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Muzaffarnagar: When Victims are Asked to 'Settle', Justice Can Never Prevail

We can be sure that this matter will be 'amicably' resolved. Nevertheless, the demand for justice must be made.

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The Uttar Pradesh police have filed an FIR against Mohammed Zubair, a fact-checker and journalist with Alt News, for sharing the video of a Muslim boy in Muzaffarnagar who was hit repeatedly by his classmates, as instructed by their school teacher Tripta Tyagi.

Meanwhile, Tyagi, who made her students beat their Muslims classmate while making communal remarks, is still free. She is unrepentant and says that the only thing wrong in the whole episode was the making of the video of the act and circulating it.

Tripta Tyagi is confident that nothing will happen to her. What is the reason behind her confidence?

As soon as the incident became public, causing national outrage, leaders from the Tyagi community rallied behind her. Muzaffarnagar BJP member of Parliament (MP) Sanjeev Balyan met her as well.

Apart from them, people like Naresh Tikait, a jat farmer leader, declared that he would get the FIR against Tyagi quashed.

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The Tragedy of a 'Settlement'

The Muslim boy's family, asked to 'settle' the matter outside of the law, is also being asked whether they would break the harmony of the village for the sake of justice.

The family understands the threat hidden in this advice. They have their lives after all.

They have seen the fate of the family of Akhlaq, who was lynched in Dadri. How can they forget the condition of the family of the Dalit woman who was raped and killed in Hathras? They decided to pursue the course of justice and were isolated by the village and are living a threatened life.

There are numerous stories of such lonely fights for justice across the nation, especially among Muslims and Dalits. The family of the boy who was slapped also knows that they will be alone in their fight. They know that society will eventually become their enemy.

If we take Tikait’s suggestion at face value and accept that he knows Indian villages better than the 'liberals' insisting on justice, and he is aware that the struggle of the family of the boy earns them hostility, it is a scathing indictment of our society and the state apparatus.

Society does not treat crime to be an individual act. In this case, it treats the allegation against the accused as its indictment and goes against those looking for justice. The state joins the dominant community and is more concerned with maintaining peace than helping the wronged secure justice.

We have seen Bilkis Bano fighting a lone battle for 15 years, keeping herself in hiding and changing towns without any support from the state.

We have seen Dalits being killed if they pursue their quest for justice and families destroyed.

Look at the case of 18-year-old Nitin Ahiwar of Sagar in Madhya Pradesh who was beaten to death after he refused to withdraw a sexual harassment case lodged by his sister. Did the police not know that he needed protection?

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Why Can't We Call a Hate Crime Exactly What It is?

We know that such acts of violence do not happen in India alone. Be it the US or Europe, no country is free from violence, or from hatred. That hatred is also driven by religious, racial, and other biases.

But after every such incident of violence in those countries, its leaders and rulers feel the need to publicly address the issue and condemn the violence.

They do not say that since the act of violence does not involve any institution of the state and that they are not accountable. They do not argue that these are isolated incidents. They do not say that if the government or head of state keeps paying attention to these crimes, then they will not be able to fully function.

Not only this, they also make it a point to describe the nature of violence. When it is a hate crime, they point-blank say that it is a hate crime.

When a white man crushed a family of Pakistani origin in Canada, the prime minister of Canada did not remain silent.

He condemned the murder and expressed his pain over it. He didn't say it was the work of a madman. He clearly said that this violence was caused by hatred prevalent in Canada driven by Islamophobia. He said that this hatred turned into physical violence through a long process.

The prime minister of New Zealand reached out to the Muslims when a mosque was attacked killing Muslims. She herself went to the mosque, participated in the congregational prayer, and covered her head in solidarity with the Muslims.

In the US, often the president or his representative addresses the country after every incident of violence against black people. They do not say that we cannot expect to comment on all acts of violence as it is so repetitive and the state is not involved.

Responsible politicians of all these countries repeatedly tell their constituents that hatred and violence have no place in a modern democracy.

After all, reminding society of civilised standards is also the job of a politician.

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The Demand for Justice Must Be Made

But in India, violence against a section of the society, especially the minorities, does not seem to move the rulers. They remain focused on their job of governance.

It could be violence in Manipur which is going on for four months. The PM and other leaders of the ruling party maintained a studied silence for three months and felt forced to speak out only after a video clip of women being sexually assaulted by a mob went viral.

It is, therefore, foolish to expect such a government to speak up on the violence perpetrated on a single Muslim child in a village in Uttar Pradesh.

Nevertheless, the demand for justice must be made.

This expectation from the government must remain alive if if we still believe in the idea of a democratic society and state.

For this to happen,we must be a society that rejects hatred and violence. The response to the horrendous act of violence against the child and its communal nature proves that we are a society that keeps denying that it suffers from hatred.

So we can be sure that this matter will be ‘amicably ’ resolved.

But how weak is a society which refuses to call the crime by its name, in which there is no sense of justice left, nor does feel disturbed by its absence. A society where criminals are hugged and garlanded and those seeking justice are attacked or jailed.

Whether it is public support in favour of the killers of Akhlaq in Dadri or public demonstration in favour of the killers of the girl in Kathua, or mobilisation in favour of the rapists in Hathras, there are scores of occasions when the people have risen up in favour of the criminals and claimed as their own.

No one can stop the downfall of a society that does not call crime a crime and stands as an obstacle in the path of justice.

The people of India, especially a section of the Hindus, have to decide whether they want to be the object of pity and contempt in a society devoid of justice, or do they want to rescue themselves.

(The writer teaches at Delhi University. He tweets @Apoorvanand__. This is an opinion article and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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