Three quarters of a century after a new nation was born, we still inflict immense suffering on ourselves, tearing the nation’s identity apart into religious fragments; almost as if we are destined to relive the Partition pogrom in every generation, trying to settle scores which never square up. Every single incident of violence forces us to ask the question: are we still a nation? Reports from the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh on communal tension over the mass mobilisation seeking contributions for Ram temple construction could not have come at a worse moment — on the eve of the first anniversary of the North-East Delhi riots.
Any communal incident in Delhi is a terrible reminder of the ghastly crimes of 1984 when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination triggered the killings of innocent Sikhs. 2020, the annus horribilis, began with clashes on February 23 that lasted three days, causing 53 deaths and about 500 getting badly injured. Nearly 40 of those dead were Muslims, yet the riots have been blamed entirely on the Muslim community, with the police claiming that the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act activists planned and executed the riots. The activists have all along maintained that BJP leader Kapil Mishra incited the mob, though he has vehemently denied it.
It is a tragedy when miscreants have to be identified by their religion to assert the neutrality of the probe, which the Delhi Police are often forced to do. According to news reports, of the 755 cases, about 350 against 802 Hindus and 767 Muslims are progressing with 1,818 arrested and 1,165 still in jail. Over 3,000 applications for compensation are being processed and the residents of North-East Delhi are struggling to forget and move on; something that all victims of violence are forced to do to remain sane. But as a nation, we cannot afford this never-ending cycle of violence baring the ugly entrails of a diseased society. The last riots coinciding with the visit of the then US President Donald Trump had an international audience. Yet, unfortunately, bigots seem to be still finding communal pride in these episodes of national disgrace.