Thoughts on the Delhi Riots of 2020

Reposted with Permission

“I have avoided speaking about the Delhi riots for a variety of reasons– in particular, it is difficult to parse through reports without conceding to one’s own bias (unfortunately, most of the reactions thus far have done precisely this). It’s also hard to know what to say beyond the resonant, irreproachable homilies that might be helpful. One of the refrains that I’ve heard from others is that it is insensitive to point out that the Western media has incorrectly portrayed this as an anti-Muslim pogrom, whereas what we do know reveals relatively equal casualties of both Hindus and Muslims. The logic is that it minimizes the deaths of Muslims and shifts the conversation; you come off as brutally insensitive. “This isn’t the time."

While the logic appears compassionate and “correct”, its result is to silence. It also doesn’t recognize an important truth: when else do you want us to point out that the media narrative is obviously lopsided, misinformative, and erases victims based on which religion they belong to? Once the media narrative is baked in and changing minds about what’s really happening becomes impossible? Keenly aware of coming across as an asshole, if someone continues to make the point, the rational thing to do is ask why their speaking out feels important to them. In this case, it is important because organizations like SAALT and Sadhana have already sought to push for legislation on the basis of the misinformation. (Interestingly, no one has called them out for misrepresenting and capitalizing on dozens of deaths.) What is happening now colors the U.S.-India relationship; Bernie and Warren have already been swept up by the propaganda and responded to it publicly. The point is that correcting the narrative is not just to score a “brownie point,” when we know these narratives have the power to radically transform the media and political landscape.

Of course, we should be mindful of how our words affect others and other communities– but enforced silence at the expense of not only the truth but your own interests is too high a bar. How can you possibly expect anyone to pay it?

Yet, this episode brings up a far more important reality. It is not that Hindu deaths are scarcely reported in Western media. We already knew that. It is that Hindus are reduced to a state of only being able to speak about trauma when they are presented as the aggressor and others the victims– something that makes them appear insensitive to others. Consider this. According to its own archives, the first time the New York Times featured an actual account of a Kashmiri Pandit refugee was when it published Priyanka Mattoo’s op-ed in 2019thirty years after she’d been forced to leave her homeland. Her account became “newsworthy” only when Article 370 was abrogated, when Kashmiri Muslims were the victims of a Hindu nationalist government. No one listened to them. They were put in a position of appearing to speak over the trauma of others. They were told to their faces at Princeton that they were “dominating the stories of others.” The same thing is happening with Hindu and Sikh refugees as a result of the CAA. Don’t listen, and when someone finally manages to share their pain, spit in their face and tell them they are pawns of the Hindu fascist state. What is the right time for them to speak? When can the Hindu victims of the Delhi riots speak? Are they allowed to say that the Wall Street Journal effaced the memory of their kin, or is listening to their truth too inconvenient for the worldview you’ve already formed?

It doesn’t give me any pleasure or satisfaction to have to say this right now. I would love to live in a world where these stories were relayed faithfully from the get-go. But, this is important.

We must allow each other to speak.

We must allow an outlet for trauma.

We must remember all the victims of these riots:

  1. Mubarak Hussain, a 28-year-old resident of Babarpur. He was shot in the chest at Vijay Park. A native of Darbhanga in Bihar, he worked as a labourer in Delhi.
  2. Ankit Sharma, a 26-year-old security assistant with the Intelligence Bureau was a resident of Khajuri Khas. His body was found in the Chandbagh drain stabbed over 400 times. His family alleges a mob led by AAP’s Tahir Hussain killed him.
  3. Ratan Lal, 42 years, a Delhi police head constable was fatally shot in Gokulpuri.
  4. Shahid Khan Alvi, 22 years. An autorickshaw driver, he was shot in the stomach near Bhajanpura dargah.
  5. Rahul Solanki, resident of Babu Nagar near Shiv Vihar and a civil engineer by profession, stepped out to buy milk when he was shot in the neck, killing him.
  6. Mudassir Khan, also an autorickshaw driver and a resident of Kardampuri, he was also shot dead.
  7. Nazeem Khan, a 35-year-old scrap dealer, was also shot dead.
  8. Mohammad Furquan, a 30-year-old was shot dead when he stepped out to buy food in Bhajanpura area of Jaffrabad.
  9. Mehtab, 22 years, and a resident of Brijpuri was burnt to death.
  10. Vinod Kumar, 45 years, was also beaten to death in Brahmpuri when he was returning home from buying medicines.
  11. Vir Bhan Singh, 48 years, was going to have food when shot dead.
  12. Ashfaq Hussain, a 24-year-old electrician, was shot five times in Mustafabad. His body was kept at the Al Hind Hospital there.
  13. Deepak, a 34-year-old from Mandoli, who died of stab wounds.
  14. Ishak Khan, a 24-year-old living in Kabir Nagar, who was shot.
  15. Rahul Thakur, a 23-year-old from Brijpuri, was killed in an “assault”, according to the hospital.
  16. Shan Mohd from Loni, 34, was also shot.
  17. Pravesh, a 48-year-old from Maujpur, succumbed to gunshot wounds.
  18. Zakir, 24, from Mustafabad, died of multiple stab injuries.
  19. Dilbar, whose age and location have not been released by GTB Hospital, died of burn injuries.
  20. Maruf, 32 years old.
  21. Aman, believed to be the youngest victim yet, was 17 years old.
  22. Salman, who age and location are unknown.
  23. Faizan, a 24-year-old.
  24. Alok Tiwari, 34 years old.
  25. Irfan, 25 years old.
  26. Babbu, 32-year-old.
  27. Akbari, 85-year-old, a resident of Gamri village in Khajuri Khas.
  28. Ayub Shabbir, 60-year-old scrap dealer.

12 Hindus, 16 Muslims. 28 needless deaths.

Om Shanti.

Please Note: there were more victims identified after this article was written and there might be more identified in the upcoming days as Delhi recovers from the violence. We hope their souls find peace.