Terrorised, in one's own land

Troubled North-East: UPA govt slow in tackling the problem

It is a public meeting which Raza Academy, a self-proclaimed orthodox Muslim group will always remember with a shudder.

The August 11 congregation in Mumbai, ostensibly to protest the ethnic violence in the North-Eastern state of Assam and Mayanmar, ended up in an explosion of unbridled obscene vandalism. The organisers of the protest demonstration are now making rounds of police headquarters answering uncomfortable questions.

However, somewhere the truth behind the vandalism that left two persons succumbing to bullet injuries and scores of policemen injured, is getting buried under the mound of white noise, saturated with premises projected from an outdated communally prejudiced lens.

The irrational fury glinting from the eyes of the marauders in the photographs splashed on the front pages of local newspapers are tolling the bells hinting that the Indian society is sitting on a live volcano ready to explode on a hair-trigger. The August 11 mayhem was not an attack on any community per se as none of the other community members were attacked.

A befuddled police, post-vandalism, feels that somewhere down the one-km stretch from the historic Azad Maidan to Kala Ghoda, even the ‘infiltrators’ blamed for the violence, were taken aback by the ‘irrational fury’ they had unleashed amongst the people.

Mumbai police commissioner Arup Patnaik who deftly managed to contain the vandalism, restrained the forces from firing at the marauding youth, “not for appeasing them but so as not to create a scenario of ‘92 riots and allow the safety valve to be released.”

While, the police commissioner came under flak by people believing in ‘the use of gun and iron rod to administer law and order,’ most psychologists and sociologists applauded the perspicacity of Patnaik vis-à-vis mob psychology.

Noted psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty, who has studied the spontaneous burst of conflagrations and violence in social sub-structures says: “The society in the last two decades has become a lethal concoction blurring the borders between sanity and insanity…that is why you see flashes of altruism and flashes of violence in cycles.”

Dr Shetty elaborating on the analysis which places man at the centre without dismissing ‘conspirators’ from the roiling framework, says: “The common man is trapped in a society which is malnourished. When a living organism is malnourished, then bacteria always flourish and to some extent same is the case with the societal functional structures. 

“Call August 11 incident by any name - vandalism or riots, any untrained or lay person can also see that the attack was not on Hindus or even towards any particular community per se. It was a scenario that unleashed anger towards everything…a feast where the vandals and rioters just wanted to go berserk to assert their freedom and identity.”

But Dr Shetty, however, is quick to point out, “A violent outbreak always needs a first spark…but for it to spread it needs an inflammable diseased society that is perched on the edges of insanity. And just imagine the state of a country where you can ask a youth to throw a petrol bomb for mere Rs 100…it shows the state of mind also.”

And even the investigators as well as the organisers accept this premise; the first wave of vandalism was orchestrated by ‘infiltrators,’ and the organisers also have admitted that they never understood as to how this happened.

All India Secular Forum’s social activist Irfan Engineer, who has been studying various communal clashes across the country, squarely blames the organisers, Raza Academy office-bearers. “There was a massive mobilisation campaign. And Raza Academy wanted to show their prowess within the community. So they cannot shirk off the blame by just apologising and saying that infiltrators were responsible for August 11 incident. It was their attempt to show strength that went haywire and why it went and what are the factors that led to such vandalism, needs to be studied closely.

“Without justifying the actions of the vandals, it also cannot be denied that the show of aggression was somewhere a projection of one’s assertion to the society. In seventies and eighties before Shiv Sena came to power in political establishment, Mumbai (then Bombay) was used to witnessing similar incidents of vandalism in the stretch of road between Azad Maidan and Kala Ghoda near Jehangir Art Gallery. When Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray had made a statement against the late Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s book ‘Riddles in Hinduism,’ Dalits across the city came to the stretch and held a rally and left every shop in tatters. It was their way of showing assertion. And of course it is tragic that in all such hooliganism women always become the target,” Irfan noted.

And this also happened in August 11 incident. There were reports of women being molested. Dr Shetty opines: “The weak always target their displaced anger on subjects which are soft target. This is what the rioters were. Weak people. Encouraged by the actions of some…the tired and helpless youth found pride, identity and strength in the mob. Look at the photo of a youth carrying a rifle. Meet him in a street corner alone; he will break down and cry over the state of his affairs he has been reduced to by the circumstances.”

However, ironically, not a single news analysis bothers even to portend that August 11 flash of violence is ringing the bells of alarm. Mumbai University, Professor (Dr) Vivek P S, specialising in social action and urban sociology, feels that in order to comprehend the roiling societal mores, “it is very important to first of all dispense off decrepit ideas which has conveniently been used by politically vested interest parties in order to obfuscate truth and by news analysts to hide their superficial understanding of the complexity of the subject.

Outdated values

“The last two decades have brought about a social upheaval but we still harbour and cling to values in a contemporary system where it has no meaning whatsoever. The statistics may show an upward curve for living standards in urban areas but it does not show the relative deprivation and the widening chasms between a handful few and masses. Of course it used to exist earlier also, but now it has become a monstrous race.
 The informalisation of the organised sector wreaked havoc amongst people, and add to this uprooting people from their traditional land and throwing them in urban spaces…and what you have is a concoction that is more deadly than a Moltov cocktail bomb. 

A society that has made the masses a live human bomb of uprooted persons…an army of disillusioned people who are totally desensitised to eye-ball grabbing bomb blast news but a simple rumour manages to spark off fear and a mass hysteria like the sudden exodus of North-Easterners from cities they had made their new home.

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