New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaJun 29, 2017, 04.21 AM (IST)Subuhi Safvi
By Subuhi Safvi & Priyanka Verma
Indians were getting lynched, and India could not take it anymore. As police arrested four accused on Ballavgarh train lynching yesterday, thousands of people gathered across the country in 14 cities to protest that such heinous crimes cannot continue in the name of the people. Similar gatherings happened in Boston, London, and Toronto which boast of a large Indian diaspora. The movement popularly referred to as #notinmyname, however, started humbly with just a Facebook post from filmmaker Saba Dewan, who gave a shout out to all her friends that there should be a civil society-led protest against the lynchings. It turned out to be a galvanising moment.
What the organisers #notinmyname expected to be a small silent march of about 200 people eventually turned into a mass movement. Karuna Dayal, one of the protestors present at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi said, “This kind of a movement is a go ahead in our country, it is a democratic country and we must act against certain heinous crimes in our country in time and at the right moment." Looking at the protestors who came from all work of life, Karuna felt some sense of hope "that so many people from so many walks of life have come together to support it."
The last killing of someone so young sparked something in the people, Muslims decided not to celebrate Eid, instead, wearing black armbands to protest against the violence. (WION)
Thus, voluntarily, citizens of India marched to stand against the deaths of fellow Indians and to condole the loss of Hafiz Junaid, the 16-year-old who was killed on a moving train. On the evening of the 22nd of June, 2017, Junaid was beaten to death in a train compartment by a mob while returning from Delhi after Eid shopping. Junaid's death is not an isolated event that could be brushed aside as an aberrant act of the crazies. In the past too, a mob gathered and lynched a man to death on suspicion of carrying beef on September 28, 2015.
'Mob lynching is spreading like poison in India' (WION)
Such violence has not escaped the Dalit, another minority community in India. Indian Dalits have been targeted for skinning cow carcasses, a job they had been doing for time immemorial because finding other avenues of income has never been easy for them. Terrified of reprisals, several Dalit families refused to handle the dead cows though it meant cutting off the source of daily income. But it did not save them as they were beaten again.
All these events were creating a deep sense of anguish among the Indians for some time, which reached a climax with Junaid's murder. Muslims decided not to celebrate Eid and, instead, wore black armbands to protest against the violence. As so many of the participants in the protest gathering at Jantar Mantar pointed out that such acts should not be happening in India, which comes with a proud history of secularism. One of the protestors pointed out to me, India is "moving towards progressive development (hence) we must stop it (such crimes)."
Almost all the protestors I spoke to carried this sense of contradiction in them; they are deeply proud of India, the country's democratic tradition, its march towards achieving developmental goals, but at the same time there is a pervasive sense of frustration at what they see as growing intolerance. Kumar Prashant remarked, “I am here to be counted with these people that are here protesting. I want this to spread across India and to do that we all have to proclaim India as our country on each and every occasion. We are all Indians and this is our country,”
#NotInMyName has been used as in protests before, but it has been traditionally used by Muslims against terrorist attacks done in the name of Islam. The Mayor of London used the term recently after the stabbings in London on the 3rd of June, 2017. It is interesting that the same hashtag used by Muslims to condemn violence done in their name is being used against violence targeted at Muslims and Dalits.
India has a long history of protests, starting with the "protest" of the Buddhists and Jains against the Brahminical dominance in the 6th century BC, then Gandhi's historic protest movements of the early twentieth century, Ambedkar's incessant struggle against casteism. In line with this glorious tradition of protest movements in India, the citizens, after the brutal rape and torture of Nirbhaya, took to public spaces to protest violence against women and lax laws. Fasting as a form of political protests and dharnas too are common; Irom Sharmila's 16-year-long fast against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Anna Hazare's hunger strike against corruption gained national momentum.
At the protest meeting, there was music and poetry and posters which made it clear how the citizens felt. Those that could not make it sent messages of support on the protest page on Facebook. In a functioning democracy, there is no need for mob violence or any need for people to take the law into their own hands. But in an atmosphere of bigotry, we often tend to forget the foundational values of a democratic regime. Hopefully, as one of the protestors pointed out, movements like #notinmyname "will give rise to the nation's voice", and we will be able to remind ourselves that all lives are valuable.
People from all over the world used social media to express their views. (WION)