I am writing this as a reasonably educated person who knows the recent history of the 20th and 21st centuries. The Armenian genocide, the Greek genocide, the Bosnian genocide in the 1940s and in the 1990s, the East Timor genocide, the Tutsi genocide, the Rohingya genocide and of course the Holocaust that, aside from the six million Jews, also killed 25% of the Roma people in Europe.
There were other genocides during these two centuries, caused not by race or religion or region, but by ideology: Cambodia, the Chechens.
Though my family had fled Europe at the end of the 19th century, the Holocaust is an inherited trauma of the people to which my family belongs. A trauma that never let my father feel entirely safe.
I am writing this as a person born in a country that has as it fundamental history – its origin story – the genocide of the people who were living, who had been living in that land, for centuries. It does not matter that my family was not there, that they did not “do that”. That genocide infects the system, the very fabric of that country. It is an evil that sits at the centre. It is an evil that practiced, thrived and grew rich from centuries of chattel slavery of a people
I am writing this as the descendant of people who fled Russia, Siberia, to escape the violence and danger of the pogroms. I am writing this as a descendant of people from my maternal side who fled the Pale of Settlement. This is direct, historically inherited trauma of being hated, of being made to live apart, of being denied the rights of citizenship, of being made to understand we were undesirables, of being targeted, assaulted, threatened with expulsion, murdered.
I am writing this as a human in the world.
From December 17 to 19, a gathering that, unironically, called itself the “Dharam Sansad”, was organised in Haridwar. At this gathering, open calls and violent speeches for the genocide of Muslims were given by the speakers and organisers.
“Without taking up arms, no community on earth can save themselves or others…,” said Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, the mahant of a temple. “Economic boycott won’t work. Hindu groups need to update themselves. Swords look good only for presentation on stage. This battle will be won by those with better weapons than their enemies. All of you good young people should have good weapons.”
Annapurna Maa, mahamandleshwar of the Niranjini Akhada and general secretary of the Hindu Mahasabha, said, “If you want to finish off their [Muslims] population, then we are ready to kill them and go to jail… If 100 of you become soldiers then we kill 20 lakh of them; we will be victorious and ready to do to jail. Keep your books/studies aside and pick up weapons, this is my suggestion to the Dharam Sansad.”
Anand Swaroop , of the Shankaracharya Parishad, said, “If the governments do not listen to our demands that emerge from this Dharam Sansad, we will wage a war far scarier than the 1857 revolt.” The demands to which was referring were the establishment of a Hindu Rashtra through violence against minorities as demanded by the Hindu Mahasabha in 1915.
Swami Prabodhanand, the president of the Hindu Raksha Sena, said, “Get ready to kill or get killed, there is no other option now. Just like in Myanmar, every Hindu, including Police, Army, Politician should pick up their weapons start the cleaning campaign like it happened in Myanmar [referring to the Rohingya genocide]. Get prepared for that.”
Sindhu Sagar Swami, from somewhere, said, “People who are the rich in villages…that it is their duty to buy lands owned by the few Muslims there and make the village free of Muslims. I tell my brothers to file fake cases under the SC/ST Act against 10 Muslims and send them to jail.” He went to request “more people to harass Muslims so much that they are forced to sell their homes and go away”.
There was more.
These are calls for genocide by the citizens of India against the citizens of India. They are calls for people to arm themselves to carry out these murders. They are calls for slaughter. They are calls for expulsions, for ethnic cleansing, as a lead-up to genocide. They are calls to go against the government, to go against the promises of the Indian Constitution, to have an insurrection, carry out acts of sedition, if the government is not willing to countenance this violence to further their idea of an India rid of Muslims citizens
This event has been widely reported in the print media, both domestically and internationally. It has been covered in electronic media, and of course, on social media. First information reports have been filed. Petitions have been signed and presented. Nothing else has happened. No one is being held accountable for these calls to violence, to murder, to kill. They are calls to tear apart this country, to destroy India. The government has remained silent.
This is what is most frightening. The leader of the country has remained silent. Silence, in the face of this, is assent. Silence, by the country’s leader, is permission. Silence is agreement. This is not a fringe group with their calls for genocide. This silence says the government is willing, the government of India wills it.
Elie Wiesel, during his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1986, said, “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented”. Elie Wiesel, a survivor of the Holocaust, knows of which he speaks.
They are watching. They hear the silence. The government’s silence. Our silence. They know they can do more. They will rachet this up. They will stop just speaking and they will start doing.
We cannot remain silent. We cannot be indifferent. Evil counts on the silence, through indifference, through fear, for eyes to be closed to atrocities. Do not close your eyes, turn your gaze, harden your heart to suffering, to calls for ethnic cleaning, and genocide. Do not go about your business, tending your Quixotean garden, to the violation of the protections to our citizens, promised under our Constitution.
We must resist. We must be on the side of humanity, against evil. Because if we don’t, if we aren’t, this is how it happens, this history of the unthinkable.
To further quote Elie Wiesel in the same speech, “Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the centre of the universe.” Let us make this place, at this time, the centre of the universe. “Never again” means never again anywhere, to anyone, ever.