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2

It is a common question to needle a Muslim with. "Is your first loyalty to God, or your country?" And they give whatever answer they give. And if they say country, they are met with skepticism and it is immediately followed with "Don't you know what the Quran says?" There is no right answer for xenophobia. Phobia by its very meaning is irrational.

Similarly, some Muslims look at Hindus with deep suspicion. They are convinced that Hindus are out to take away their rights and their safety and no amount of pointing out numerous secular Hindus will be a reassurance. There is no right answer for xenophobia. Phobia by its very meaning is irrational.

I will not go into the right and wrong of it, because I have no interest in debating people's opinions and perceptions and prejudices and criminal tendencies. Instead, what I want to do is answer the question myself. My first loyalty is to my country. And here is my problem with all these angry religious people.

I have no problem agreeing that if we love something, seeing it insulted hurts. My problem is with what is done about that hurt. There is a widespread legitimacy for a group of people angry to riot, damage public property, injure people and also at times kill. Particularly if they are angry with another religion or political party. Religio-political exploitation of our country has led to people who would file a police complaint over the murder of their own mother to take the law in their hands and go out seeking revenge for religious or political reasons. So, in my view, the hogwash that extremely hurt feelings make people act out of control doesn't wash.

What happens here is a deliberate incitement and approval of violence as a political tool. To dominate the weaker party into submission on threat of safety. In EVERY case. Irrespective of religion, irrespective of political party. Every time a group resorts to mob violence, they are in essence saying that "Our religion or our political party is more important to us than our country." Whatever their reasons are, this is not acceptable to me.

Holding the safety of citizens at ransom brings governments down on their knees. No matter which party is in power (unless it is the ruling party doing the damage, in which case, of course, they see it as an opportunity). It becomes nearly impossible to prosecute mob violence, for fear of further violence. In essence, each such instance becomes a state within a state. Each instance erodes the sovereignty of the country. MY country. Each failure to prosecute a large crowd sets precedent for impunity. Each successful riot sets a benchmark for the other side to rally its people against.

In my view, all these people are on the same side, and that side is one of gang wars for control of power. Whoever wins. The loser is always the country. ALWAYS. And it infuriates me that some of these people then call themselves nationalists like rubbing salt on a wound.

There is no disagreeing that wrongs happen, hideous wrongs happen, we have plenty of troublesome people in the country. However, using them as an excuse to indiscriminately attack citizens at large is the height of opportunistic bullying and cowardice. It is an attack on my country by the state within the state, and I do not respect this. Not even for God.

This has become so predictable, that people can trigger riots by doing something stupid, knowing that one cartoon, one slab of beef, one insult, whatever can reduce people to animals, devoid of all control over their actions or worse, the animal cunning of predators. We claim provocation, but really we WANT to be provoked. Sriram Sene's unfurling of the Pakistan flag is a case in point. If it were not discovered, it would have "provoked" retaliation against Muslims, as though no one else will unfurl a Pakistan flag to get stupid people rioting for fun and profit. As if, even if the religion of the culprit were branded on the crime, who exactly among all those attacked did it could be known. What makes it ok to attack an entire community of people over perceptions of threat from some of them?

It is no secret that a strong party that can protect its citizens from threats gets votes. So not only is the integrity of a country being eroded, but the intellectual autonomy of citizens too, by manufacturing heroes and encouraging mental slavery. This is its purpose.

In the absense of this, the violence vanishes. When police are now saying that it was a group of Hindu men who threw beef into the temple to incite riots, there is no outrage. I have people asking me how I believe what the police say. Yet, they would thump their chests and call it proof if the religion they wanted blamed were mentioned as culprits. Not a single person said that "IF" they did it, then it was wrong. Let alone wanting to beat them up or any such thing. Being a Hindu makes it ok to throw beef in a temple, I guess. It doesn't. Every Hindu will still think it is wrong. But without a political target, there will be no need to riot or even harm the exact culprits.

Muslims are very vocal about how Hindus treat Muslims in India. How do they treat Ahmedis in India? How do they treat Hindus in India? How do they treat Muslims in India? Where is the outrage? Big claims of genocide don't even end up as whimpers if the main target to blame is missing.

If this were truly religious hurt, betrayal by a follower of the religion ought to hurt more, no? But this isn't about hurt, like I said. It is mob violence that has been deemed the appropriate response to wrongs by specific people.

Yet these enemies of the country continue to masquerade as its protectors and leaders and well wishers. All the time destroying the rule of law to new heights through their own actions. Using slights and wrongs to incite people to attack entire communities with little proof and even lesser identification and total disregard for mechanisms to deal with illegal actions. Crime is increasingly rampant. Loss of life and property. Social safety. And what for? To prove superiority in a country committed to inclusion. To use the threat of massive presence and disruptive capacity to force. How does successfully retaliating mean either innocence or rightful cause? It only means you out violenced opposition. Think about it.

We have redressal mechanisms for addressing wrongs. We have police, we have courts. Yes, they don't function optimally. Yes, I know there is still no justice for the 1984 riots. At the same time, what citizens done done to make the system powerful enough to function against powerful criminals? Eroded it further. If justice has not been served, the need is to make sure it does. To use the system enough that it updates itself to cope with the responsibilities on it. To take the law in your hand, because someone else does it too, is nothing but a gang war. If your god likes it, that is between you and him. As someone who loves my country, I think all parties to this rubbish are criminals. Whatever your religion is, whatever your political orientation is, whatever your provocation is.

If you have the guts to claim to love India, quit sabotaging it.

10

Primary Red and I often have differences on the subject of Gujarat Riots. This is a subject with many differences of opinion, but what disturbs me about my conversations with him is that they often become about me personally. About my morals or me supporting genocide and such. Today, things came to another such flash point when I unfollowed him for repeatedly making it about me rather than the subject.

Since then, he has written an excellent post about why Zakia Jaffri must find justice. I agree with that post except for the last section and his stand, and this post is about the difference between them.

Another reason is because I do believe that the last part of his work that addresses the people that do nothing is likely provoked by our unConversation yesterday.

What about those who wield words to dismiss the wail of widows? For them, history reserves obscurity - its ultimate contempt.

There's more, but it is best you read the original, because it does point out important thoughts for us all to consider, and particularly the state.

He makes excellent points about history being kinder to the weak, and I think this will be an appealing perspective in our image eager times. I also support his call for justice because I believe that safeguarding human rights are the fundamental responsibility of the state and without them, we can't hope for good things in our future. It is the only way for us to be able to survive this with any integrity and unity as a country.

My issue with Primary Red's stand is not that post. It is how he applies the thoughts of that post in his interactions with others. I agree completely that the state owes Zakia Jaffri speedy justice. And all the other victims too. At the same time, I do think that the hallmark of the Gujarat riots has been in pitting citizens against each other to devastating effect. In taking the law into own hands and defining justice at will. And the responses to that incident thoughtlessly follow the same track.

The issue is not Zakia Jaffri finding justice for me. She should and I will never ever think that to be a bad idea. The issue is with justice being decided on the streets. The issue is with saying "I trust the courts to arrive at a responsible judgment" not being good enough. The subversion of democracy started by that incident continues unabated as a kind of appropriate response. Without the bloodbath, the essence of the riots - polarizing people against each other, identifying with one kind of victim and lynching the other... continues, even if the lynching is no longer physical. I see this as harmful for democracy and I reserve my right to remain neutral in terms of allocating blame. This is not and will never be about defending Modi, but I will not presume to define justice against my fellow countryman. I find the Gujarat riots revolting, but I am not a freaking Khap panchayat.

Do you realize that the only difference between a terrorist and a person who has decided justice is whether they fire words or bullets? The underlying attitude - that this wrong has been done, and these are the people that must be punished is the same. And there is no guarantee that someone hearing your peaceful recommendation doesn't decide that he isn't all that good at writing after all, but a massive wrong needs fixed.

The advice is excellent for the state, I disagree with it as advice for the citizen. There is a reason we have courts. Most of the people who both defend or attack Modi have no clue of the "truth" They were not there. It is impossible to look at a person and know their thoughts. Modi may have indulged in our trademark politicization of tragedy for profit that went out of hand. Mody may actually have conducted a pogrom. Modi may have failed to exert influence on the public opinion and ended up following the tide. Modi may have wanted far more carnage but got pressured by politics. Or something else. We don't know. That is why we have courts - when two people have differences they cannot reconcile, we place our trust in the system and accept its judgment and enforce it. We put our faith in the constitution and laws so that we don't end up fighting each other, but follow what is laid out for us when it comes to conflict.

The two sides have chosen beliefs based on whose cause they empathize with more and these beliefs and resulting confrontations in my eyes are the riots still continuing without physical violence. The mental, verbal violence, hate continues. I refuse to participate on either side. If that makes my morality suspect as this person thinks, then I must live with that, because my values don't allow me to participate in a process I see harmful for my country.

Does this mean that we must stay shut and pray for justice? Not fight for what we think is right? I would say support everything you think needs support. Help it find voice, find justice, but draw the line at attacking another, because you add to the problem. This is very real damage many over zealous people are doing to their cause and their country in their pursuit of control over what gets called "right".

There is another side to this that goes beyond justice. This side is more of concern to me as someone interested in the unity of India, not just geographically, but psychologically and emotionally. People are not equations to arrive at a total and say this is the right answer and the one right answer. That side is about majority population and minority population.

Neither the Hindus nor Muslims are going to leave the country. We have to co-exist. We can keep the hate of Pakistan out by building high walls, building high walls between each other as people will destroy us. It is easy to hold Modi to blame for the entire carnage. And I certainly hold him culpable and I have made it no secret that seeing him as Prime Minister is my idea of a horror story. At the same time, Modi is one person. The butchers were in the thousands.

Even soldiers trained and commanded to kill will not kill if their conscience disagrees. Do the math.

These are also the majority population. All these lofty ideals are excellent sitting in the US, where paper consequences don't bite. This is also the person who had said "let Anna Hazare die" right at the beginning of the protests. It is easy to conclude that lifeless equation when you don't have access to the ground realities and the anger charging the protests. Any person who saw the crowds would know whether "morally right or wrong", it would have been a security disaster.

Similarly, what do you think are the feelings and hostility for a minority population where the majority not only believe their beloved leader is innocent of intending them harm, but actually elected him back as a leader at least once since the carnage? What "reality" is, is nice on paper, but is this kind of thinking any favor to those being supported here? Where you are not willing to stand any argument, anything except that the popular leader should be punished.

It is different for an activist, a man on the street, an angry person protecting the Muslims to say this, and the Supreme court to decree it. In a democracy, no matter how unpalatable, if a court finds Modi guilty, then the population will largely accept it. If they don't, order can be enforced. That cannot be done for the hate you generate. Too many voices of hate are wrecking this country on every front there is.

Some worry about a few thousand Muslims, I worry about 1.2 billion Indians whose lives are all increasingly insecure and threatened with this kind of arbitrary blame. For example, those threatening the slutwalk also have a problem with the "morality" of the protesters that they perceive.

Primary Red may be a gentleman and likely physically non-violent, I don't think every person nodding head in agreement is the same. I also don't think mental violence as less damaging.

In conclusion, the Gujarat riots were horrifying. The butchery was unimaginable. Every person guilty must be punished as far as they can be identified. Modi included. Muslim killers included. Every victim as far as possible must be compensated and must find justice. Muslims and Hindus. But the guilt must be decided by the courts, not in "tu-tu main-main" type pissing contests. I refuse to take matters into my own hands, because my country is more important than my ego.

What would I like to do about this? Continue to promote neutrality, disengagement from the mental rioting, and encourage support for following procedure.

16

Recently, I got into a verbal spat with a friend who thinks Modi is the reincarnation of the devil himself. Another friend thinks Narendra Modi is India's only hope as the Prime Minister. There is a whole range of people between these two extremes. Every time there is a flare up of NaMo related subjects, there are strident voices on both sides trying to teach me what to think.

I follow Narendra Modi's account on Twitter. To some, it is enough to brand me as a "supporter of genocide". To others, it is some kind of proof of my support for the man. It is neither. I follow the account because it tweets very upbeat information about Gujarat. I have no intentions of marrying the man, I don't think I'd feel tempted to vote for him.

I think it might be useful to state where I stand on that big subject.

Let me begin with saying that I don't know if NaMo is guilty or not of ordering massacres or inaction on them. Frankly, it sounds like an outrageous thing to do and I would be surprised if a direct order by a politician in power of this nature would happen to a group of people. That is not to say it didn't happen either. Many outrageous things happen. I don't know. That is my truth, and no matter how much one tries to convince me to either side, I am unlikely to change it without convincing proof. The ground theory is that a man is innocent till proved guilty, thus, until proof, I do not consider him a mass murderer.

This is not about supporting him, but about refusing to lynch him. I think India has a very bad tradition of mob pressures for their version of justice, and it has only harmed the country's interest by making problems fester and hobbling justice with concerns of unrest. I will not play this game. I will trust our court's judgment in the absence of very clear proof of his complicity. It is a choice I am making to remain disinvolved with both brands of mob justice. This doesn't make me a supporter of genocide, rather makes me someone trying to prevent further genocide through emotional claims based on loyalty or contempt rather than proof. Failing my own capacity to assess available information ably, I am putting my trust in our justice system. This is not a crime.

However, in my eyes, he is responsible for the riots anyway, and the BJP line that Congress is also responsible for a lot of riots doesn't excuse him in my opinion. As the Chief Minister of Gujarat when the riots happened, he is responsible for the breakdown of law and order on his watch. It may not be a crime, but it definitely is dangerous incompetence. I may not lynch him, but I would be wary of putting him in charge of the well being of people of the entire country.

I do appreciate that he has done a lot for Gujarat, and he has. I also think, if there was any callousness intended toward minorities during the riots, he certainly got a shock and he has worked hard to turn the state around. I know Muslims from Gujarat who voted for him. So somewhere, he is convincing in his commitment to the state.  Whether this is what the country needs, by making him a PM or by learning state level lessons and replicating processes is another matter. I think the kind of work he did happens best at a state level, so creating it all over India will require different states to learn from Gujarat and adapting useful ideas to fit their realities. That doesn't take Modi being PM, but I do think there needs to be more acknowledgment of his work where due and openness to sharing useful processes between states regardless of political affiliations.

There is another reason I don't want Modi to be PM, which has nothing to do with him as a leader and everything to do with his hot headed supporters. Whether Modi supported the Gujarat riots or not, the fact remains that the perpetrators felt that they could get away with it under his rule. A lot of the extremist, angry and aggressive Hindutva crowd believes that he is their leader because of his views. I would be very uncomfortable with such elements in society thinking that the leader of their country thinks like them - whether true or not. Modi doesn't have to be like that. It is enough that people think he is, for them to feel validated in their punitive perspectives. That, I think would be very dangerous to society.

Along with his reinvention of his own image, perhaps Modi could have disowned those perspectives enough for the visible support to drop, but that hasn't happened. Whether it is because he is in agreement, because he doesn't want to alienate those supporting him, or because he actually believes in them is unknown, but the fact remains that Hindutva guys believe that their golden era to challenge all wrongs on Hinduism will come under him - and THAT is something I see as dangerous for society. So yeah, I'd be happy to see him throw his considerable expertise to education, law or such ministries - heck, he could probably deliver a much needed miracle for agriculture, but not as the Prime Minister or Home Minister or any other place where he is in charge of the physical or emotional safety of people.

On the other hand, he has a lot of capacity to initiate and sustain action and change. He is able to motivate people and get results. He usually engages in straight talk, even if it is not liked. This kind of directness would be a big addition to the political landscape of today. Much needed, where garbage rhetoric obfuscates everything and tangles up even simple things that seem evident. He would most certainly be a refreshing influence on a political climate of pretending results and ignoring realities.

About the Gujarat riots, I think the activists have done the people a disservice by trying to trap Modi in the case. Please note that when I use the word trap, I am not using it to deny that Modi is guilty, but to deny that individual cases were influenced by him. He may have well done what he is accused of. I don't know, but it is unlikely he had a hand in individual killings. The cases for individual riots should have proceeded fast and culprits punished and the case against Modi, or anyone else they thought was complicit behind the scenes without a physical presence should have been done separately. By including them all together, the cases have dragged on and justice denied to immediate victims. If Modi was complicit, his wrong wasn't just against those killed or injured but the entire state or the entire population of Muslims for putting them in danger, regardless of whether they were hurt or not. It is a different scale.

But it is familiar. This also happens in Kashmir, where the rape of a woman becomes about Azadi and credibility of forces, and justice gets delayed because even openly accepting and freely investigating becomes the equivalent of crediting a secessionist movement. The soldiers may even be innocent, but the political climate becomes one where the reluctance becomes a part of the case. A paralyzing conflict of interests develops. So, politics pretending to be protector ends up denying justice to the victim because of the political goal rather than the focus on the culprit. The same happens for a lot of festering problems in India. The Babari Masjid thing - straightforward destruction of property and vandalism became eclipsed with religious politics and minority issues and what not, and the whole thing is on hold. Why? I'll be blunt here - because the mobs wanted to become larger mobs by banding under the largest identity religion in the country. The collective threat forced an accommodation of perspective at the loss of the country's integrity. It seems we are not able to see shades of gray and we are not able to see beyond politics to people. We end up with the same battle everytime - the battle for the halo - no matter what the issue.

No person is wholly evil, no person is wholly good. If Arundhati Roy undermines the well being of the country with her strident rhetoric, she also has a very nuanced insight into grassroots democracy. If Anna Hazare woke up the country and gave them his integrity to come together under, he is also challenging a pillar of the democracy itself. If Narendra Modi used to be a Hindutva hot head and led the state when Muslims got butchered far more than Hindus, he has also served with enduring commitment to change the face of the state and create more security. If Sonia Gandhi leads a party of the corrupt and may be misusing her power, she also powered the RTI through when politicians would have stalled it - a direct fight against corruption. Mahatma Gandhi himself may have mobilized our freedom struggle, but he was also a hideous misogynist whose views of women have consolidated moral judgments and suppression. No one is wholly good or evil, and only criticizing someone or praising them should be seen as an intellectual warning of inability or refusal to see the larger picture beyond what they have already decided.

Such thinking is small minded and diminishes national interest rather than strengthening it. We do not need a person to be totally good to support them, and we don't need a person to be totally evil to not like them. These decisions are individual opinions rooted in what we think is more important, but it is important that we see our decision as our own choice rather than a complete picture of the person.

As for me, I will continue to praise what I like, and criticize what I like, and remain free to think as well as change my mind if new information requires it. That is my freedom.