Who says Partition is done and over with? Upheavals and shifts are continuing in rural areas, making people refugees in their own country. Sheer illusion that the aftermath of the Partition of 1947 was horrifying enough to jolt us with such severity that we’d be left swearing that never again an upheaval- laden situation, where people could be more than jostled to move from one locale to another, along religious slotting.
Not taking you very far back into recent history, in the last few months I have been interacting with several from rural stretches of north India. With worry writ large on their pale faces, they’ve told me that upheavals have been ongoing. Political mafia together with communal politics has seeped into the villages. They use shrewd strategies, making sure that no major rioting erupts but well-planned moves are put into practise for overnight shifts.
In fact, soon after the Muzaffarnagar riots in western Uttar Pradesh, what had surfaced was this shocking trend: Muslims in Hindu majority villages leaving their ancestral homes and lands; fleeing to Muslim-dominated areas or else surviving like hapless refugees in makeshift tents. I had met many survivors of those riots who narrated that they were left with no other option but to flee, otherwise they and their families would have been hacked if not attacked by goons from political brigades.
And soon after the communalism unleashed there, a similar pattern emerged in the Delhi’s outlying villages and Haryana, where dozens of families left homes amidst fears of death and destruction. I can never forget an elderly Muslim man summing up the scenario of being besieged by communally surcharged mobs with this one- liner: “Felt like a goat hounded by a pack of wolves!”
And now with UP Assembly elections approaching, new levels of insecurity emerge. Compounding complex build-ups, another disturbing development: fear and apprehension in Hindu families who are living in Muslim-dominated villages. Many are said to be shifting out to ‘safer’ locales — that is, to villages with Hindu majority population or to the Hindu mohallas of the nearby qasbas and mofussil towns.
These forced shifts are like another Partition, and just as disastrous. Pushing the farmer out of his fields, into a wilderness of the weirdest sorts. For, do not overlook the fact that for the farmer his field is his life! It’s on those ancestral acres that he and his clan has lived for decades; a great majority of them even unmoving during that big Partition, staying put on their lands. Yet today, there are entire families who are not just getting uprooted from their base but even forced overnight to become beggars or daily wagers — or reduced still further towards a nothingness of sorts.
As I travelled through Haryana’s dusty Mewat region, what gets writ large is poverty and backwardness and together with that the fear of the police. With the beef scare ‘tool’ in their hands, political brigades together with the State machinery are hounding entire families and spreading a strange level of scare. With unemployment levels at an all- time high in the rural belts of Mewat, the young Meos had taken to selling biryani along the highway but even that was targeted, with police conducting raids and creating havoc in their lives.
A majority of these youngsters have lost hope and sit back staring at the wilderness spreading out .Their parents cry out: “Though disparities did exist right from the time of the Raj days when Meos of Mewat had come up with rebellious cries against the Angrez rulers and with that bypassed for decades to come but we have never seen these dark days ever before! Our children can be arrested and thrown in jails with any charge …we are made to feel as though we animals living in an enemy country!”
And the situation in the rural Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh can be termed so hopeless, that entire Muslim clans are shifting out because of organised attacks on them. No mere forewarnings by activists but detailing of actual build-ups and happenings. This latest report which came in October is enough to relay the ground reality in Madhya Pradesh’s rural stretches. All India Secular Forum released this report put together by a team of activists led by LS Herdenia: “A series of communal incidents in Madhya Pradesh has raised the question about the security of Muslims. In all these incidents, Muslims were the main targets. On October 12, more than 40 houses and about the same number of shops owned by Muslims were set on fire in two villages — Gandhwani and Pipalya — in the Dhar district…After setting shops on fire in Gandhwani, the violent crowd entered Pipalya village and set many houses on fire. In order to escape the fury of the violent crowd, residents left their houses. This gave a free hand to the crowd, which burnt everything in the houses or looted…In fact, nothing was left. The crowd attacked every Muslim they came across. One woman told us it was a ‘war-like situation’.
Members of the crowd were hurling choicest abuses, ‘Why you are here? Go to Pakistan, you traitors!” This report also states that‘Hindu organisations’ have adopted a ‘unique method’ to collect crowd at a short notice. “A siren was installed in a multi-storey building…That night the siren was blown thrice, which alerted residents of the nearby villages. The moment they heard the siren they rushed to Pipalya and Gandhwani and started attacking Muslim houses and shops.”
Another startling observation was made by this team: police personnel who had made sincere efforts to control the situation were punished by the top brass! Two BJP members of Parliament were sent to these villages and also to Petlawad where communal violence had taken place earlier. It was on the basis of their report that particular police personnel were punished because they did not allow the situation to take an explosive turn! The fear or apprehension of the ‘other’ has always persisted but more along the middle-class setups in urban India. After all, how does one explain Muslims not getting rooms on rent even in posh South Delhi colonies or in those exclusive housing societies of Mumbai? But there is little hue and cry — none of those frenzied television debates on this. As though it’s become part of the expected format of today’s India.
Here let me add that communal politics in towns and cities is one thing but when it reaches — rather is made to reach — rural stretches, it reeks of eerie build-ups. More and more ghettos in our rural stretches. The very fabric getting ripped apart by political creatures and the state machinery in their direct control. Yet there seems little focus on this disturbing trend. Instead of sounding disgusted and alarmed by these ‘developments’, there isn’t even an ‘Uff!’from the political rulers of the day. I wonder why?
My dilemma: Polarization in psyches is now getting down to the ground, getting executed as people are being forced to run from here to there…in their own land, made to flee like refugees, from one end to the other. Call this small-scale partitioning but upheavals are definitely on, yet we only talk of that big Partition of 1947. Why not talk on these political build -ups, leading to partitioning along a set agenda?