When the year 2022 started, India was just about limping back to normalcy after the sinister violence unleashed upon Hindus in February 2020 and a debilitating pandemic that screeched the nation to a halt. The memory of Ankit Sharma’s body being pulled out of the gutter and the charred, dismembered body of Dilbar Negi was fresh in the Hindu conscience even as the Delhi anti-Hindu riot cases trudged along in the Judiciary. On the 6th of January 2022, ISIS released its new edition in which it asked Muslims to take back the Babri Masjid (the illegal structure that once stood on Ram Janmabhoomi) from the dirty “cow urine drinkers” (Hindus, of course).
While the January edition of the ISIS magazine called for Muslims to wage Jihad against Hindus and the Indian state, one is transported back to the riots of 2020, in the midst of which, the magazine was started by ISIS. It was on the 27th of February 2020, a day after the Delhi violence had subsided, did the news emerge that ISIS had launched an India centric magazine. On its cover page was Muslim lawyer Mahmood Paracha. In a press conference in 2019, Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawad and Mahmood Paracha had announced that they would be setting up a camp in Lucknow to teach Muslims and Dalits about the ‘right to self-defence and how to apply for a firearm licence.
It is generally a result of collective myopia or paralysing hope, that we fail to see patterns that oft repeat themselves, leading to devastating consequences. While the patterns of Islamic aggression have repeated themselves since time immemorial, there are specific threads that run in common between what happened in 2019, leading up to the Delhi anti-Hindu riots in 2020, and what we see unfold in 2022.
The saga of violence in 2019 started with the Hauz Qazi temple desecration that took place in the month of June 2019. A temple in the narrow bylanes of Chandi Chowk was desecrated by an Islamist mob. According to locals, they urinated on the idols and broke the glass and the murtis in the temple. The incident that led to communal tension in the area was downplayed by the media. Most of the media looked away and the rest tried to downplay the communal tension, the actions of the Muslim mob and the case of the missing boy (who was later recovered). To top it all, the media also weaved stories of how the local Muslim community (the very community that vandalised the temple) was “helping” the Hindu community come together, a yarn that was summarily rejected by the local Hindus.
What happened after Hauz Qazi was a string of low-level violence all through 2019, right up to the JNU violence of December 2019, which effectively marks the start of the Delhi violence that culminated in riots on the 23rd of February 2020.
Come October, there was a spate of attacks against Durga Puja and Dussehra processions. In Balrampur, a Durga Puja procession was attacked amidst chants of Pakistan Zindabad and speaking to OpIndia, Suraj, a Balrampur resident part of the procession, said he was convinced that the Muslim residents of the locality had meticulously pre-planned this entire siege and the attack had nothing to do with the music not being stopped near the Mosque. In Gorakhpur, meat pieces were thrown strategically on the route of the Durga Puja procession, simply to humiliate Hindus. In Badaun, temple idols were vandalised and desecrated. In Arunachal Pradesh and Assam too, murtis were desecrated, in fact, in Assam, the Islamist had put tilak on his forehead. In Gaya and Jehanabad, Durga Puja processions came under siege with stones being pelted at Hindus. And these were only some of the incidents OpIndia managed to document. There is no telling how many processions actually came under attack in that period.
It was around the same time, while Durga Puja, Dussehra and Diwali celebrations were being attacked by Islamists, Kamlesh Tiwari was brutally murdered after being stabbed 15 times. Ashfaq and Moinuddin from Suraj tried to slit his throat twice while stabbing him. It was on the 18th of October that Tiwari was murdered for his alleged comments, where he had claimed that Prophet Muhammad was a homosexual. After the 2015 comments, riots had broken out in several places including rallies taken out by Islamists amidst chants of “Gustakh-e-Rasool ki saza, sar tan se juda”.
In the video, Owaisi could be heard saying whoever dares to speak anything against Rasalullah is haram as per Quran. “Woh zaalim, woh kutta jo Uttar Pradesh mein baith kar Allah ki shaan mein gustakhi kiya, yaad rakh. Tu aaj jail main hai magar duniya tere liye chuhe ki bil ki tarah ban jayegi. (That dog who is sitting in Uttar Pradesh and speaking such things against the Allah, remember. You are safe in jail but the world will become a rat’s hole for you),” Owaisi says. He further threatens that by speaking against the Rasalullah, you (Kamlesh Tiwari) have invited your own doom.
By December, political speeches incited violence and misrepresented the entire Citizenship Amendment Act. Not only did they do that, in their speeches, they held the Assam protests against it as a prototype, to be replicated in the entire nation. They, of course, glossed over the fact that the Assam protests were not against the CAA at all, but in support of Clause 6 and in fact, the protest essentially meant that Assam wanted NRC, to ensure all illegals were dispelled from the state. Sonia Gandhi on 14th December said that the Congress and the people should be ready to make any sacrifice to “protect” India and that this is an ‘aar paar ki ladai’ (the final battle) and people should be willing for any ‘Qurbani’ (sacrifice). The provocative speech was later held responsible for the Delhi riots by some victims themselves. At the same time, Mamata Banerjee announced that her party would hold protests in December against CAA and NRC.
The violence had already begun on the 11th of December. It is to be kept in mind that before the violence erupted in Jamia, we now know that several posters were distributed by the riots’ accused – Sharjeel Imam – at the behest of Umar Khalid. The posters and pamphlets were distributed at mosques in Delhi and called for Jihad. Most of them also spoke about the Babri Masjid and how Muslims need to reclaim and avenge.
During the violence and the protests that preceded the violence, slogans like Hinduon se Azadi, Hindutva ki kabar and posters of Khilafat 2.0 emerged.
While violence raged on in several parts of the country, including Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat etc, there was an innocuous controversy that escalated in JNU, leading to violence and the Left playing victim. While there were several images that showed the Left leading mobs to attack ABVP students, the narrative in the media was completely different. They alleged that it was the ABVP students who entered hostels and attacked Left students while the fee hike saga was ongoing. This, after Jamia and AMU had already erupted in violence in December itself (violence that police called well-planned).
The pattern repeats? The eerie similarities between 2019 and 2022
While the chronology of what happened in 2019 that led to the Delhi riots is a subject worthy of a book, there are several similar threads we see play out in 2022.
In 2022, just in the first 4 months, we saw sporadic cases of blasphemy killings, much like the murder of Kamlesh Tiwari. It was on 27th January when the murder of Kishan Boliya shocked Gujarat. In Ahmedabad district’s Dhandhuka taluka, when Kishan was on his way home, two bikers came and shot at him. He died on the spot. It was alleged that Kishan had shared a post on social media platforms that Muslims found offensive. The video shared by Kishan on social media had an image of Prophet Muhammad. Even those who demanded justice in the Kishan murder were brutally beaten up by Muslims. Another Hindu activist Harsha was also murdered and it emerged that Islamists had threatened him over a “Blasphemous” post in 2015.
Another case that emerged around the same time was one in which a group of people attacked a young man named Prakash Lonare just because he posted “smiley” emoticons in a post having a reference to Tipu Sultan.
Not a lot of time had passed since these brutal killings, and the Hijab controversy took centre stage. It started with one school where students insisted on entering wearing Hijab and were disallowed by the school. Soon enough, the media spun a yarn claiming that India was banning Hijab and protests erupted across the nation. These protests, several of them, ended up in violence with dangerously provocative and genocidal statements being made.
In West Bengal, the Karnataka controversy ended in violence when one school in Murshidabad disallowed students in hijab from entering the school. Locals hurled stones and bombs at the school in “protest“. In Karnataka, a Hijab clad woman was seen “taking a stand” against Hindu students who were peacefully protesting against the imposition of hijab where students were defying the uniform rule. That woman, Muskan, who raised Allahu Akbar slogans, was hailed by Al Qaeda, no less.
As the Hijab row progressed, Islamists indulged in provoking young Muslims by invoking events such as the Babri Masjid demolition, the same modus operandi that was used during the anti-CAA riots in 2019, that actually culminated in the Anti-Hindu Delhi riots leading to the death of 53 people.
As the Hijab row subsided, with the court declaring that the uniform rule had to be respected, another spate of violence erupted. Across 5 states, there were several attacks against Ram Navami processions.
When one notices the events, it is evident that there are eerie similarities between what happened in 2019 and 2022. Just like then, there were blasphemy murders and attacks against Hindu processions. Just like then, when the Babri demolition was invoked to incite Muslims, during the Hijab row, Islamists involved the Babri Masjid demolition to ensure more violence erupts.
But the eeriest similarity is perhaps how in 2019, an innocuous development in JNU was turned into a violent episode by the Left. In 2019, fee-hike was the rallying point for the Left to turn JNU into a violent den and in 2022, it was Navratri and the fact that ABVP did not want non-vegetarian food to be served in the mess while Hindus were celebrating their festival. Violence erupted and according to students, it was the Left that started unleashing violence on the Ram Navami puja, however, as usual, the narrative was vastly different.
On April 10, the members of Left student organizations at Jawahar Lal University allegedly attacked the residents of Kaveri Hostel who were celebrating Ram Navami. According to Left organizations, the members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, had a scuffle with the mess manager as non-vegetarian food was being served on the day of Ram Navami.
On the contrary, ABVP accused Left student organizations and the National Students Union of India (NSUI) of stopping them from doing Hawan and Puja on Ram Navami. Speaking to OpIndia, ABVP JNU President Rohit Kumar said there was no agitation from their side. Everything was going on peacefully, and Hindu students were doing Hawan in the designated place, and Muslim students had Iftar inside the mess. According to ABVP, the Left students started pelting stones on the Ram Navami pujan and concocted the story of ABVP protesting against non-vegetarian food to manage the narrative.
In 2019, a similarly innocuous incident was turned violence when the Left students had started protesting against the fee hike. In the middle of the protest, the Leftists students had claimed that ABVP students had entered the hostel and beat up the Left students even though there were images of Left students leading the mob that created the violence.
As 2022 sees a repeat of 2019, what lies ahead
One can perhaps never really be sure, however, the pattern that emerges is rather evident. Most of these incidents of violence appear not only innocuous but grossly low intensity to consider it a genuine built up to a situation like the Delhi anti-Hindu riots. However, if history stands testament, these low-intensity incidents of violence are anything but innocuous.
While the anti-CAA violence itself started from the beginning of December and lasted till the end of the riots, there were several other violent strings that emerged much before CAA even became an issue. As detailed above, the violence that started right from Hauz Qazi continued till October-November with Hindu festivals coming under attack and Kamlesh Tiwari being murdered. Thereafter, since the beginning of December, the anti-CAA violence erupted, with the campaign of violence starting right from the 5th of December 2019.
In 2022, those threads seem to be emerging yet again.
It remains to be seen whether the Islamists and Left find another excuse, like the CAA, to go on another full-fledged rampage as they did in 2019, however, the makings of India erupting in industrial-scale violence seem to be there and only growing in its cacophony.
Low-Intensity violence by Islamists is often dismissed, even by serious commentators. India, as a nation-state, has normalised violence by Islamists and come to accept its street veto as an evil that they must survive. From the 1900s, when we saw the rise of the Khilafat movement that eventually birthed Pakistan, Hindus have been told that the maintenance of peace is their sole responsibility that the aim can only achieve if they accept the intolerance of the minority with a smile on their face.
During the Khilafat movement in 1919, the Muslims of the time protested against the sanctions against the Caliph and the Ottoman Empire, At that time, as is now, it was evident that the Muslim allegiance lay towards the Ummah, which says that all Muslims across the globe form one nation. It is their allegiance to the Ummah that led them to fight for the Turkish Caliph. At that time, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had, serendipitously for the Muslims, supported the Khilafat movement in the hope that the Muslims would join hands with the Hindus eventually and fight against the British, leading to everlasting brotherhood and peace between the Muslims and Hindus. What transpired was vastly different from what Gandhi has imagined. The Malabar genocide of Hindus followed, where Hindus were brutally massacred by the Moplah Muslims.
With the Khilafat 2.0 posters in AMU and elsewhere in 2019, it become evident that these repeated transgressions by the Islamists, where only an excuse is needed to spark the fire, is nothing but a build-up to a situation that existed pre-partition, where the minority community asserts that their mere existence means that they have a right to their own nation, untarnished by Kafirs and “dirty cow urine drinkers”. Whether this time the security establishment would be able to thwart such attempts and the populace at large would see the nefarious designs more clearly, remains to be seen.