Ever since the National Investigation Agency (NIA) raided a total of eight places in Prayagraj (erstwhile Allahabad) including mine on September 5, questions like ‘why only your house was targeted … Why not ours?’ is being asked umpteen times.
Let me say at the outset that the mental torture that we are going through today, we do not wish the same for others. However, it’s a different matter that it does not depend solely on our goodwill.
For instance, when someone from among the Muslim community gets arrested or his place is raided, then generally the Muslims don’t ask such questions among themselves.
The experience of September 5 made me remember that after the Muslims arrested from Surat were honourably released from jail, the filmmaker Shubhradeep Chakravarty, who was making his film After the storm, asked a Muslim victim the same question as to why the police picked him up. Incidentally the man had a small poultry farm. Looking at his chickens he ruminatively said, ‘the government is like the owner of a poultry farm and the people are like chickens. Whenever the sarkar feels hungry it picks up a chicken… so the question as to why this or that chicken was picked up is meaningless.’
One thing which was evident from the man’s statement was that he had come to learn from his experience that more or less the entire Muslim community was at under the state’s target.
Similarly, if you go to a tribal community, you would find this question non-existent there too. During the peak of Salwa Judum days, when thousands of tribal houses were being burnt and lakhs were being displaced, tribals understood that their entire community was the target of the state and big capital combine. Therefore, here too the question as ‘why was your house burnt or why were you raped by paramilitary men found no resonance at all?’
Can the still ‘safe’ Kukis in Manipur today ask why the government-backed goons did burn their houses his house or parade women from his family around naked in broad daylight?
If you happen to be in Kashmir, there will be many families whose sons have been made to ‘disappear’ by the Army, but will they dare ask ‘why only your sons have been picked up by the Army?’ Kashmiris know from their own experience that all Kashmiris are at the gun-point of the government/state.
Even among the Dalits, no one asks ‘why caste atrocities happen only with me?’
Actually, this is the question of the primarily Hindu ‘progressive’ middle class because the experience of the state’s ‘knock-at-the-midnight’ has not yet been reached his/her door and hence the facade of his ‘progressiveness’ still remains intact.
But if we refused to learn from history, then soon one day we will reach a point where no one will be able to escape the ‘knock-at-the-midnight’ at their doors, and then we will not even be in a position to know that apart from us who else has also been raided.
Pastor Martin Niemöller’s poem First They Came for the Communists is not just a poem. It is in fact a ‘poetic document’ of the days bygone.
Whether we learn a lesson from this or not depends solely on our ‘sense of history’.
( Manish Azad is a writer and social worker. Translated from Janchowk by Rajender Singh Negi, New Delhi.)