A journalist gets beaten up for being a Muslim: Only in Modi's India

Secularism is under threat.

 |  6-minute read |   21-06-2017
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In a chilling incident in Delhi, a Kashmiri Muslim journalist was assaulted by a group of Hindus simply because of his religion.

Basit Malik, an independent Kashmiri journalist based in Delhi, was attacked by a group of Hindu men as soon as they realised his religion. Not just that, they accused him of being a Pakistani and called him a stone-pelter. They made him say, “Pakistan murdabad!”

On June 8, Malik had gone to Ambay Enclave, a small slum near Sonia Vihar in east Delhi, to investigate for Caravan magazine an incident of hate crime that had been reported by the Milli Gazette. The day before, on June 7, the news publication had published a video on its Facebook page that showed a group of people demolishing a rudimentary brick structure, which was allegedly a mosque.

The slum, which is predominantly a Hindu locality, is home to 25 Muslim families, who built the makeshift mosque on a small patch of land owned by a Akbar Ali. Malik was told by a Muslim resident of Ambay Enclave that while there did exist a small building in the neighbourhood which functioned both as a mosque and a madrassa, the space was too small. With Ali’s permission, they erected the small structure.

Despite no claims of a prior Ram Mandir, a Babri-like fate befell this mosque. A group of Hindus - primarily members of Thakur and Gujjar communities - unhappy with the existence of the mosque, tore it down barely nine days after it was built, while chanting phrases like "Masjid todo, swarg banao (Break the mosque, build heaven)”.

The police denied the occurrence of any such incident, of course, even as more trouble was already brewing.

“You Pakistani!”

On June 9, Malik returned to the neighbourhood once more, after the Muslim residents he had met the day before called him to say that the situation had worsened. He was told that a Muslim barber, who rented his shop from a Hindu resident, had been asked by his landlord to shut shop for the day. He was also told that the Muslim residents were worried that they would not be allowed to set up stalls during the weekly market.

Malik decided to talk to some of the Hindu residents, hoping that they might be able to shed more light on what had happened. He was told by residents to speak with a certain Charat Singh. There he met Bharat Singh, Charat’s older brother. When he inquired about the mosque demolition, Bharat said a temple used to stand on the site on which the Muslims had built the structure.

Singh added that the mosque was built with the help of Pakistan funding, and that this was a bigger conspiracy to increase the Muslim population. He also mentioned that the police officials had suggested that the residents resolve the matter among themselves, and thus a “shanti sabha” was being held at the house of a man called Vijendra Pradhan. Malik was asked to accompany them to the sabha, and that’s when things began to go wrong.

Once at the sabha, which comprised a group of 60-odd people, Malik realised that this was no peace meeting between the Hindu and Muslim residents to come to a consensus. Rather, this was a Hindu-only meeting where people complained about the "lack of unity" among the Hindus and how the police, instead of doing something about the Muslims, were harassing the former.

The meeting continued for a few hours and then, all of a sudden, things got tense.

The members caught hold of Malik, snatched his phone and asked him for his identity. Malik who had previously mentioned that he did not have a visiting card and was happy to show his voter ID card instead, reiterated that he was a journalist and proceeded to produce his voter ID.

The voter card, that included his middle name as well, read “Malik Abdul Basit”. Upon reading it, all hell broke loose.

He was repeatedly slapped and hit, while people uttered things like “Harami toh Musalman hai (this bastard is a Muslim)”, and “Hum yahan police se bhaag rahe hain aur tu hamari pareshaniyan badhana chahata hai (we are on the run from the police, and you’re trying to make matters worse)”. No amount of explanation from Malik changed their minds. Moreover the mob, ignorant of the fact that Kashmiri voter ID cards have Urdu text in them, jumped to the conclusion that he wasn’t from India at all.

As the assault continued, he was made to say “Pakistan murdabad” and “Hindustan zindabad” while cameras recorded him in the humiliating, traumatised state. He was also asked why he threw stones at soldiers, and why he wanted azadi. He was also called an ISI agent, a Mullah and an aatankwaadi (terrorist).

They finally handed him over to the police, but not before he was sufficiently thrashed. The police made him write a statement and let him go, but not before his brother arrived with some sort of an identity proof.

No country for Muslims

There hasn’t really been a sadder time to be a Muslim in India. Perhaps since Partition, and certainly worse a time when Babri Masjid was barbarically pulverised. These are times when Indian Muslims live in perpetual fear. The majority and the goons who masquerade as political leaders and cadres who threaten to send anyone who disagrees or dissents to Pakistan are using these polarised times to their benefit.

indian-muslim-_062017090938.jpgPhoto: Indiatoday.in

This horrifying incident, shocking as it is, makes a very good case of just how Hindus perceive Indian Muslims, even close to seven decades of Independence. Pakistan’s victory against India in a trivial cricket tournament saw a rise of rumour-mongering from bigots over how Indian Muslims celebrated India’s defeat. A lot of these hoaxes have been busted already, but the problem lies not with the rumours, but with the sentiments behind them.

And even if one does celebrate Pakistan’s victory in a cricket match, does that even qualify for sedition?

At a time when cattle traders are being lynched because of their Muslim identity and all dissenting (read disagreeing with the Modi government) are called Pakistanis, and a journalist is being beaten up just because he is Muslim - how can we still claim India is a secular state?

Also read: Pakistan played their best cricket in years and India the worst in recent times

Writer

Pathikrit Sanyal Pathikrit Sanyal @bucketheadcase

The author is a culture writer who likes talking about the internet, memes, privacy and all things pop culture.

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