After 50 years of independence, why are we still here?
We all have a responsibility to protect each other. Since I am not a minority, but privileged, I and all of us belonging from that privilege have that responsibility as well. Being under the pretense that, every year, Muslims do not cause any disturbance during Durga Puja and connecting this year’s violence to the alleged disrespect of the Quran is selective narrative at its peak.
Every year, during Durga Puja, this aggravation takes place without fail. I can’t recall a single year where a murti wasn’t smashed or the puja mondol was not broken. What we are seeing right now is not a recent phenomenon -- communal violence has been going on for decades and almost always has the majority as the aggressors.
You think what happened this year was an exception? Think again, remembering what happened in Shalla this March or what happened in Comilla in November last year. Keeping in mind, these are the ones which reached the news; there are numerous incidents like this throughout the year, and the perpetrators almost always go scot-free without any form of punishment or retaliation.
What has happened this year is truly heart-breaking. If you want others to respect your religion, you have to respect theirs as well. If you condemn the torture against Muslims in China, India, and Palestine, and then treat Hindu minorities the same way in Bangladesh, that’s downright hypocritical. And frankly, that’s not even the teaching of Islam either. Things can be planted and people do the worst of things in the name of religion. No one in their right mind would want to sabotage their own religious festivities.
For argument’s sake, even if someone did, you can’t blame an entire community for that or ruin their festive time of the year. If you want to be a decent human being -- and for the majority’s argument’s sake, a “good Muslim” -- the priority should be to condemn the Muslims who are provoking and creating such violence in the name of religion, not deflecting the blame with the classic “not all men,” “not all white people” ideology.
They are the citizens of this country foremost, and our siblings connected through this soil. They should not be fearful during their festivals or any other time of year.
Hate will create more hate; this has been proven right time after time. When we look back at history, the Calcutta killings in August of 1946 provoked the Noakhali riots in October of that very year. The riot was bloody, and Hindus were murdered by Muslims and forcibly converted in Noakhali.
To resonate with that, a far worse riot manifested in Bihar just weeks later, where Muslims were massacred by Hindus. Thus, this domino effect has been progressing through history till now. Until we can embrace each other as siblings of this soil and river, we can’t really expect harmony.
Just imagine yourself in their shoes right now: Your ancestral home, your place of worship is under potential attack, and all you can do is watch helplessly as your family members hide their valuables in fear of a mob attack, praying while heavily armed law enforcers form barricades -- for them, it was this year’s Durga Puja.
You think that just because you didn’t participate in it, you are not part of the problem? Think again. Recall the last time you may have either ridiculed or shamed someone for their religion, even if it was behind their backs. You didn’t? Okay, then think about the last time you defended them when your loved ones were being bigoted against them.
It’s time to reflect and to start discussions -- albeit, uncomfortable discussions -- with people around you who might have questionable ideologies regarding minorities. It’s high time we ask how to make our Hindu friends or acquaintances or colleagues what we can do to make them feel safer.
I have witnessed countless social media posts regarding the Black Lives Matter movement or Palestinians; it’s not like these issues don’t deserve the attention, but the sheer reluctance and negligence to spread awareness about our own people who are abusing minorities is the root of the problem. I have no words to convey my apology and shame.
I unequivocally condemn the communal violence taking place in the country and sincerely hope that the coming days are better. If we want to bring change and awareness, the first step is to take responsibility, and accept that there is a rot in the system.
A direct quotation from Sayan Roy that I can’t help but share: “Today my mom and brother returned from Hazigong, Chandpur -- one of the most violent parts of the country where they witnessed everything right in front of their eyes. When they entered our home, I witnessed something that I couldn’t believe myself. My mom wasn’t wearing any Shakha or Shindur. My dad called her and told her not to wear those while traveling. She was in so much fear. I couldn’t bear to witness that. This is 2021, not 1971. After 50 years of independence, this is where we are.”
Tahia Farhin Haque is a freelance contributor. Acknowledgements, snippets from virtual interactions with Shafiqul Alam, Farhan Rahman, Priota Iftekhar, Fariha Mansur and Aonkita Dey.