Roti, Kapda Aur Makaan – Riot, Nafrat Aur Dukaan

The Indian population has seen several incisions in the history of its being.

Each tear and scar is a painful reminder of how politics of intolerance in the past has left behind generations that still try and cope with hate and trauma that percolates to the present moment.

‘India’ was born at the sacrificial altar, where streams of blood gave us a nation that still remembers the trauma of its birth. I was not born when the 1984 riots or the Pandit exodus took place, and I was too young when Godhra burned. Today, I see leaders, retired army officers, home makers and young students using these very incidents to explain away what is happening in Kashmir and Northeast Delhi.

Who are ‘we’ as a people? Are we people who have accepted the culture of hate, intolerance and violence?

I am trying very hard to recall if I spotted the signs of increasing Islamophobia. Was it that which got Narendra Modi got elected as the Prime Minister despite Gujarat riots, or was it a lack of a political alternative as many say?

Today, the same Indian population lives without an official figure for those below the poverty line. The country is spiralling towards unemployment and a stagnation that will take us decades to recover from.

The country, which is still dealing with issues related to food, lifestyle, and a roof over their head, is being consumed by a culture of communal hatred, rioting and arson. The trade of hate, the currency of religion, and politics of power have defined the years to follow. Today I see museums and memorials being built to remember the painful past with wounds that have not healed completely. They are hidden under multiple layers, which perhaps we’re unable to see and understand.

Also read: How Hate Spread Its Wings in Delhi: Why February 25 Will Haunt Me Forever

Partition was not a word. It was a sentence that is still being quoted in courts.

I say ‘we’ because Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and more are Indians. The moment you refer to Muslims as ‘them’, you are not only exacerbating the divide, but also enforcing a system of ‘otherisation’, which is exactly what ‘they’ want. The divide should be recognised as the state vs people. The state that gets upholders of the law transferred, gets terms of despots in the police extended, and endorses a culture of hate that erodes the social fabric of the country, and the safety it promises to the diversity.

It was in the midst of these developments that I visited a hospital due to a personal emergency. The two significant points of contact who diagnosed and operated upon further saving my relative were Muslims. Their hands healed someone dear to me. In that moment, it was not important to them whether the patient worshipped a book which read left to right, or otherwise.

It is the same day that we saw images of people burnt alive, brutally beaten up.

Governance, as S.S. Menon once said, is a matter of choice. And the choice that those governing us have made very clear: rule and divide till there are none left to dissent.

Today, they are going after those with skullcaps while shouting the name of a God who is remembered for light. They carry torches that destroy lives in his name.

Sooner than we think, that very torch will burn many more pyres and there won’t be a place to hide. A nation that burns with hate cannot breed forgiveness.

We remember the 1984 riots as a consequence of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. We remember the Kashmiri Pandits who fled the Valley, and we see how they are used as a casual response to present-day dystopian retribution in Kashmir.

I will remember the day my city turned into a crematorium at the hands of goons, and relatives who simply shushed my horror.

And as the spotlight shines brighter on each one us, I will remember the guilt of being safe and the helplessness of not being able to do much.

Vishnupriya Rajgarhia is a graduate from the University of Oxford, with a specialised skillset in Art as well as Foreign Policy, and is currently working as a Research Fellow. 

Featured image credit: PTI