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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Burning books, mosques and Muslims: India’s bloody burden for the longer term | Politics


Part of the Indian state the place I dwell is on hearth. Barely 77km (48 miles) from the college the place I educate in Haryana state, a mob set a mosque on hearth on early Tuesday and shot useless a younger imam in a neighbouring district.

It’s the most recent bloodstain on India’s social cloth, which is already in tatters. If historical past’s any information, these stains will hang-out India — and Indians — for many years to return.

Ninety years in the past, on Could 10, 1933, 5000 college students of the Nazi college students union and their professors gathered in Bebelplatz, Berlin, with flaming torches. They set hearth to a pile of practically 20,000 books written primarily by Jewish authors and communist thinkers like Karl Marx and Rosa Luxemburg — each of whom additionally had Jewish roots. Forty thousand individuals watched this occasion.

The scholars learn out their mantra: “Towards decadence and ethical decay! For self-discipline and decency within the household and the nation! I decide to the flames, the writings of…..”

Author Eric Kastner, whose books have been hurled into the fireplace, was standing within the crowd, unrecognised. He later described this as Begräbniswetter or funeral climate. The day was darkish and cloudy, and the rain extinguished the fireplace. So the scholars needed to maintain pouring petrol for the flames to dwell and the books to die.

I used to be reminded of this in April, when a mob burned down a madrasa library with 4,500 books — together with historical manuscripts and handwritten Islamic texts in calligraphy — within the city of Bihar Sharif within the state of Bihar. The library was 113 years outdated and preserved a priceless assortment of books over a number of generations. The attackers got here ready with sticks, stones and petrol bombs.

If Kastner and a whole lot of writers and artists left Germany and lived in exile whereas their homeland was violently reshaped by the Nazis, right-wing politicians are in the present day overtly naming historians and journalists and telling them to depart India.

In Germany on Could 10, 2023, 9 excellent artists learn texts from writers like Rezso Kastner and Kurt Tucholsky whose books have been burned that day 90 years in the past. Straight beneath Bebelplatz is now a library memorial with empty white cabinets with house for round 20,000 books. There may be additionally a bronze plate with the inscription:

That was however a prelude; the place they burn books,
They may in the end burn individuals as nicely.
Heinrich Heine 1820

In India that order has been reversed. We burned individuals and have now reached books. The Mumbai riots after the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992. The 2002 Gujarat carnage. A mom’s testimony in Gujarat narrated how they tied her disabled son to a tree and beat him up. He cried for water however they fed him petrol. A match was placed on him and he blew up like a bomb. It’s a imaginative and prescient the mom is fated to hold. however I’m wondering if his killers bear in mind it. Are they laid low with it?

Within the Holocaust, trains carrying Jewish individuals stopped at a number of stations the place males, ladies and youngsters trapped in cattle cages cried for water. Households have been taken away from houses, outdated individuals shot within the streets. Germans noticed all this. What did they really feel?

Right now that collective reminiscence has made Germany a uncommon nation that confronts a minimum of a few of its horrid previous in its lived current. The nation’s painful fashionable historical past is commemorated in every single place — a police station the place the Stasi tortured suspects, a hospital the place merciless experiments have been performed upon Roma kids, Jewish houses from the place households have been deported to the fuel chambers.

India has by no means had any such reckoning — not even over the subcontinent’s partition, throughout which a couple of million individuals have been murdered, and 15 million migrated between India and the brand new state of Pakistan.

We’ve got no plaques, painted partitions and hardly any memorials, solely reminiscence. Visions carved into the minds of individuals and handed on from technology to technology.

In Germany, it began with assaults on Jewish trades and bans on their skilled work, grew into the seize of Jewish property and houses, however very quickly turned to deportation to ghettos, adopted by mass murders. All this whereas non-Jewish Germans watched. May they’ve stopped it?

In India, we’re watching the fast poisoning of the collective thoughts with propaganda that the traditional glory of Hindus was tarnished by Muslim rulers. That modern India’s rise is being held again by Muslims — who’re blamed for every little thing from the nation’s giant inhabitants and the unfold of the coronavirus to anti-women practices and even inflation. From the withdrawal of scholarships for Muslims to amendments to the citizenship regulation that discriminate in opposition to Muslim asylum seekers, the ruling get together is leaving no stone unturned to fan the fuels of division.

Periodic violence and lynchings, as in Haryana this week, assist push Muslims additional and additional into ghettos. Muslim ladies’s organisations working in the direction of home equality, Muslim youth attempting to undertake a liberal lifestyle away from the neighborhood gaze, and youngsters attempting to get training and financial mobility are all pushed again into the ghetto. They’re then compelled to dwell a Muslimness that’s outlined by others — the Hindu proper and self-proclaimed Muslim leaders decide how a Muslim ought to look, behave and gown. Fanatics from each side debate over it, conflict swords over it.

The voices of the frequent Muslim – youth, kids, ladies, males and professionals — are misplaced. In consequence, an unchanging goal is preserved for the retailers of hate.

Many a long time after the Holocaust, Germany nonetheless carries the burden of its historical past. We Indians live that historical past proper right here, proper now. Is it too late to amend it? Or are our future generations condemned to hold the burden of what we did — and didn’t do?

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.


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