#NotInMyName and expanding ‘islands of sanity’

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Residents say they keep a 24-hour vigil during disturbances to prevent any mischief by ‘outsiders’

Talking about the #NotInMyName campaign in India against lynch mobs that forced PM Modi to break his near-silence on the vigilante violence, my friend Jaspal Singh in an email also discusses the model of citizens’ “defence committees” against communal violence, as seen in Canada and in India. He gives the example of Ram Rahim Nagar (population over 20,000), Ahmedabad, cared for by a welfare society formed by two security guards in 1974. “It is to their great honour that to this day not a single communal incident has taken place there, even when Gujarat was burning,” added Jaspal when I probed him further about it. An earlier piece, Islands of Sanity (PUCL, Feb 2006), examines  more such examples. Do these examples still hold true? Have more islands of sanity emerged? How do we expand such islands of sanity? Another journalist friend, Shivam Vij, argues for shifting the focus from “Keyword Beef (which only furthers Hindutva) to Keywords Farmer, OBC, unemployment, demonetisation, economic slowdown” in his piece taking a critical look at the Not in My Name protests. Jaspal Singh’s ‘Reflections’ below.

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Who empowers lynch mobs? #NotInMyName. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Reflections

June 29, 2017

Thousands of people gathered in cities and towns all across India, to condemn the violence and killings by lynch mobs in last few months. NOT IN MY NAME protest was called by Saba Dewan, a film maker on social media, which turned into a global protest due to a thundering response by people. I saw videos of the protest in Delhi, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Chennai, Allahabad, Mumbai. In all of these protests young men, women, old , in short ordinary citizens expressed their anger against lynch mobs who are operating with impunity and killing people for what they eat, wear, what they speak and who they love. In last year or so several people have been killed on this or that pretext.

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Many young women repeatedly said that they have come out against this environment of fear that is being created. They are being told that they should not leave their homes after sundown and also watch out what they say on social media.  It is reported that just in Delhi alone 56 such organizations exist which claim that they are connected with Sangh Parivar and are instrumental in perpetrating violence by lynch mobs. Many ministers and high officials are also implicated in fanning the fire of lynch mobs.

Prime Minister Modi in his usual demagogic style said that killings by cow Bhagats is unacceptable breaking his silence. It is the old trick of congress party. While its leaders talked about Secularism, its goons attacked people in streets in the name of religion, caste, language or place of origin. Similarly self proclaimed minions of the ruling dispensation have been attacking people and killing them with impunity.

This evening people are gathering in Harvard square in solidarity with protests in India.Reports of such protests from other parts of the world have also been coming in . Indian people resident abroad and their friends have been expressing their concerns about these developments in forums,meetings,rallies and demonstrations.

People are asking what must they do to defend themselves from the lynch mobs? As the organs of state are turning a blind eye or are actively supporting them. A suggestion is being made that they have to form Defence committees in neighborhoods, mohallas, villages and hamlets to protect themselves from them. They are also asking that what is the use of such a state or government that can not provide security to the citizens?

I remember in Canada, the Indian community had organized itself in East Indian Defence Committee to fight back the state organized racist attacks and were able to defeat them successfully. In 80s and 90s such Defence committees also came into being in Punjab in villages and towns that made sure that no communal attacks take place on people and they stand with each other. In Delhi, in November 1984, when Congress and its goons organized massacres of Sikhs, those mohallas and neighborhoods where people had organized Defence committees, there the Congress goons were not able to inflict any damage.

In Ram Rahim Nagar, an area of Ahmedabad , Gujarat, people organized themselves after the 1969 communal violence in which thousands were killed under the Congress government. As a result of their organization , not a single incident has taken place there. Even in the massacres of 2002 under the Modi government, Ram Rahim Nagar remained an example of harmony and solidarity. This may be a formation that people have to adopt to provide security to each other to beat back the lynch mobs.

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