The visit of the President of USA, Donald Trump, to India has been a grand affair. From Ahmedabad to Agra and Delhi, no stone was left unturned. Everything looked like a massive roadshow. However, 24th and 25th February have also left a deep scar on our minds by the way of clashes in northeast Delhi. Seventeen people have died so far, including a police constable; and over 150 injured. This is extremely shocking and disturbing. Protest, whether pro- or anti-CAA, cannot become violent.
Why are Kapil Mishra and Anurag Thakur not being held accountable despite provoking so much violence? Why is one community being pitted against another over and over again? Where is the need for stones and guns in a peaceful protest? We have begun to breathe violence along with toxic air. Police on the one hand and radicals on the other are going to any extent to terrorize the other. Why are we all becoming enemies of each other? Delhi being the centre of all political activity implies that its communalization is all the more dangerous. It can have debilitating consequences on the political stability of the entire country.
What is more disturbing is that politicians are at the root of the trouble. They are the ones inciting violence through hate speech, erecting walls and boundaries in a diverse country such as ours. Secularism is now being viewed as an imaginary and utopian ideal which cannot exist in the real world which seems to be in the Hobbesian state of nature. These narratives perpetuated through WhatsApp university are poisonous. They are killing the values of democracy, social justice and humanity. We are in the middle of a humanitarian crisis where violence has come to be normalized.
Day by day, we see police becoming predator. Merciless baton-charging of students, torture of minors in detention on the one hand, and mute spectatorship of men opening fire and molesting women on the other. Whom do we trust when the keepers of law are becoming partners in crime? Civilians who are radicalised by political leaders have done away with all rationality as well as morality. They do not think twice before wielding their weapons to threaten and kill. Every other becomes an enemy. There is no space for coming together as human beings.
If the burning capital does not wake us up from our slumber, it is difficult to imagine what will. Not only Delhi, so many localities across the countries are seeing violent clashes every now and then. Angry mobs are burning tyres, opening fire, even killing one another. Why do we forget that law and order cannot be taken in our own hands? Why do we let politicians ruin our consciousness? Why are there sticks and rods in the hands of youth instead of books and pens? Is unemployment pushing them to crime, or are they deliberately being kept unemployed so that they can perform the dirty, inhuman work of their masters?
In no circumstance is violence the way to sort differences. The right to peaceful protest cannot be alienated from any individual. Similarly, no protest or counter-protest can be turned into an attack. Violence cannot be the answer to any question. Conflict is normal; there is no society where it does not exist. But democracy means coming together to bridge the gaps and sort the differences through debate, dialogue, and discussion. If every faction becomes a warring faction, no consensus can ever be achieved. We need to continue believing in due processes despite their shortcomings. We cannot take away someone’s life no matter how much we dislike them.
The language of hate is toxic and can be understood by none but those who are poor and vulnerable. It could be young children or youth who are unemployed and frustrated. Such young minds are malleable and must be directed towards productive pursuits instead of violent ones for petty monetary advances. Nation-building cannot occur by exercising hegemony to demonize one community. The challenge is to work over the differences and find a middle path. There is no crisis which cannot be resolved by negotiation, collaboration, co-operation and creative thinking.
While slums were evicted and walls built to show Trump the grandeur that India is, what about this violence which has been incited by the very leaders of the ruling regime? Was that right-wing extremism a part of Mr. Trump’s welcome package as well, a token of like-mindedness and friendship? Are attacks of this kind not instances of state-sponsored terrorism? Trump visited the Taj Mahal (Tejo Mahalaya as Yogi Adityanath wants to name it, unhappy because it is a Mughal heritage). He also visited the Rashtrapati Bhavan and Rajghat, but he can obviously choose to be unaware of the deaths in northeast Delhi merely 20 kilometres away. Can we?