My father, a 54 year old dynamic man holds a degree in Law, Science and Economics other than a few short term courses that he pursued. He is a government servant who has lived in Banaras, Haridwar, Gonda, Shamli, Meerut and Hapur to mention a few.
He has a huge public dealing experience and always tries to give his clients the best possible treatment Irrespective of their caste, religion and class.
He knew, my interest in the otherwise boring trip to Shamli for his official purpose was to talk with the locals to know the extent of polarization in the region. I thought Shamli would be colored in saffron after the aggressive dominance of Hindu forces but it was still mostly green, brown and black.
By the end of our journey I realized saffronisation first starts in mind, then in clothes and further.
The car’s radio was on, old songs were playing. “Looking at the calmness no one can guess the brutality Muslims face here”, I said in a low tone with my eyes on road and hands at the steering. “Why do you think they have only been the victims? They have been equally cruel,” dad replied in a mildly aggressive tone which was enough for me to realize that I have taken up the wrong issue.
I didn’t reply for a while to avoid the argument that was about to begin but then “dad, minorities have been remorselessly crushed always, be it Sikhs in 84’, Muslims during Babri Masjid in 92’ or during Godhra in 2002,” I answered with an increasing frustration. After all there is no harm in accepting the claims based on facts from multiple sources. It will only help in improving the society.
Smasshhh! My car bumps in a pothole. “Careful!” he raised his voice. Now, I didn’t know where the conversation would lead but I was sure that I have touched the wrong strings. He was already annoyed with the inclination I have towards the issue. He, like some of my friends and relatives thinks that I am an immature fool.
“We are all humans and that’s what matters,” he said slowly in a soft tone. Yes, that gave me a breath of relief. This is the point I have been trying to make that our identity of being born as humans is above all the other identities we acquire.
“But you should stop favoring Muslims,” he said shattering the momentary confidence I had just built-up. In my best attempt to avoid this conversation I increased volume of the radio. Feeling ignored, he tried to grasp my attention with his pretentious laughter and said, “You won’t have any reply now.” Bent out of shape, I said, “You need to stop limiting things to Muslims. I am talking of minorities here. How would you react to what Dalits and tribals have to go through every moment?” “Muslims are not minorities. Learn it,” he tells me. “Cow is not holy”, I responded.
It had become the same situation which many right wing associates look out for—putting people against each other.
“Historically we have worshiped cow, it is supposed to be buried when dead, not butchered and eaten” he speaks with authority. His voice changed and speech came out as if he wanted nothing more to hear about it. I didn’t want to be quiet and leave it here. Dalits and even upper caste Hindu farmers have historically eaten beef
(including cow), “what do you think poor farmers do when their cattle gets sick and old? They sell it to butchers. For poor it has been a cheap source of meat,” I said.
He interrupts even before I could complete “A Hindu will never eat cow”. “I am a Hindu and I have had beef”, I said hesitatingly as I was scared.
This was like welcoming him to hit me hard on the face even if I was on the wheel. He looks at me. His eyes wide open. Anger was all over his face. I realized, what I had said was way too much for a father to hear from his son.
“How dare you! You are not a Hindu. You should be ashamed of yourself.” he shouts, loud enough to give me goose bumps. He didn’t stop. It had disturbed him a lot.
“You haven’t, you are lying only to provoke me.” He calms down himself. I didn’t reply. Rest of the journey goes with awkward silence and uneasiness inside both of us.