The year is practically over. Unlike the end of the last year, when the fever pitch for the General Election was rising with each passing day, politics is really winding down. It is time to take stock of the year that went by.
Indian politics and Indian media hits many new lows every day. Even today, a prominent celebrity reporter says he saw only tricolours and portraits of Mahatma Gandhi at anti-CAA rallies. This when anti-CAA rioters have pelted stones on school buses. So there you go: there maybe just 5 days left in the year but there are always new and promising candidates for ‘Worst of 2019.’
So I am really taking a risk here announcing the “worst of 2019” with still 5 days to spare in the year.
But after much thought, I realized that no act in the whole of 2019 can be so low as what we saw the Caravan do after the Pulwama attack. I am not even talking about this headline where fallen soldiers of Pulwama terror attack were divided along caste lines by Caravan.
The Pulwama attack united the country behind one single cause: to avenge the killing of our jawans.
Growing up in India, I am no stranger to terrorist attacks. But Pulwama was the first time I felt something in the air. Random people I was passing on the street were talking about it. I was walking down a hallway and happened to hear someone talking into their cell: also discussing the attack. The sense of gloom and desire for revenge seemed to have filtered down to every citizen. Nobody wanted to ‘move on,’ which used to be our old stock response to the terror attacks of yore.
I would say the two feelings feed off each other. After Uri and the surgical strikes, India realized that we had a new security doctrine in place. That we could realistically expect revenge. Till now, we never did anything and so people never expected anything. So it looked like people just went about their lives without caring too much. But in reality, they had just made peace with the fact that it is our lot to suffer, shrug off and move on.
Once that equation changed with the surgical strikes, the real emotions came flooding out. There was anger and there was despair. But there was also anticipation to see how India would strike back. An elderly relative called my mom a few days later to complain, “Ten days have passed and still no revenge. What is the government doing?”
For a generation that grew up expecting not the slightest bit of retaliation for Kandahar, for Parliament attacks, for Mumbai train bombings, for 26/11 … this was certainly a new India.
And so, with the nation united, the elite media could have only one instinct. How to divide? And how do they divide us? Caste of course.
That headline from Caravan is distasteful enough. But when you get to the details in the article, you see that it is horrifying beyond imagination.
Yes, it is not for nothing that I believe this is the worst of 2019.
Just imagine. A family is grieving. Parents crying for their son, perhaps a wife crying for her husband, maybe even a child crying for their father. The body may have come home in several pieces if any of it is identifiable at all. It would probably take a heart of steel to simply look at the remains.
And now imagine. In the midst of all this, a call comes. An elite journalist is on the phone. They don’t care about who your son was. What was his life, what were his hopes and dreams? They want to know the caste of your fallen son. Because they couldn’t figure it out from your caste neutral last name.
Indeed, if there is one thing that must scare the Ajaz Ashrafs of the world, it is people with caste neutral surnames.
Imagine being at the receiving end of that phone call.
Imagine being the journalist and alleged human being who makes that phone call.
Imagine being the editor who approves the publication of such an article.
And finally, imagine being the media club that applauds this lowly, shameful act.
And maybe then you would understand just how deep our media has buried its moral compass.
Terror has no religion, but a fallen soldier is not allowed to have a caste neutral name. Elite journalists will dig it up for us.
Dear Ajaz Ashraf (the Caravan author who thought it was acceptable to ask the caste of fallen soldiers of Pulwama) you truly are the worst of humanity. And most certainly, the worst of 2019.