An anonymous student: I am a Muslim. But I can't tell anyone my name. What if they decide to lynch me?
A protest was organised against the recent lynching of 24-year-old Tabrez Ansari in Jharkhand. Diverse people gathered, from Delhi University professors to a shy little seven-year-old girl. I attended too.
- Total Shares
PM Modi: "The lynching in Jharkhand has pained me. It has saddened others too.”
These are the words Prime Minister Modi said about 24-year-old Tabrez Ansari, alias Sonu, who was allegedly lynched by a mob in Jharkhand on suspicion of theft, and forced to chant 'Jai Shri Ram' as he was a Muslim.
On Wednesday evening, as the heat in Delhi gathered and it seemed the skies might just pour, student leader Umar Khalid led a candle march under #unitedagainsthate to voice his opinion on why Tabrez Ansari was killed.
However, as I watched, I saw that it was not Khalid and his star group of campaigners, like Kanhaiya Kumar and Kavita Krishnan, who took the spotlight here, but in fact, ordinary people who walked in and joined the protest. Around 200 people from different walks of life, students, teachers, professors, home makers, young kids, elderly people, had gathered at Jantar Mantar to register their angst about the lynching which had taken place.
They were simple people, from diverse streams and varied stages of life. All of them were united by one shared factor though. Their love for a country where they felt everyone should be safe, irrespective of their religion.
Having Their Say: Two students with one message. (Photo: Via author)
Two Muslim students who joined the march said, “We are terrified, we don’t want to tell anyone our name any more because if we do, we fear we will be killed."
Both of them held a poster saying: ‘Don’t make India into Lynchistan’.
"After these incidents have taken place, we both don’t know who will catch us, ask us our names and lynch us. Imagine, we have to cope with this fear for the next five years,” said the two.
When there are few words. (Photo: Via author)
Unlike the two Muslim boys, Shagufta, who came there alone, remarked that she is not afraid of anyone. “See, the law and order situation in the state needs to be controlled, what is going on is that policing is just not right,” she said. Speaking about the sudden rise in the number of lynchings, she said, “I think these are planned things which are going on, they are not stray cases. After the incident, the accused are released or they are garlanded or given good jobs. As I see it, this is an organised game going on and in fact, many more educated people should come out to fight for their own country,” Shagufta added.
In the crowd, as slogans like ‘Inquilab zindabad’ and ‘humein insaaf do’ rang out, seven-year-old Rahima stood too, holding her father’s kurta.
I asked her if she was a bit surprised to see so many people standing there, raising slogans. Shyly, she shook her head, as if to say no.
“I brought my daughter to this protest deliberately as I don’t want her to see an India which is full of hatred, crimes against minorities and people being killed just because they are not from your religion. This girl has her whole life in front of her and it’s the duty of Hindus and people in power to ensure she does get it,” said Moshim, a resident of Delhi, as the little girl still held her father’s kurta tightly.
A little Indian girl, with her life ahead of her. (Photo: Via author)
While Moshim spoke, Kanhaiya Kumar said to the gathered crowds: “I question the people in power, how will you ever get the trust of mothers who have lost their sons to lynching?” As he spoke amidst a silence, which reverberated with sadness, with grief and with shock, a law faculty student came along, holding a placard saying: “I am a Hindu and I love Muslims.”
Lynchings had happened before the BJP came to power though. Hadn't they, I asked a few people standing beside me.
“Yes, before 2014, such hate crimes had happened but in single digits and now, it has gone up to triple digits. In my view, the right wing is completely behind what is happening in our country. Their ideals are that this country belongs to Hindutva. But I would like to say that Hindutva is not Hinduism. The RSS in my view gave birth to the two-nation theory. I cannot live with this theory; I have friends who are Muslims and Christians. I spend my time with Muslims. My message to the minority community is that you have to come out in the streets if something like this happens,” the lady next to me said.
Standing under an old, shaded tree, talking about what changed in our country over the last couple of months, were two Delhi University professors.
Anuradha Marwha, who teaches in Zakir Hussain College, voiced her view, “I am here for myself, I see myself as a citizen of a secular country and I am very hurt with what has happened to some people in our country. I want this to stop, this horrific situation where young men and women can be killed just because of their names.”
Stand up for what you believe. (Photo: Via author)
Supporting her friend, Pragya from Gargi College also remarked, "I wonder, are the authorities backing such culprits? We are at the mercy of these people and the Constitution is not being respected. I see lynchings going up manifold now because they seem to have complete state patronage.”
The sky rumbled briefly.
The heat and humidity only grew.
But it did not rain.