The still glowing embers of Dadri

Meha Dhondiyal Khanduri

Meha works in the field of international relations and conflict resolution and has recently returned to an India which she doesn’t recognise anymore.

Some right wing politicians and their supporters have expressed their astonishment at the long shelf life of the Dadri lynching, pointing the blame at the Indian media. What they mean is that in a country where life is cheap and heinous crimes take place every minute, continuous public chatter about Dadri has to mean that the small incident is being blown out of proportion by an opportune greedy media. However, for once I don’t think the media is to blame; they are merely reflecting the real horror being felt in Indian society and international circles.  Every nation has such incidents which manage to shake up the collective conscience of its people, regardless of their size.

One such was when Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of a bus, signifying the collective humiliation heaped upon the blacks in America and starting off a massive civil rights protests. Another such was when a young Jewish girl–Anne Frank’s diary was read by a shocked world, representing the horrors which an entire people was subject to in Germany.  Closer home, a young anglicised lawyer was humiliated and thrown off a railway compartment in South Africa and started a lifelong fight for the self respect of his people. In recent times there was Nirbhaya which struck a chord with middle class India sick of insecurity of women in public life..which had never before (or after) showed its anger so furiously.

Cartoon courtesy: Mir Suhail
Cartoon courtesy: Mir Suhail

All these incidents were small; but not unimportant or isolated. Some didn’t even involve killings. But they were all the proverbial last straws. They represented the pinnacle of many such indignities heaped  in the past. They managed to magnify clearly the horrors of the present and potential viciousness of the future. They brought these tragedies home to the self centred middle classes. The incidents were the neon signposts of the times. Dadri lynching was just such an incident. Small but not reflected the horrifying depths of communal polarisation Indian society has reached. It woke up educated Indians who thought such horrible things only happened in the boondocks of Indian villages. Writers in ivory towers suddenly realised that that the future meant in face of such hatred. It even shocked ordinary day to day Indians who take pride in their political apathy deriding the candle-lighting crowd. It shamed the NRIs who had to suddenly answer questions in their adopted lands about food choices. International media suddenly woke up to the reality of intolerant India with a flurry of articles.

Those, (and not a selfish media) are the reasons why nearly two weeks after the Dadri mob murder people are still talking about it online. Why 27 writers have returned their Sahitya Academy awards and the world’s newspapers are still dissecting the growing intolerance of India through the prism of our every action. Even the silence of the politicians stands out like a huge drumroll in our minds. And Dadri will continue to be pushed to the forefront of our minds, every time another hate crime is carried out in India.

Mind you, I’m not saying that Dadri will be the reason for the next nationwide movement against communalism, but I am saying when the history of communal politics in India is being written, Dadri killing will be marked as a point when middle class India suddenly glimpsed and were shocked by their own hate filled mask in the mirror.


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