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Firing from child’s shoulders: Our communalism, their communalism

A. J. Philip A. J. Philip
30 May 2022
Communalists using children for sloganeering

There’s a saying that rings true for all parents: Having a child is like having your heart walking around outside of your body. It is the parent’s duty to protect his child and bring him up in the best possible manner. An officer of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), deployed in Sri Lanka in the eighties, told me a story about the challenges they faced in the island nation.

A convoy of military trucks was attacked by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in which about two dozen Indian soldiers were killed. When the survivors searched the area, they found a boy sitting on a tree with a remote controller in his hand. He had pissed in his knicker and was trembling when he was asked to get down from the tree.

He was asked by a relative to climb the tree and press the remote button when a military truck carrying soldiers was within two marked points on the road he could see from the treetop. The boy, who was not even a teenager, had no idea that pressing the button would detonate the underground mine and kill the occupants of the trucks. 

The child’s innocence was made use of by the LTTE cadres to kill the Indian soldiers. The Indian soldiers could not do anything against the boy who was let off with a warning never to do anything senseless in future. What else could they have done?

Around the same time, a child taking part in a radio programme at the All India Radio (AIR) station in Patna shouted the slogan “ghali ghali Mei shor he, Rajiv Gandhi chor hein” (there is a saying that Rajiv Gandhi is a thief). The studio was live and the child’s recitation was heard by lakhs of listeners. It was difficult to believe that the child recited the slogan sans prompting. It is cowardice to let children do dirty things that you want to do but are scared of doing for fear of retribution.

Children cannot think about the consequences of what they do. I am tempted to narrate an incident that happened very early in my life. Our new truck was parked in front of our house at Pathanamthitta. I, as the owner, wanted to show my friends my expertise in driving.

I accidentally pressed the clutch and changed the gear to the neutral position and the vehicle started moving as the road was sloppy.

I panicked as I did not know how to stop the vehicle. Our driver was watching and he placed a stone in front of the tyre and stopped the vehicle. If any accident had occurred during the interregnum, my father would have suffered. That is the law of the land. Children can do anything but the liability is that of the parents.

A friend sent me a video clip of a large procession taken out by a predominantly Muslim political organisation. I saw a child sitting on the shoulder of a man with his legs around his neck shouting slogans which the men were repeating in a modulated manner.

I must congratulate the child for the mellifluous and meticulous manner in which he was leading the sloganeering. He shouted the slogans in a particular tone and the processionists repeated them in a similar style. The child has a tone that is at once arresting.

Alas, what the child was saying was totally objectionable. It was like the nightingale singing profanities! He was threatening Hindus and Christians that they would not be allowed to stay in the land if they did not behave properly. It was certainly an incitement to violence. 

It is a different matter that on YouTube I have watched deadlier slogans being shouted against Muslims. And that, too, by adults without the police taking any action against them. Of course, two wrongs do not certainly make one right. 

The child’s conduct is certainly condemnable. The police are within their rights to register a case against the parents of the child. It is not difficult to identify the parents as the person who is carrying the boy can certainly be expected to reveal their names.

As I mentioned, it is the child’s parents who should be taken to task for what their child did. Nobody in his senses would believe that the slogans were written, given music and learnt by heart to recite them without any blemishes by the child himself. In that case, he is a genius like Beethoven and AR Rahman. 

The child was most probably trained by someone to do the mischief. It is for the law and order authorities concerned to decide whether the child should be sent to a correctional home after the case is heard by a court that hears cases against juvenile delinquents. In no case should the mischief-makers be allowed to go scot-free.

As I was watching the video, I remembered a scene from the Malayalam movie Bharya (Wife) which was released in the sixties. It depicted painter Michelangelo painting Jesus with an innocent child as his model. Many years later, the painter goes to jail to find the perfect model to paint Judas who betrayed Jesus for 30 silver pieces.

While the painter was busy on his canvas, the jailbird told him that a painter had once used him as a model for Jesus. That is when Michelangelo realised that his model for both Jesus and Judas was the same person. It is the circumstances that make a man a saint or a sinner. I hope the child will learn his folly and become a law-abiding citizen of the country. In Udaya Studio’s film, infatuation leads the chief protagonist, played by thespian Sathyan, to murder his wife.

Communalism of any kind is detestable. Only BJP leaders like Sandeep Warrier see the arrest of PC George as an attack on Christians. If the law of the land was applied in a free and fair manner, he would have been in jail the moment he uttered the malicious story that Muslim restauranteurs were making their non-Muslim customers sexually impotent. 

Nobody would support George for his ranting except characters like Warrier who want to draw political mileage from his arrest. A Union minister tried to create a scene when George was arrested the first time. If the minister had any respect for the Constitution, he should have rebuked George for talking nonsense using a Sangh Parivar platform.

Anyone — Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Sikh — who appeals to the baser instincts of a man like his religious or caste feelings to rouse passions in him should be looked down upon. He has no place in a civilised society. The pity is that communalists, whatever be their hue, are fed by one another. And they perform with a clear purpose.

Take the case of Aurangzeb, the Moghul ruler. He lived centuries ago. He cannot be judged by the Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence that we generally follow. He should be judged by the norms of his period. 

It was utterly malicious for a national leader to recall the atrocities committed by the Mughal leader while paying lip service to a community which knows how to defend itself. Nobody says that Aurangzeb was Mother Teresa. Let historians debate whether what he did was wrong or right. Whether he taxed only Hindus and not Muslims. Whether he had Hindus holding coveted positions in his government.

And who should be held responsible for ill-treating tens of millions of Scheduled Castes for millennia? Did they suffer at the hands of the Moghuls or the colonial rulers? Seven and half a decades after the British left India, atrocities against Dalits continue to happen. Are the Mughals and the Portuguese responsible for it?

A Muslim leader from Hyderabad played into the hands of the Hindu fundamentalists when he visited the tomb of Aurangzeb in Aurangabad in Maharashtra. What was the message that he was sending out? That Aurangzeb was dear to Muslims. The fact of the matter is that an attempt is being made to rewrite history and remove all Muslim names from places and institutions.

The leader purposely chose to visit Aurangabad and publicise his visit. It proves beyond a shadow of doubt that Hindu communalists need Muslim communalists and vice versa to keep their business of spreading hatred going. Kerala is now witness to how the two have been feeding on each other. 

The procession in Alappuzha was organised by the Popular Front of India (PFI). It disowned the slogans, but not in any reassuring manner. Its claim that its rally was to save the Republic does not cut ice, considering its track record and the threatening posturing that it has engaged in, in recent years. 

Nobody has given the PFI or, for that matter, any organisation that is known by its acronym, the right to defend the nation or nationhood.

Nor has anybody been given the right to dictate terms. Who gave the PFI or any other outfit the right to threaten others, who do not subscribe to their viewpoint. The Constitution very clearly says that it is “we the people of India” who have decided to form the Republic.

The state has arms like the defence forces, the paramilitary forces and the police to ensure that if anyone, however mighty he or she may think himself or herself to be, takes the law into his or her own hands, he or she will be dealt with severely by the law. There is no need for a child whose parents are with the PFI to tell the people how they should live in this country. Nobody has given the organisation the right to threaten anyone.

Similarly, in a democratic country, no social or political organisation has the right to wield the lathi and threaten others. Their roles are as detestable as the role played by the knicker-wearers in the Third Reich. Kerala is known for its communal harmony. If anyone has any doubt about its secular credentials, one only has to travel through the length and breadth of the state to realise this.

Such a visitor will find at Palayam in Thiruvananthapuram, a mosque, a temple and a church standing virtually cheek by jowl. Where else will you find the Hindu faithful visiting the mosque at Erumeli before visiting the Sabarimala shrine on the Western Ghats? A Malayali Muslim in UP or Delhi will find himself or herself drawn to a Malayali Christian or Malayali Hindu in such a place than to a Muslim Delhiite or a Muslim UPite. Because they are culturally closer. A Malayali Muslim and a Bihari Muslim, for instance, are like chalk and cheese!

I remember visiting the Congress office at Malappuram during the 1991 Lok Sabha election. The Congress party had sent large packets of printed election material in Urdu thinking that Malappuram being a Muslim-majority district would need the Urdu material. 
It showed how clueless the Congress leadership at that time was about the language preference of the Muslims in Kerala. Their journals like Madhyamam and Chandrika are printed in Malayalam, not Urdu.

In LK Advani’s autobiography he claims that when the RSS began its operations in Karachi, Hindus felt a sense of security in the area. History bears proof that the sense of security they felt was indeed false. When the Partition occurred, the RSS could not protect him and his family who had to seek protection in this part of the country.

Kerala has been witness to several killings and counter-killings. When a Hindu is killed by Muslim fanatics, a Muslim is killed by Hindu fanatics within a few hours. Such killings are a shame for Kerala, whose population is the most educated and the most egalitarian. The tragedy is all the more as communalists have started training children to do their dirty job. Children need education, not indoctrination.

ajphilip@gmail.com

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