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A sign of things to come

  • Published at 11:00 pm March 2nd, 2020
India BJP Delhi mob
Persecution is universal REUTERS

Can we expect to see our own Delhi riots soon?

As a great fire rages across Delhi, people from around the world are filling both social media and the streets with condemnation.

Be it Bernie Sanders slamming Donald Trump for his nonchalant dismissal of the riots as a non-issue, or Roger Waters reciting a poem that channels the rage and anguish of the people plagued by this nightmare -- there has been no shortage of condemnation coming from all around the world.

Bangladesh hasn’t been left behind either -- with artists, performers, and regular people in general, taking to social media to express themselves. One area where we do differ is how, in light of recent events, many of us have been trying to shed light on the persecution facing minorities living in our nation.

There has been no shortage of people taking offense to this stance, some thinking that people are trying to justify the actions happening over in India while others are denying that anything like that ever happens to communities in Bangladesh.

No one is trying to justify what is happening in Delhi, or trying to dilute its importance. On the contrary, the Delhi riots should hold a mirror to ourselves, and show us where we might end up if we leave our own fundamentalist attitudes unchecked. 

To be fair, there are some basic differences between what is happening in India and what has happened in Bangladesh in the past. The Delhi riots are seemingly supported by the BJP government, with one Kapil Mishra being one of the key instigators behind the event.

Locals have also testified that not only did the police do as little as possible to stop the rioters, but they also actively participated alongside them, burning and looting as they see fit.

No one is denying the ethno-supremacist and fascist tendencies of the Modi government, much less the activists in Bangladesh. What people are failing to notice is that the BJP party did not come to power out of the blue.

The BJP came to power because they have a large number of people supporting them, people who see followers of other religions and ethnicities as a threat to their sovereignty, and this is that should scare us the most.

The persecution of religious minorities in Bangladesh should come as no surprise to anyone who reads the news. The incident in Bhola from last year left four dead and over 100 people injured. All of this was started over an errant Facebook message, something that was confirmed to be fabricated during the protests. But that didn’t stop the Islamist “preachers” who were leading the protests.

And this is not a one-of incident either.

From more violent incidents like Ramu and Bhola, and seemingly harmless incidents like Islamists using racial slurs to refer to minorities and threatening violence if anything even remotely goes against their belief, using the popular rhetoric that a country comprises of 98% Muslims will not tolerate any “transgressions” is alarming in itself.

Couple that with the anti-minority conspiracy theories that all accuse the government of prioritizing Hindus while letting them steal the nation from its Muslims majority -- similar to the anti-immigrant conspiracy theories in America or the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories which were espoused in Nazi Germany -- it isn’t surprising to see why this should be considered alarming. 

The government hasn’t done anything to quash these rumours either. From removing notable Hindu authors from the national curriculum to the continuous failing that is finding the killers of Avijit Roy and Humayun Azad and putting them in jail -- it all points to the government being well aware of a strong, fascist Islamist element that exists within our society. 

And instead of trying to rein them in, the administration is seemingly trying to appeal to them as they are indeed a significant vote bank.

Giving in to extremists will only make them bolder until they step out of the shadows and make their own demands in order to reshape what it means to be a Bangladeshi. Much like what’s going on in India as we speak.

So yes, using the Delhi riots to shed light on the persecutions happening in our own backyard doesn’t devalue or justify what is happening in Delhi. Instead, it gives us a chance to reflect, predicting what might happen in our own country if we let things go on as they are. 

Nafis Shahriar is a freelance contributor.