Friday, November 2, 2007

Remorseless Bragging

Remorseless Bragging
Mayanak Chhaya, November 1, 2007

Mayanak's comments follow my notes:

I read Mayanak's notes posted at the South Asian Journalists forum, and sought her permission to reprint here. The barabarism displayed is beyond human belief, Mayanak writes, " See the relish with which he brags about how a police report against him recorded the way he cut open a pregnant Muslim’s woman’s stomach with a sword, extracted the fetus and threw it before killing her. There is a fiendish twinkle in his eyes while he reminisces about the incident" and she cites the harrowing tale of a Muslim in Bhiwandi " “Salon ko bhed-bakri ki tarha kat dala. Maza aya. (We hacked them (Hindus) like livestock. It was enjoyable.”

Mayanak, thanks for sharing the above two incidents. It reaffirms my belief that each one of those individuals must be tried as criminals, and let's not give a religious label to these, we need to single them out for their crimes and punish them singularly. It is not a Hindu, or a Muslim, it is a criminal we should be trying out in the court of the law.

The Media can change the course of the history, by not touching religion, as the crime was unquestionably commited by individuals. Let's learn to punish the wrong doer, not his family, his town, his community, his religion or his nation.

Mike Ghouse

Here is Mayanak's story:

There are a few stories that ought to be uncovered outside the strict definitions of ethical journalism. The Gujarat story is one of them. Having reported extensively on earlier Gujarat riots and hailing from Ahmedabad I am very aware of the chemistry of a religious riot, especially the Hindu-Muslim variety.

It would be a mistake to focus on the means, that is whether the kind of investigative journalism that went behind it was acceptable, rather than the end, that is bringing out in the open a cold-blooded killer. In this case, the means, however questionable, did indeed serve a larger purpose
and hopefully a larger good, and hence created a mitigating circumstance.

Of course, those who know Gujarat knew it all along that the killings of the Muslims that followed the equally revolting murders of Hindu pilgrims, which in some ways set up a perfect retaliatory environment, were a systematically orchestrated event which Narendra Modi at the very least connived at if not took part in it altogether. I say this from personal knowledge gained from some of those who led the killings with open swords.

Journalism, ethical or otherwise, is a response to a society it operates in. While one can surely expect and demand journalists to follow certain basic standards, it would be unrealistic to believe that men like Babu Bajrangi can be exposed during the course of a normal interview. Of
course, some of these people are so full of themselves and their own bigotry that they will be more than happy to volunteer any and all information. Having spoken to a large number of people who were involved in rioting I know that many of them wear their involvement as a badge of honor. Many of them live under the delusion that they are history warriors, out to avenge the wrongs done to the Hindus by marauding Muslim invaders over the past few centuries.

Unfortunately, the Hindu-Muslim equation in India, like everything else there, is so complex that it is at once both glorious in the noblest sense of the word as well as irredeemably shameful in the worst possible manner. And the state of Gujarat has become the emblem of that equation
and the politics that flows from it. Rightly or wrongly a vast number of Gujarati Hindus have decided that the community’s millennia old tradition of tolerance, liberalism and composite culture are no longer an effective antidote against the rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism. It is instructive to hear Bajrangi say with contempt, “Hum khchidi-kadhiwale nahin hai. (We are not the khichdi-kadhi type)” To fully comprehend what Bajrangi is saying it is necessary to understand the Gujarati mindset and socio-cultural logic behind it. Of course, khichdi is seasoned rice and kadhi is a form of curry made with whipped yogurt.

Although delicious, khichidi-kadhi has long been seen as a symbol of defeatism and peculiar cowardice among those who consume it as a staple, which is predominantly Hindus. It is as if khichidi-kadhi releases certain chemicals that damage the part of the brain responsible for religion-based aggression. In contrast, Muslims are largely non-vegetarian and eat all manners of white and red meat, which according to this ridiculously flawed logic, has made them aggressive and bloody-minded. When Bajrangi asserts that he is not the “khichdi-kadhi” type he is responding to the conditioning arising from food habits.

If the purpose of the sting was, at least by implication if not explicitly so, to irretrievably damage Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's electoral prospects in December, then I am not too sure whether it would achieve the purpose. On the contrary it might end up bolstering his
chances in a constituency which in any case sees his handling of the aftermath of the 2002 Godhra killings as a stellar assertion of his role as a protector of Hindus. I hate to say it in such unambiguous terms but do so with a great deal of anguish that Gujaratis in Gujarat have become rather indifferent to the frequent and bloody break-downs in Hindu-Muslim relations.

You and I may be horrified at the utterly remorseless bragging of Bajrangi, I am not sure people of Gujarat are particularly outraged. One reason could be they already knew all that Bajrangi has boasted about. The only question is why did they not stand up in 2002 when that is the most natural thing they could have done. This in a state which effectively architected India's freedom movement under Gandhi and Patel and the one which has a great history of standing up for great causes.

More than the politics of a riot or a sectarian conflagration, I am more intrigued by the socio-psychological aspects of it. What makes Bajrangi balding, mustachioed and seemingly affable man, who could have well been a low level bureaucrat pushing files in some obscure government department, so striking is the casualness with which he unveils what went on. He speaks as if he is talking about his day at work with his wife and children. He is unapologetic and appears to be struggling to keep his exultation in control as he mentions acts which in his mind are merely all
in a day’s work.

To call him a sociopath is not really doing justice to the full measure of his profound sickness. See the relish with which he brags about how a police report against him recorded the way he cut open a pregnant Muslim’s woman’s stomach with a sword, extracted the fetus and threw it before killing her. There is a fiendish twinkle in his eyes while he reminisces about the incident.

I have encountered the same level cruel apathy among Muslim rioters in a small town called Bhiwandi in Maharashtra state which in the early 1980s experienced harrowing Hindu-Muslim violence. At least two of them boasted to me personally, “Salon ko bhedbakri ki tarha kat dala. Maza aya. (We hacked them (Hindus) like livestock. It was enjoyable.” If the media ends up holding a mirror to such events, irrespective of how they do so it would have more than compensated for some of its waywardness.

Mayank Chhaya

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