Dr. Syeda Hameed one of the protestors at the site who is also a signatory to the letter to the President.
Activist John Dayal: “People should understand that this attack is on Muslim not limited, it is an attack on Christians, Dalits, Adivasis and vulnerable. And being a Christian, in this case I came here to say that I am Muslim”.
Vimal Bhai from the National Alliance for People's Movements (NAPM): “What all is happening in Agra is due to the upcoming elections. BJP is trying to repeat what is has done in Muzaffarnagar to win the 2014 elections. We have to go to the grassroots for maintaining peace among people.”
Vijay Pratap, a well known activist :“This is the tough time and we have to work in a way which help our opponents to choose the path of humanity.”
Shabnam Hashmi, ANHAD: 'This blatant violation of Representation of People Act and the Oath taken on the Constitution by MP Katheria, should result in his immediate expulsion from Parliament'
The sequence of events as summarised in the letter to the President : “About 5,000 people gathered for a condolence meeting on Sunday, February 28, which was attended by these leaders mentioned above.
“All preparations” had been made to seek “revenge” before the 13th-day death rituals for Mahuar, the speakers said. A condolence meeting was organized in Agra for VHP worker Arun Mahaur, who was killed last week by some Muslim youths. Five people have been arrested for Mahaur’s murder. We strongly condemn this murder and appreciate that arrests have already been made, however the way this death is being used to spread venom is dangerous for the country’s communal harmony.
VHP district secretary Ashok Lavania, who was earlier jailed for assaulting Muslims, said that “human skulls will be offered for his [Mahaur’s] martyrdom”. “The revenge of the killing of one brother demands killing of ten demons.”
According to the Indian Express reports that Lavania went on to talk about the “action” that was planned.
“Many have approached me asking why we are not doing anything. They are saying do something — arson, murder, shootout. These are common Hindus. We are avoiding this because the organisation (VHP/RSS) is careful about not being held responsible… ultimately it becomes an act of the society. Once people are galvanised, no question would be raised at all. In cases like Ram Janmbhoomi, Muzaffarnagar, the party had disappeared. But it is certain that revenge will be taken before the [thirteen day period] is over”.
Katheria demanded that Mahaur’s killers be hanged, saying that his ministership would not get in the way and that his “hands are not tied”. “We have to be strong now”. As quoted in Dainik Bhaskar report he said, “We have to wage a war. If we don’t do this now, we will lose another partner tomorrow”.
VHP General Secretary Surendra Jain warned the administration, “If anyone, even the IG here, has any doubt about the law, they can approach me. I will show them the clauses of the IPC that say if you (police) do not perform your duty then common citizens can take law in their own hands”.
Bajrang Dal district coordinator referred to Muslims as ‘descendants of Ravana’, saying: If you want to live in India, live like Rahim and Rehman. If you try to be Akbar and Babar, we will raze your homes. We are the descendants of Rama. We will destroy the descendants of Ravana”.
The elected representatives have violated the Representation of the People Act (India) and the Other taken the Constitution.
We had expected an immediate action by the Prime Minister yesterday and waited for a day for the Minister to be dropped, unfortunately that has not happened.”