Monday, October 1, 2007

An Invitation to Hate and Genocide

This weekend I had the misfortune of visiting the most obnoxious exhibition. Set up by the Hindu Janajagruthi Samiti, the object of the exhibition was to ‘educate’ the average Hindu about the violence by Muslims on the Hindus of Kashmir and Bangladesh. I say ‘educate’ the Hindu, since every display of violence was followed by a caption addressed to the viewer indicating that if they were Hindu, then these visuals should make their blood boil, and tomorrow this violence could possibly be visited on them. If they were not moved, they were not fit to be - and hence not - Hindu. The theme of the exhibition purported to be the violence occurring in Kashmir, and yet, addressing the plight of the Kashmiri whether Hindu or Muslim was not its concern. On the contrary, the attempt through the exhibition was to ensure that local Hindus see the local Muslim as the natural and necessary enemy. What this exhibition is, therefore, is a very clear and deliberate attempt to create communal divisions in Goa.

Now I am not surprised by this display of anti-Muslim hatred, since one has gotten used to seeing this daily violence perpetuated for not being a certain kind of Hindu. For the Hindu right wing, it is not enough to hate only the minorities. Not being brahmanised upper-caste and minority hating is just as bad in their book. What is surprising is that this very blatant organizing of Hindus against Muslims (and by logical conclusion against the Catholics in Goa) is that it is taking place in the premises of the Kala Academy. Why the premier cultural institution of a secular state is allowing violent activities on its premises is a question that the authorities of the Kala Academy must immediately answer. The authorities can reprieve themselves of this abuse of authority only by withdrawing permission for this exhibition immediately. Worse, this is not just an exhibition; there was also a screening of inflammatory documentaries, followed by similar discussion sessions which were nothing short of unnerving.

Walking through the exhibition, the organizing women clamoring quite literally for the blood of local Muslims, was extremely unnerving. I fancy myself as a reasonably rational individual not given to acts of passion. And yet in this environment, I was strangely drawn toward pulling down the posters, destroying the projector and disrupting the meeting that was being conducted, knocking a few heads while I was at it. It was when placed in this environment that I finally realized what it must be like to be a persecuted minority, and especially a Muslim in this country. Every apparently innocuous saffron flag is in fact a threat, telling you that your time is coming and you had better be careful. If then I, as an individual who is not being directly threatened here, who has an escape route out of the country in terms of livelihood options, should respond irrationally and violently to such stimuli, how would a Muslim, already on the economic fringes of society, and subject to no less that 60 years of harassment respond to this threat? The object of the exhibition then, is twofold. It is first to tell the individual that you are Hindu (or not Hindu) first, and that every Muslim is your presumed enemy and you should ‘get’ them before they get you. The objective: The creation of a communal divide, and an invitation to violence. It exceeds this-one sided mobilization however, and also operates as a provocation to local Muslim groups. Of course, once the Muslims have been hounded enough to retaliate, all of society will turn around, refuse to see the provocation and shrug, saying “It is true, these Muslims are violent by nature.” A minimum of 60 years of such violence has produced nervous and insecure Muslim groups in India. 60 and more years of Hindutva aggression has created the communal bloodbaths of this country, and the current exhibition is a fantastic example of who and what is responsible for it.

This particular exhibition has been touring Goa for some months now and it is a sign of the power and arrogance of these groups that they dare to take over the Kala Academy, the space of the secular and sophisticated in our capital. This is nothing less than a final flexing of muscle before they act out their fiendish agenda. While we must guard ourselves from this venom, they must first be cast out from the Kala Academy and the Academy asked to explain how they got there in the first place.
(Published in the Gomantak Times, 2 October 2007)

No comments: