‘Where has our compassion and tolerance gone?’

VINUTHA MALLYA writes: It is remarkable to see the robust initiative shown by the Bangalore Police and the media in the investigations concerning the Ahmed family. Bravo!

Headlines scream “Pakistan link proved” and “CDs seized containing ‘jehadi’ literature”. One reads on gingerly to find the facts, only to be disappointed with claims made by unknown sources.

Joint commissioner of police Gopal Hosur yesterday denied any CDs being “seized” or any jehadi material discovered. But we get our daily dose of conspiracies nevertheless from “sources”. The ‘Pakistan link’ is unproven once the reader reads beyond the headlines.

But the PR is good for the Police. Never has it had the chance to be in the news as much as it has been over the last few days. Never mind the tiny fact that their own investigations reveal no terrorist links between the Ahmed brothers and any obvious terrorist activity by them when they lived in the city.

But then Glasgow is not so far away after all, and what goes on there is enough to send us in a tizzy, here in namma Bengalooru.

We could be on the global terror map. Oh, the rush of feeling important enough to be on the map along with the likes of London, New York and Paris, and to feel the paranoia….

The crimes of the City can wait. The ongoing investigations into the crimes of the City can take a back seat. The Ahmed story is hot, so take the hot seat, eh? The stage too is tempting, and the temptation to play into the hands of the gallery is even stronger.

Step aside presidential candidates Patil and Shekhawat.

For the people of Bangalore, your worth is very less compared to the potential loss of lives at the Glasgow airport.

It does make one wonder why the Bangalore Police is displaying such initiative, in spite of the British Police not asking for their help on Kafeel Ahmed’s links in Bangalore? Could it be that if and when the British Police, which waiting to gain some solid evidence before going hammer and thongs, does come knocking we can display our efficient policing? It is good PR for our local police in the meantime. And, the Ahmeds do not seem to have any politician or highly placed official to protect them. So, no interference for once!

Remember the drunk driver who killed all those postal employees a few months ago outside the Bangalore GPO, after a binge night? Whoever heard of him after two days? And here were some of us, waiting to know more about his family, his sisters, his brothers, what they did for a living, how many people they had pinched and made to cry, etc.

Why did the media rob us of our right to know these details about this young man? Why didn’t people write in his Orkut profile that he was a disgrace and that all Hindus should be ashamed to let such a drunken criminal breed amidst them? Clearly, the lives of the postal employees were not worth it, and their families are not high-profile.

No ‘educated doctors’ among them, you see.

But Sabeel Ahmed is not as fortunate as the drunken driver. His Orkut profile (assuming it is his, really) has been inundated with hate messages that can send anyone over the brink. Not just him, the friends in his list were getting hate messages, and within a day, many of them dropped out of the list.

Among the expletives that are too shocking to mention here, many ‘well educated’ people are telling Sabeel how his entire family should be paraded and slaughtered in public for bringing disgrace to India. His Hindu friends are questioned about their friendship with a ‘katela’ and terrorist. His Muslim friends are being asked if they are terrorists too. And the conversation is invariably turning into Hindus bashing Muslims and Islam, and Muslims bashing Hindus.

Other Kafeel Ahmeds in Bangalore are getting hate messages in their Orkut profile.

There are some who have asked Sabeel, “Why can’t you Muslims live in peace? Wherever you go, you create problems.” It is a statement straight out of a drawing room conversation where Muslim-bashing is considered to be a contribution to society.

Where is ‘wherever’?

Is the reference to West Asia, where Muslims are fighting for what was originally their land, which was given up to the Jews by the Allies after the War, without so much as asking the native people of the land if it was OK?

Is it to Jammu and Kashmir where Sheikh Abdullah and Jawaharlal Nehru equally played a messy game, before Nehru won after imprisoning Abdullah and Kashmir was literally annexed into India? It was the Hindu king of Kashmir who had decided to sign Kashmir over to India.

Is it to Central Asia and Afghanistan where instability was fostered by our old friends, the Soviets, and later by our newer friends, the Americans?

Or is the reference to Iraq and Afghanistan, where the Americans (and their allies) have made it their life’s mission to scar an entire generation and possibly many more to come, with the brutality of their actions?

Don’t think they will forget the atrocities committed in the name of peace and democracy. The loss of loved ones for no fault of theirs, repeatedly, day in and day out—and the vilifying of a religion, day in and day out—can push anyone to the brink of vengeance.

Why should a doctor not be human then? And be a ready target for the brain washers of the terrorist variety?

If our Shiv Sainiks can be so good at taking up a cause even when they are not directly affected, why should not a doctor be human?

Despite the British police not seeking help from the local police, and despite no hard evidence other than the fact that Kafeel Ahmed was in the jeep which was driven into the Glasgow Airport, the Ahmed family and the entire Muslim community of Bangalore is being made the target of what would be the equivalent of racism in our country.

Why?

# When our Hindu relatives living in the US and UK complain of racism, we are not only sympathetic, but we curse ‘em white people, and want those governments to protect the minority rights of our Hindu relatives living in the US and UK, despite those governments being more committed to protecting peoples’ rights.

# We try every method, legal or illegal, to get out of our godforsaken country and start off at the bottom of the rung in a developed country. We rest on the laurels of the economic contribution we make to those economies and gloat over it.

# We love it that Bollywood is taking over the imagination of the world, we are proud that ‘our culture’ is very popular in the West and the whities are flocking to our ayurvedic resorts and taking yoga to new commercial levels.

# We can accept non-resident Indians hanging on to their Indian (i.e. Hindu) roots well into their third or fourth generation, but will throw stones at Muslims if and when they support Pakistan in cricket, or simply keep in touch with their Pakistani family members, questioning their ‘patriotism’ all the time.

# We are happy when British Indians and the ‘Barmy Army’ come in great numbers to support India at a game against England (an act which questions their loyalty to their home country, England!), but will see no contradiction in denouncing the Muslims in India who might choose to support Pakistan at cricket and Palestine in their war against Israel.

# We are happy to support the demand to throw Hindu ashes into the Thames, much to the horror of the local British sensibilities, but get don’t think twice before sticking up our noses to practices of the Islamic faith.

We pull up our chests and say ‘our culture’ is very peaceful and tolerant. And you really want to know where it is, when you try walking on the streets of Bangalore, to see the scant respect for human life. Pedestrians are getting knocked down left, right, centre, every day, in this ‘international’ IT city, where people are in a rush in their sedans and SUVs, competing with the goods carrying mini truck drivers for space, to make their millions.

We choose to be blind to all this “I am more important than you” culture. We are happy to be rude, obnoxious and totally callous in day-to-day life. And, basking in the warmth of a ‘glorious culture’, whatever that might be, we are happy to pick on people who are facing the most nightmarish times of their lives.

Our Vedic texts of scientific and mathematical genius, do not seem to have taught us the compassion and tolerance which Ahmed family should receive in their time of distress. Why are we not waiting for the investigations to bring forth the truth before maligning them in this manner in public?

Why are we assuming the guilt, and not innocence of the Ahmed Brothers until proven guilty?

It is definitely possible that Kafeel Ahmed might be guilty of terrorist activities in the UK. It is also possible that Sabeel Ahmed was not aware of his brother’s plans. Both are as possible and as impossible. And, I wish my colleagues in the media would see that the Ahmeds are real people they are reporting about, not some characters who belong to a Bollywood film story.

Even newspersons should have a sense of responsibility to be fair, if they are going to play judge in this media trial.

In their tenure as doctors, isn’t it possible that both the Ahmed parents did not differentiate between treating a Hindu patient or a Muslim patient? Why isn’t the media pursuing the patients of these doctors for any testimonials, instead of only exploring terrorist and criminal links, which they have been unable to find thus far?

It looks like the media is deliberately vilifying the Ahmed family.

If the Ahmed parents were involved, would they be sitting ducks for the Police and media to harass them? Wouldn’t they have been like the Memon family who got away after the Bombay blasts in 1992? Is the harrowed mother not admitting the possibility that her sons might be involved?

Why are we singling out two parents to take the responsibility of their son’s act? Aren’t the sons adults and therefore responsible for their own actions? Won’t they pay the price for their crimes when they meet justice at the courts? Can’t we agonize over this crime in a humane way?

What does it do to the psyche of an Indian Muslim person who is constantly told “Go to Pakistan”? Who is called names like ‘Katela’ and ‘Turka’? What does it do to the psyche of a Muslim who sees that his sister or brother is being targeted in such ruthless manner without even the crime having been proven yet?

And if and once it is proven that Kafeel is guilty, what is Dr Zakia Ahmed’s crime? That she bore a son who went on to be part of an act of crime? If the police is able to unearth terrorist base in Bangalore with Bangloreans in the thick of it and planning attacks on targets in the city, it is our collective failure in not succeeding in building a secular nation where everyone, Hindus and Muslims, felt safe and secure, and felt an ownership towards the city.

Call me a secular fundamentalist, call me leftist, ‘pseudo secular’ (whatever that means), and slot me in the category which you fancy, since apparently one cannot be just human anymore, and has to be part of some –ism or the other.

If Kafeel Ahmed is guilty and if his parents are party to the crime, I would be happiest to see them brought to book. But until that can be established, is there any need to cross the line of human decency?

I appeal to all my countrymen living in India, of all religions, to unify against religious bigotry, and against narrow minded prejudices, among Muslims and Hindus. The world is in the throes of chaos. We have a choice. Either we make it a better place, or destroy it with hatred. And like Michael Jackson crooned, for you and for me, and the entire human race.

The choice is ours, while we are still alive.

***

For the record:

# Do I support terrorism? No.

# Do I think Kafeel Ahmed and Sabeel Ahmed are innocent? No. But until there is definite evidence and a charge is made, I will consider it a possibility.

# Does it mean that Bangalore Police should not explore the possibility of terrorist networks in the city? No.

# Does this case justify the public humiliation of the Ahmed family in this manner by the media? No.

#Am I Hindu? No. I refuse to be that Hindu who is only a Hindu if she hates Muslims. I am not that Hindu.