Does a riot do justice to protest against another riot? Certainly not! However, Mumbai witnessed the unenviable irony last week.
A protest-rally was organized at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan by the much marginalized minority Muslims to highlight the heart-wrenching atrocities against their fellow-brethren in the State of Assam and in Myanmar. It is understandable even though from the political perspective, the Indian Foreign Ministry has clarified that the Government has no say in the Myanmar genocide.
Moreover the fact of the matter remains that the killings in the regions need to be addressed as ethnic-violence rather than restricting it to just communal disharmony.
However the violence in the aftermath in Mumbai was totally against the principles of Islamic values and contrary to the spirit of Ramazan that is being observed by Muslims across the world.
Having said that, the unjustified post-rally carnage that subsequently made it a lost cause of drawing attention to the inhuman butchery in the North-East parts of India and in Myanmar was ironically, far much lesser in comparison to what Muslims as well as non-Muslims have suffered in those places recently.
An interesting fact is, more than the under-prepared Mumbai Police, it was the protest-rally organizers who were caught on the wrong foot with the sheer numbers of participants at the rally.
Taking into consideration the monsoon season and the ongoing month of Ramazan, hardly 1200-1500 participants were anticipated to come. Surprisingly, within a few hours, a sea of some fifty-thousand enthused people got gathered according to media reports.
Had the organizers over-publicized the protest-rally unintentionally? Or, was the mammoth turn-out a result of a new simmering Muslim generation categorically sidelined from the Indian mainstream? Both factors hold water in this case.
Signature campaigns, SMS circulations, and systematic pamphlet distributions all giving statistical information on Muslim massacres were doing the rounds extensively. Along with that, the Urdu media rightfully pointing out the national and international media’s indifference to effectively report the slaughters, all snow-balled into an explosion of frustration of the Muslim youth.
Not that the riot is justified in all senses, but it certainly wasn’t an overnight reaction.
With investigations already underway by the Crime Branch, an important factor reported in the media that certainly needs to be addressed is the criminal instigation by a community leader from Uttar Pradesh, Molvi Abdul Qadir Alvi whose highly emotive and fiery speech at the venue aroused unwanted sentiments. Unfortunately, by the time one of the other speakers sharing the dais cut-short the mindless rhetoric, the damage had already been done. What followed is now history.
If proved right, apart from pursuing for stringent criminal proceeding against him, Muslim authorities and institutes, as to set an example, should recant all honors and credentials bestowed upon the Molvi and debar him from delivering community discourses and leading prayer congregations.
Ostensibly, the political angle also cannot be ruled out in the Mumbai riots.
Assam being a Congress-ruled State burned for days due to the deliberate lackluster government response in handling the fiasco. The Congress-led Union government in New Delhi also dragged its feet in deploying the Army which was stationed just 150 km from Kokrajhar and Chirang the worst-hit districts by the violence.
The ipso-facto is, an over-whelming anti-Congress atmosphere prevailed over the Mumbai protest-rally.
With the General elections approaching, no political entity at the helm of affairs or in the Opposition can afford such mass retribution. It wouldn’t have taken much to take advantage and disrupt the seemingly peaceful protest-meet in progress by sending a group of skull-cap wearing miscreants- of whichever religion- to ignite a riot. If so, the accusations against the organizers and participants in the protest-gathering will be thick and fast from the ‘investigations’ to create enough public distraction from the communal polity apathy of the political masters.
In the process, the culprits- hired goons, responsible speakers at the venue, liable political and community leaders- all should be booked as it would serve part of the justice sought by the Muslim community.
Nevertheless, there is ample space for hypothesis on the untoward event till the true facts are revealed.
The nagging question however remains. Can Indian Muslims afford such protest-rallies putting the community’s reputation at stake? Can it possibly resort to more effective and innovative ways to bring to light the plight of their fellow brethren and get due justice for them?
As experienced in the past, it shall be an arduous task to get justice in all likelihood.
It has been a long journey as India celebrates its 65th Independence Day.
The writer is a Mumbai based socio-political commentator. His views expressed in the article are personal.