OPINION
FROM 1984 TO BARGARI
Hurt & angry, we’ve tried rage, anger. Did we miss karuna?
- S Pal
Hurt & angry, we’ve tried rage, anger. Did we miss karuna?



ONE READING OF any account of the victims of 1984, and your blood will boil. One meeting with a group of widows of anti-Sikh massacres of 1984, and your blood will boil. One quick read of the first person accounts of the November 1984 riots narrated by many of India's leading civil society leaders before commission after inquiry commission and your blood will boil. One casual sitting through a movie like Amu and your blood will boil. 

You will be very angry with India's multi-tyre system, circa 1984.

That multi-tyre system was simple in its effectiveness. Take a lot of tyres, set them afire and put them around any Sikh you can grab. The tyres were in great supply, as was the kerosene. Trembling with fear, the Sikhs huddled inside their houses but those running the multi-tyre system had provided them meticulously-drafted voter lists, with the chosen ones clearly marked out. A darkness of sorts had befallen India's capital because a big tree had crashed, and someone in the power echelons had decided that it needs to be lit through some kind of an Ujjwala scheme, the one that ran on kerosene, tyres and constructed rage of the bloodthirsty crowds.
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India’s multi-tyre system was simple in its effectiveness. Take a lot of tyres, set them afire and put them around any Sikh you can grab. This was the Ujjwala scheme of 1984, the one that ran on kerosene, tyres and the constructed rage of bloodthirsty crowds.
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It was a political innovation built on past experience of rioting, but one that was deadly effective in that Orwellian year. The experiments of June 1984 had stunned the community, and it was still to wrap its head around the Indian establishment's capacity to handle sensitive situations in a most ham-handed fashion when the winter turned a little extra cold for it, thanks to the willingness of the rulers to settle scores to satiate the imagined cumulative anger.

The denial of justice after 34 years is a testimony to the effectiveness of this Indian invention. 

People being burnt alive on the roads of the national capital in huge numbers for days altogether did not make India’s blood boil. No wonder that India watched the monster's deathly dance again in Gujarat in 2002. Still, India's blood did not boil.

We are now watching the lynch mob in action on a more drawn out basis. If you thought Mohd Akhlaq or Pehlu Khan were one off incidents, then the mob soon proved it wasn't going home anytime soon. It became a series of dramatic tussle-beating-killing-videographing routine. The killers now no more hide their identities, they put these videos online and political masters garland them. 
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Words like chilling, appalling, inhuman, outrageous, have all lost their charge. We have become a mass of desensitized viewers set upon by a turbo fuelled media. Image is chasing image at such blistering speed that we dare not hold on to anything — lest we burst.
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Now, it has become the new normal. A Muslim student living in a PG accommodation is not secure. Hostel mates can beat up their classmate because he comes from Kashmir. Cops can knock on your door because a neighbour saw your tenant offering namaz. It is happening on a daily basis. 

Does India's blood boil?

Years after 2002, there were tapes out there, exposing the faces of the killers, bringing out the truth straight from the killers’ mouth as they explained how they ripped open a woman’s stomach and thrust a sword through the foetus, how they killed a politician, shredding his limbs one by one. The world was aghast, but why do you think India's blood did not boil? 

It was 1984. It is 1984. It is not going away anytime soon. 1984 is living with us.

Those who were shouting "Khoon ka badla khoon se lenge” even as a newly anointed Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi stood by and national TV telecast the slogans – effectively exhorting the killers to use the tyres more effectively, burn more Sikhs, rape more women, loot more shops – one thing was very clear. The killers knew that India’s blood will not boil.
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Either we have lost our sense of outrage, or it does not work and has not stood us in good stead. Is it time we try karuna, compassion?
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A nation whose sense of outrage is dead is only a state without a soul. Those with claims of thousands of years of civilisational history behind them were exposed as having remained only heathens. The civilized do not do what newspapers will tell you about for the 34th year now. And no civilized nation acts the way Indian political establishment acted after these killers did what they did.

No civilized country’s premier stands before TV cameras and says when a big tree falls, the earth shakes. 

Unless, of course, we have blood that does not boil. 

It is time we search for a sense of outrage within ourselves. We live in an age of spiralling hype and sensation. An age of cheap spectacle in which the indulgences of tallest statues, mass yogas, vehicles that can ferry you to Mars or Rafale fighter plane deals can be so easily deemed landmark and historic. An age in which words like chilling, appalling, inhuman, outrageous, have all lost their charge. We have become a mass of desensitized viewers set upon by a turbo fuelled media. Image is chasing image at such blistering speed that we dare not hold on to anything — lest we burst. In such an age, it becomes necessary at times to hold on to our soul, to say a prayer, to remember someone killed before his father’s eyes, someone raped in front of her mother. 

Unless, of course, we have blood that does not boil.
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The state is not rushing to our aid. It seems to be in no hurry to deliver justice. We have to find a way out of this, one that takes us to the goal the Guru outlined.
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Either we have lost our sense of outrage, or it does not work and has not stood us in good stead. Is it time we try karuna, compassion? 

The sense of outrage has inspired huge numbers to go to Bargari. One assumes it is also a mass of people deeply hurt, not just angry. Will it make an argument for karuna, also?
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So far, the talk has been about righting the wrong by pulling someone down, dragging them through the streets and making them pay for the insult meted out to the Guru. So far we have demanded state action. So far we have reduced the universal message of the Guru to a purpose most narrow.

The demand for justice is a far bigger demand, from 1984 to Behbal Kalan. The hurt and the rage within us must lead us to search for karuna deep inside and respond with compassion. Compassion for our own inner selves. 

We are hurt. We need to assuage our minds and hearts. The state is not rushing to our aid. It seems to be in no hurry to deliver justice. We have to find a way out of this, one that takes us to the goal the Guru outlined. 

It might start with a search for karuna deep inside us. The Guru will guide us. It always has. It always will.

Or would you rather go back and ask the same question: "Why does our blood not boil?"
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