Vantage point

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Solapur All Over Again

News of the latest riots in Bangalore can't help but remind me of the Solapur and Lucknow riots. All instances were triggered by something which India had nothing to do with.

4-5 years back, Jerry Falwell, noted American right-wing nut-job, called the Prophet Muhammad a terrorist. Muslim organisations in Solapur, a city with no prior history of hindu-muslim violence, felt offended and took out a protest. As is natural with all mobs, this one too got out of control. They destroyed some property, and tried to force shopkeepers to shut their shops, driven by zeal to make their protest "successful". The shopkeepers did not play ball. Things escalated. Violence erupted.

Then last year, Bush visited India. Muslim organisations in Lucknow, another city with no prior history of hindu-muslim violence, took out a protest march. Again, they tried to force shopkeepers to down shutters. Again shopkeepers, mostly if not entirely Hindu, disagreed. Again, violence ensued.

And the same drama is being repeated in Bangalore, a city with no major history of hindu-muslim violence as far as I know (though I could be wrong). Muslim organisations took out a protest march to vent their anger at, of all things possible, Saddam Hussein's execution. Reuters reports that they tried to force Hindu shopkeepers to down their shutters. Disagreement. Hindu activists jump in and violence escalates.

The pattern in all these riots is the same. Indian Muslims stupidly protesting issues which have nothing to do with the pathetic conditions that they find themselves in. I mean seriously, if they came out protesting soemthing concrete, I would oppose the violence of course, but I would at least respect their outrage. But in all these cases, their outrage is childishly stupid, their attempts at bullying shopkeepers completely wrong. And their actions completely stupid and short-sighted.

Stupid and short-sighted because by firing the first shot, they give Hindu extermist nutjobs like RSS, VHP etc an excuse to jump in an escalate the situation. And fellas please, let's take everything moral, ethical, political etc out of the picture for a moment. Let's think about the basic instinct of self-preservation, the same instinct that stops you from picking a fight with that guy in your neighbourhood who is a foot taller and a quintal heavier than you. Why go and start the fight? If the guy did something to provoke you, like threw a dead pig in your mosque, or disrupted your taziyas, fine. Let it rumble. Knock yourself out. But why provoke this bulky guy and get your ass kicked? No, it is actually worse. You won't get your ass kicked. You are actually opening up innocent families, women, children from your community to retaliatory riots. And when you pick a fight for a reason as stupid as some foreign dude being executed by other foreign dudes, you lose whatever little sympathy you have in the mind of the utterly partisan policeman who already isn't quite fond of you.

In all these instances, and obviously in Bangalore, the Hindu rightwingers responded with frenzied glee. Wow, the Muslims have actually given us a legit excuse to go crazy? Then let's go crazy. And riots ensued.

With apologies to Lester Burnham, I have to say, sometimes there's so much the world...I feel like I can't take my heart's going to cave in.

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