A Story of Protests: Are India & America Failing Their Minorities?
The resemblance (in our issues) is uncanny!
Recently, George Floyd, 46, was murdered in broad daylight in Minnesota, US. A policeman pinned Floyd down with his knees on his neck for over seven minutes, while the 46-year-old screamed saying he couldn’t breathe and begged for water. George was unarmed.
The absolutely horrifying video went viral, but it also instantly reminded me of a video that came from our very own national capital in February, during the anti-CAA-NRC protests. Five men lay on the streets, their shirts covered in blood, as they were beaten up with lathis, and forced to sing the national anthem by the police, the latter asking them to prove their loyalty to the state, saying ‘achi tarah ga (sing properly)’. One of the men, Faizan, eventually succumbed to his injuries.
But that’s not all. It is also the striking inaction that ensues after violence against the weak. Ahmaud Arbery was murdered as he was jogging down and was chased by two white men in a truck, and later shot. Nothing was done for months after, until the video footage emerged.
Such inaction is often seen in India. It took over three decades for the cops behind the Hashimpura massacre to be brought to justice, despite there being incriminating photographs. Let us not forget Pehlu Khan, whose lynching was filmed in broad daylight. However, the case took forever to progress at all, with no arrests made for too long a time, bringing up the ‘No One Killed Pehlu Khan’ headlines. Even then, ministers came out and said that both sides are at fault, which might remind you of President Trump saying the same thing after the Charlottesville shooting. Of course, there are his recent apathetic comments about protests in America:
“When the looting starts, the shooting starts” may also remind you of the “goli marron salon ko” taunts.
A survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies showed that nearly half of India’s police force feel that Muslims are naturally more likely to commit violence, while the Prison Statistics report of 2018 shows that majority of prisoners in jails are Dalits and Muslims. The US has similar problems. According to a Prison Policy Initiative report, Black Americans make up 40 percent of the incarcerated population, despite representing only about 13 percent of the population.
There’s also the case with the media and journalists and the curbing of protest reportage. A black CNN journalist Omar Jimenez covering the #BlackLivesMatter protests was arrested on camera even after identifying himself as a journalist. We saw many such stories during CAA-NRC protests, including Omar Rashid, a journalist covering anti-CAA protests for The Hindu, who was detained, kept for hours and questioned about his “Kashmiri” contacts. He said he had identified himself at the very start of the questioning. The police, later, called it a misunderstanding. Even today, as India is shut down for a pandemic, the police is arresting students for allegedly inciting the Delhi violence. Priorities?
There’s also the problem with the shunning of artists. Often, we see more outrage directed at silent protests than we see at oppression itself. When Colin Kaepernick, an American football player bent the knee, refusing to stand to the American national anthem to protest the ill-treatment of people of colour in America, people quickly started boycotting him. The rage was similar when Bollywood star Aamir Khan spoke of intolerance in India, and when Deepika Padukone attended a gathering to show support to the students of JNU.
It is truly undeniable at this point that both countries are struggling to provide justice to their minorities, and institutions meant to protect them are further terrorising their existence. However, what is most saddening is how such discrimination is often exposed through daily interactions. Be it a white woman calling the police on a black man because he asked her to put her dog on a leash, or fruit sellers being harassed and blamed for spreading COVID-19 simply for being Muslim – the stories are endless. Unfortunately, it is becoming impossible for minorities to express their grievances without fearing jail time and abuse. While discrimination is heartbreaking, the lack of proper government bodies willing to listen is blatant betrayal.
The time has come to ask ourselves how many Faizans, how many George Floyds it will take. When all of these protests settle down, as all protests do, do remember their names.
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