[News] Arundhati Roy on Delhi violence: ‘This is our version of the coronavirus. We are sick’
news at freedomarchives.org
Sun Mar 1 19:45:30 EST 2020
Roy on Delhi violence: ‘This is our version of the coronavirus. We are sick’
Arundhati Roy - March 1, 2020
Beloved friends, comrades and my fellow writers,
This place where we are gathered today is only a short bus ride away from
where four days ago a fascist mob, fired up by speeches made by members of
the Ruling Party, backed up and actively assisted by the police, assured of
round the clock support by a vast section of the electronic mass media, and
comforted by the belief that the courts would do nothing to come in their
way – mounted an armed, murderous attack on Muslims in the working class
colonies of North East Delhi.
The attack had been in the air for a while, so people were somewhat
prepared, and so defended themselves. Markets, shops, homes, mosques and
vehicles have been burnt down. The streets are full of stones and debris.
The hospitals are full of the wounded and dying. The morgues are full of
the dead. Both Muslim and Hindu, including a policeman and a young staffer
of the Intelligence Bureau. Yes. People on both sides have shown themselves
capable of horrifying brutality as well as unbelievable courage and
However, there can be no equivalence here. None of this alters the fact
that the attack was begun by lumpen mobs chanting “Jai Shri Ram” backed by
the apparatus of this now nakedly fascist state. Notwithstanding these
slogans, this is not what people like to label a Hindu-Muslim “riot”. It is
a manifestation of the ongoing battle between fascists and anti-fascists –
in which Muslims are the first among the Fascists’ “enemies”. To call it a
riot or a “danga”, or “Left” versus “Right” or even “Right” versus “Wrong”
as many are doing, is dangerous and obfuscatory.
We have all seen the videos of the police standing by and sometimes
participating in the arson. We have seen them smashing CCTV cameras, just
as they did when they vandalised the Jamia Millia Islamia University
library on December 15. We have seen them beat wounded Muslim men as they
lay piled up against each other and force them to sing the national anthem.
We know that one of those young men is dead. All the dead, wounded and
devastated, Muslim as well as Hindu are victims of this regime headed by
Narendra Modi, our nakedly fascist Prime Minister who himself is no
stranger to being at the helm of affairs in a state when 18 years ago a
massacre on a much larger scale went on for weeks.
The anatomy of this particular conflagration will be studied for years to
come. But the local detail will only be a matter of historical record
because the ripples based on hateful rumours fuelled on the social media
have begun to eddy outwards and we can already smell more blood on the
breeze. Although there have been no more killings in North Delhi, yesterday
(February 29) saw mobs of people in Central Delhi chanting the slogan that
built up to the attacks: “Desh ke Gaddaron ko, Goli maaron saalon ko.”
Only a few days ago. the Delhi High Court Judge, Justice Muralidharan was
furious with the Delhi Police for having taken no action against Kapil
Mishra, former BJP MLA candidate who had earlier too used it as an election
slogan. On the night of February 26, the judge was given midnight orders to
take up his new assignment in the Punjab High Court. Kapil Mishra is back
on the streets chanting the same slogan. It can now be used until further
notice. Fun and games with judges isn’t new. We know the story about
Justice Loya. We may have forgotten the story of Babu Bajrangi, convicted
of participating in the killing 96 Muslims in Naroda Patiya, in Gujarat in
2002. Listen to him on YouTube
He’ll tell you how “Narendra bhai” got him out of jail because of “setting”
We have learned to expect massacres such as this one before elections –
they have become a sort of barbaric election campaign to polarise votes and
build constituencies. But the Delhi massacre happened just days after an
election, after the BJP-RSS suffered a humiliating defeat. It is a
punishment for Delhi and an announcement for the coming elections in Bihar.
Everything is on record. Everything is available for everyone to see and
hear – the provocative speeches of Kapil Mishra, Parvesh Verma, Union
Minister Anurag Thakur, Chief Minister of UP Yogi Adityanath, the Home
Minister Amit Shah and even the Prime Minister himself. And yet everything
has been turned upside down – it’s being made to appear as though all of
India is a victim of the absolutely peaceful, mostly female, mostly – but
not only – Muslim protestors who have been out on the streets for almost 75
days, in their tens of thousands, to protest against the Citizenship
The CAA, which offers a fast-track route to citizenship for non-Muslim
minorities, is blatantly unconstitutional and blatantly anti-Muslim.
Coupled with the National Population Register and the National Register of
Citizens, it is meant to delegitimise, destabilise and criminalise not just
Muslims but hundreds of millions of Indians who do not have the requisite
documents – including those who are chanting “Goli Maaro Saalon Ko” today.
Once citizenship comes into question, everything comes into question – your
children’s rights, your voting rights, your land rights. As Hannah Arendt
said, “citizenship gives you the right to have rights.” Anybody who thinks
this is not the case, please turn your attention to Assam and see what has
happened to twenty lakh people – Hindus, Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis. Now
trouble has started between local tribes and the non-tribal population in
the state of Meghalaya. There is curfew in Shillong. The state borders are
closed to non-locals.
The sole purpose of the NPR-NRC-CAA is to destabilise and divide people not
just in India but across the whole subcontinent. If they do indeed exist,
these phantom millions of human beings who India’s current Home Minister
calls Bangladeshi “termites”, cannot be kept in detention centres and
cannot be deported. By using such terminology and by thinking up such a
ridiculous, diabolic scheme, this government is actually endangering the
tens of millions of Hindus who live in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan
who they pretend to be concerned about, but who could suffer the backlash
of this bigotry emanating from New Delhi.
Look where we have ended up.
In 1947, we won independence from colonial rule that was fought for by
almost everybody with the exception of our current rulers. Since then all
manner of social movements, anti-caste struggles, anti-capitalist
struggles, feminist struggles have marked our journey up to now.
In the 1960s, the call to revolution was a demand for justice, for the
redistribution of wealth and the overthrow of the ruling class.
By the 1990s, we were reduced to fighting against the displacement of
millions of people from their own lands and villages, people who became the
collateral damage for the building of a new India in which 63 of India’s
richest people have more wealth than the annual budget outlay for 1,200
Now we are reduced to pleading for our rights as citizens from people who
have had nothing to do with building this country. And as we plead, we
watch the state withdraw its protection, we watch the police get
communalised, we watch the judiciary gradually abdicate its duty, we watch
the media that is meant to afflict the comfortable and comfort the
afflicted do the very opposite.
Today is the 210th day since Jammu and Kashmir was unconstitutionally
stripped of its special status. Thousands of Kashmiris including three
former chief ministers continue to be in jail. Seven million people are
living under a virtual information siege, a novel exercise in the mass
violation of human rights. On February 26, the streets of Delhi looked like
the streets of Srinagar. That was the day that Kashmiri children went to
school for the first time in seven months. But what does it mean to go to
school, while everything around you is slowly throttled?
A democracy that is not governed by a Constitution and one whose
institutions have all been hollowed out can only ever become a majoritarian
state. You can agree or disagree with a Constitution as a whole or in part
– but to act as though it does not exist as this government is doing is to
completely dismantle democracy. Perhaps this is the aim. This is our
version of the coronavirus. We are sick.
There’s no help on the horizon. No well-meaning foreign country. No UN.
And no political party that intends to win elections will or can afford to
take a moral position. Because there is fire in the ducts. The system is
What we need are people who are prepared to be unpopular. Who are prepared
to put themselves in danger. Who are prepared to tell the truth. Brave
journalists can do that, and they have. Brave lawyers can do that, and they
have. And artists – beautiful, brilliant, brave writers, poets, musicians,
painters and filmmakers can do that. That beauty is on our side. All of it.
We have work to do. And a world to win.
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