Arundhati Roy on Delhi violence

Arundhati Roy on Delhi violence1

‘This is our version of the corona virus. We are sick’

Arundhati Roy

This place
where we are gathered today is only a short bus ride away from where four days
ago a fascist mob, fired up by speeches made by members of the Ruling Party,
backed up and actively assisted by the police, assured of round the clock
support by a vast section of the electronic mass media, and comforted by the
belief that the courts would do nothing to come in their way mounted an armed,
murderous attack on Muslims in the working class colonies of North East Delhi.

The attack
had been in the air for a while, so people were somewhat prepared, and so
defended themselves. Markets, shops, homes, mosques and vehicles have been
burnt down. The streets are full of stones and debris. The hospitals are full
of the wounded and dying. The morgues are full of the dead. Both Muslim and
Hindu, including a policeman and a young staffer of the Intelligence Bureau.
Yes. People on both sides have shown themselves capable of horrifying brutality
as well as unbelievable courage and kindness.

there can be no equivalence here. None of this alters the fact that the attack
was begun by lumpen mobs chanting “Jai Shri Ram” backed by the apparatus of
this now nakedly fascist state. Notwithstanding these slogans, this is not what
people like to label a Hindu-Muslim “riot”. It is a manifestation of the
ongoing battle between fascists and anti-fascists in which Muslims are the
first among the Fascists’ “enemies”. To call it a riot or a “danga”, or “Left”
versus “Right” or even “Right” versus “Wrong” as many are doing, is dangerous
and obfuscatory.

We have all
seen the videos of the police standing by and sometimes participating in the
arson. We have seen them smashing CCTV cameras, just as they did when they
vandalised the Jamia Millia Islamia University library on December 15. We have
seen them beat wounded Muslim men as they lay piled up against each other and
force them to sing the national anthem.

We know
that one of those young men is dead. All the dead, wounded and devastated,
Muslim as well as Hindu are victims of this regime headed by Narendra Modi, our
nakedly fascist Prime Minister who himself is no stranger to being at the helm
of affairs in a state when 18 years ago a massacre on a much larger scale went
on for weeks. The anatomy of this particular conflagration will be studied for
years to come. But the local detail will only be a matter of historical record
because the ripples based on hateful rumours fuelled on the social media have
begun to eddy outwards and we can already smell more blood on the breeze.

there have been no more killings in North Delhi, yesterday (February 29) saw
mobs of people in Central Delhi chanting the slogan that built up to the attacks:
“Desh ke Gaddaron ko, Goli maaron saalon ko.” Only a few days ago. the Delhi
High Court Judge, Justice Muralidharan was furious with the Delhi Police for
having taken no action against Kapil Mishra, former BJP MLA candidate who had
earlier too used it as an election slogan. On the night of February 26, the
judge was given midnight orders to take up his new assignment in the Punjab
High Court. Kapil Mishra is back on the streets chanting the same slogan.

It can now
be used until further notice. Fun and games with judges isn’t new. We know the
story about Justice Loya. We may have forgotten the story of Babu Bajrangi,
convicted of participating in the killing 96 Muslims in Naroda Patiya, in
Gujarat in 2002. Listen to him on YouTube: He’ll tell you how “Narendra bhai”
got him out of jail because of “setting” the judges.

We have
learned to expect massacres such as this one before elections they have become
a sort of barbaric election campaign to polarise votes and build
constituencies. But the Delhi massacre happened just days after an election,
after the BJP-RSS suffered a humiliating defeat. It is a punishment for Delhi
and an announcement for the coming elections in Bihar.

is on record. Everything is available for everyone to see and hear the provocative
speeches of Kapil Mishra, Parvesh Verma, Union Minister Anurag Thakur, Chief
Minister of UP Yogi Adityanath, the Home Minister Amit Shah and even the Prime
Minister himself. And yet everything has been turned upside down it’s being
made to appear as though all of India is a victim of the absolutely peaceful,
mostly female, mostly  but not only
Muslim protestors who have been out on the streets for almost 75 days, in their
tens of thousands, to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

The CAA,
which offers a fast-track route to citizenship for non-Muslim minorities, is
blatantly unconstitutional and blatantly anti-Muslim. Coupled with the National
Population Register and the National Register of Citizens, it is meant to
delegitimise, destabilise and criminalise not just Muslims but hundreds of
millions of Indians who do not have the requisite documents including those who
are chanting “Goli Maaro Saalon Ko” today.

citizenship comes into question, everything comes into question your children’s
rights, your voting rights, your land rights. As Hannah Arendt said,
“citizenship gives you the right to have rights.” Anybody who thinks this is
not the case, please turn your attention to Assam and see what has happened to
twenty lakh people Hindus, Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis. Now trouble has started
between local tribes and the non-tribal population in the state of Meghalaya.
There is curfew in Shillong. The state borders are closed to non-locals.

The sole
purpose of the NPR-NRC-CAA is to destabilise and divide people not just in
India but across the whole subcontinent. If they do indeed exist, these phantom
millions of human beings who India’s current Home Minister calls Bangladeshi
“termites”, cannot be kept in detention centres and cannot be deported. By
using such terminology and by thinking up such a ridiculous, diabolic scheme,
this government is actually endangering the tens of millions of Hindus who live
in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who they pretend to be concerned about,
but who could suffer the backlash of this bigotry emanating from New Delhi.

In 1947, we
won independence from colonial rule that was fought for by almost everybody
with the exception of our current rulers. Since then all manner of social
movements, anti-caste struggles, anti-capitalist struggles, feminist struggles
have marked our journey up to now. In the 1960s, the call to revolution was a
demand for justice, for the redistribution of wealth and the overthrow of the
ruling class.

By the
1990s, we were reduced to fighting against the displacement of millions of
people from their own lands and villages, people who became the collateral
damage for the building of a new India in which 63 of India’s richest people
have more wealth than the annual budget outlay for 1,200 million people. Now we
are reduced to pleading for our rights as citizens from people who have had
nothing to do with building this country.

And as we
plead, we watch the state withdraw its protection, we watch the police get
communalised, we watch the judiciary gradually abdicate its duty, we watch the
media that is meant to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted do the
very opposite.

Today is
the 210th day since Jammu and Kashmir was unconstitutionally stripped of its
special status. Thousands of Kashmiris including three former chief ministers
continue to be in jail. Seven million people are living under a virtual
information siege, a novel exercise in the mass violation of human rights. On
February 26, the streets of Delhi looked like the streets of Srinagar. That was
the day that Kashmiri children went to school for the first time in seven
months. But what does it mean to go to school, while everything around you is
slowly throttled?

A democracy
that is not governed by a Constitution and one whose institutions have all been
hollowed out can only ever become a majoritarian state. You can agree or
disagree with a Constitution as a whole or in part but to act as though it does
not exist as this government is doing is to completely dismantle democracy.
Perhaps this is the aim. This is our version of the coronavirus. We are sick.

There’s no
help on the horizon. No well-meaning foreign country. No UN. And no political
party that intends to win elections will or can afford to take a moral
position. Because there is fire in the ducts. The system is failing. What we
need are people who are prepared to be unpopular. Who are prepared to put
themselves in danger? Who are prepared to tell the truth.

journalists can do that, and they have. Brave lawyers can do that, and they
have. And artists beautiful, brilliant, brave writers, poets, musicians,
painters and filmmakers can do that. That beauty is on our side. All of it. We
have work to do. And a world to win.

The author addressed a gathering at Jantar Mantar in Delhi on Sunday.

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