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CARNAGE 84

We, the bloody people

By Sankarshan Thakur

IN AN UNREQUITED LAND:
A child from one of
Trilokpuri’s ravaged families
Photographed by Gauri Gill
 
We are the apparatchik of serial and periodic political madness, we are the midwives of the abortion of the senses
For a talkative society, we tell very little of the essence of ourselves. We babble in the subconscious hope it will drown our truths. We’ve erected opaque mental monuments to Buddha and Gandhi to blind our eager resort to bloodletting. When the glare catches us red-handed, we wipe our sins on others and melt into our vast convenience of numbers. Narendra Modi. Pravin Togadia. Lal Krishna Advani. Jagdish Tytler. Sajjan Kumar. HKL Bhagat. Bal Thackeray. Hiteswar Saikia. Bhagwat Jha Azad. Remember him? Bhagwat Jha Azad of Bihar? Remember Bhagalpur of 1989? Remember a village called Chanderi and another called Logain?

....It was eventually left to the vultures to rip the cover. The bodies, 116 of them, had lain there decomposing for six weeks. In that period the village had grown wiser to the fineries of tilling — dead men made good compost. A lush winter crop of mustard had sprung on the bed of corpses they had laid. But the village was also to grow wiser to a thing or two about old idioms: Dead men do tell tales, it is seldom they don’t.

The stench had risen high off the field and the vultures had begun to swoop low. The killing had been consummated weeks ago, an entire settlement of Muslims on the edge of Logain. Their common guilt the villagers had consigned to a common grave. The carnage was an open secret in the village but to the world beyond it was just a secret. Until the vultures arrived, followed by that rare thing called a policeman with a conscience. He had the crop shaved and the field dug up. The skulls flew into the sky as the spades got to work….

Some among us were there and told the story. Logain became, like many of our stories, the child of memory’s whore — an unwanted, forgotten consequence of collective shame. We are a nation eddying with bastard deeds. Nellie. Moradabad. Bhiwandi. Hashimpura. Maliana. Meerut. Kanpur. Bhagalpur. Sopore. Baroda. Aligarh. Mumbai. Chittisingpora. Ahmedabad. Delhi. We lay blood-litter on the streets and retreat into our homes. Nobody owns up. We decamp from facts and populate our horrors with clichéd characters of fiction — a violent mob, a murderous horde, a crowd screaming, slashing, burning, a mass that suddenly descended and vanished.

Who? Wherefrom? Us. Herefrom. Every single time. It is we who pillage, rape and murder. Under wrongful excitement and exhortation. Under criminal instruction and protection. Under the Modis and Togadias and Tytlers, yes. They are the leaders but we are there to be led. We are the apparatchik of serial and periodic political madness, we are the midwives of the abortion of the senses. Then we wash our hands and line up for secular prabhat pheris, our opaque monuments to Buddha and Gandhi urgently recalled to veil memory and guilt.

The Babel Tower of inquiries and commissions, reports and recommendations that we have piled for ourselves is a route of escape. The tabling of Nanavati conclusions has become the hour of more deflective clamour, a booster dose of obfuscation. A talkative society talking endlessly. Or an argumentative society, as we are told on formidable authority, arguing on. About who and how. About cause and consequence. About crime and the absence of punishment. Never once do we dare look ourselves in the mirror. Never do we stop pointing fingers at others. Outraged, shrieking justice, baying retribution, if legal. Hush. Where were you at the time? And what were you doing? You were electing Narendra Modi astride a bloodied rath. You were voting Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler back to respectable titles and hallowed portals. You were turning up in thousands to pirouette to the twisted bigotry of Pravin Togadia. You were letting Thackeray hone your hatreds.

We need to ask few questions of each other. We need to ask questions of the households that were spared the mayhem of Trilokpuri. Ask the shopkeepers of Mandvi Ni Pole. Ask around in the bylanes of Hashimpura. Ask those who live across the charred remains of Gulberg. Ask the villagers of Logain, it’s been 16 winters since that resplendent mustard crop that contained a gene of murdered blood. We cannot pretend being a civil society when we claim, every now and again, rights over uncivil liberties. We cannot invoke laws that we ourselves violate. We cannot look up to a Constitution that we trample underfoot.

There are a myriad contemporary Indian stories we have forgotten. They are all true stories. They have dates and datelines. They have pegs and dead people hanging by them. And there are, among us, the many hands that hung them there that have since been washed in collective and convenient forgetting. The truth about mass murder in this country we haven’t learnt to tell. Even less to confront. Which is why someday, when that diabolical sloganeer appears again with a manic prescription and a surcharged bloodcry, we will again turn upon each other and consume.

 

Aug 20 , 2005
 
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