A War On The Minds

January 13, 2020 at 9:15 PMJan (Activism, Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Sometime in early December, 2019, when the ongoing protest against CAA-NRC was just picking up momentum, seeing the activities of an old friend on social media, got me a bit worried. I could sense that this friend was losing his mind, which was understandable given the Muslim identity of the friend. Something that appeared crucial nearly half a decade earlier had caused a rupture between this friend of mine and me, as a result of which we turned our backs to each other. But now after nearly half a decade, I felt the urge to speak to him and be by him. I gave him a ring. Due to some issue with the network we couldn’t hear each others’ voice. The awkwardness of the long silence stopped me from trying again to reconnect.

Couple of weeks after the above mentioned episode, another friend- a practicing Muslim- who I had lost in touch with, gave me a ring. The video of my speech at the anti-CAA-NRC protest held in Manipal the previous day had found some circulation and had reached this friend. “I saw the video and I was moved by it,” he said and we went on to talk about the current situation and also about our lives. I was very happy about reconnecting with this friend and in that joy I failed to understand something crucial.

A friend-an atheist Muslim- shifted back to the town where I currently live on the first day of the new calendar year. Over a long conversation that weekend, this friend of mine told me, “I don’t know why, but I feel grateful to people like you who are non-Muslims but still are standing by us.” He immediately added, “I know it is strange because I shouldn’t be feeling so. But it is not just me, many Muslims are feeling this.” Those words immediately made me realize the reason behind the phone call I had received from my friend who I had lost touch with.

The right-wing politics might not achieve what we are seeing as their intention behind CAA-NRC: driving away Muslims from this country. They might not achieve, I say, because of logistical reasons and also for having some faith still left in humanity at large and to some extent in the system too. But the right-wing politics has almost achieved, in a big scale, one of their dreams which found articulation in the words of MS Golwalkar who said that Muslims are to “expect nothing but second-class citizenship in India.”

Though a sense of alienation had already seeped into the collective unconscious of the Muslims in the country from some decades now, the recent developments, in a big way, has made them feel second-class citizen to the extent that when a good number of people- non-Muslims- are standing by them, instead of just feeling strength added to the movement, they feel grateful to these non-Mulsims (read Hindu) standing by them!

While fighting CAA-NRC, I also feel the need to fight this thought, this idea that has seeped into the collective unconscious of an entire community. Re-building fraternity is also an important act that this movement should actively and consciously focus on, it appears to me. This is urgent, I feel. It is our duty and also our moral responsibility demanding special attention at this hour.

On realizing this, without second thoughts, I called up my friend who I hadn’t spoken to for nearly half a decade. That is where I could begin from. But how do we do this rebuilding of fraternity at large, I do not know. Also, I realize that it cannot be a one call, one event venture but a long-lasting sustained work.

Rebuilding a sense of belonging that can erase the sense of gratefulness demands us to enter the space of human hearts and engage at a deeper level. Because the impact of what is happening has hammered the realms of human lives which are not visible.

One Anqa Ahmed had tweeted about her mother warning her not to say, “Assalamaliakum” over the phone while in public spaces. Recollecting this Anqa in her tweet said, “Do they realize how unsafe they’ve made us feel?” What Anqa’s mother has told her now is an instruction many Muslims have been getting from their family from some years now. The situation has been getting worse from some years and now seems to have reached an unprecedented peak.

Another friend- a skeptic Muslim- told me that her mother has been having repeated nightmares about concentration camp from several months now. The day my friend told me of this, another friend told me that her friend’s younger sibling too was having nightmares of concentration camps. I am sure, nightmares of concentration camps is haunting a lot of Muslims and are not being shared with anyone but some close ones.

While thinking around all these episodes and more from lives intersecting with my life, I have come to realize that this war is not only on Muslim lives, but also on their morale and their minds. While we get a glimpse of the attack on their bodies through the documentation of physical violence unleashed on them, we are not getting even a partial picture of the violence that has been inflicted on the minds of Muslims. Attending to the attacks made on the mind and morale of these people also has to become a conscious and active activity of ours, I feel, in this unequal fight we all are fighting against fascism. These works of tenderness, I am of the opinion, have to go along with our aggressive protests.

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