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“Tell this to all Hindu cowards”

Cowards are a special breed. They spend a large portion of their time convincing themselves that their cowardice either stems from a legitimate abyss created by the circumstances that surround them or that their cowardice is actually an act of silent bravery.

Dear Hindus,

We have lost another Hindu to our own cowardice. Nishank Rathore was found dead a day after his father got a message from his phone – “your son was brave”. “Gustakh-e-Nabi ki ek saza, sar tan se juda”, the message said further. Uma Shankar Rathore, the father of the victim, received the message at 5.44 pm on Sunday evening. Panicked, he started attempting to trace his son. He had gone to meet his elder sister, his other daughter informed him. Later in the evening, his dead, mangled body was found on the railway tracks.

“Tell this to all Hindu cowards”, read the message to Nishank’s father, “Never ever Blaspheme”.

The message that Nishank’s father got

It was late last night when we reported the news of Nishank being murdered and the bone-chilling message that was sent to his father, from his phone, by the killers, moments before he was chopped up. “Another one”, was the first thought that ran through my head. The very next moment, I felt immense shame. I was not as outraged as I was after I watched the video of Kanhaiya Lal being murdered. I was a little less outraged. I was a little less shaken up. I was a little less devastated and more importantly, I was a little less angry. It was a sense of despondency that edged out some of the anger I had harboured in my heart since the Kanhaiya Lal murder.

What was it? Was it the lack of a video? Did the stark visual of two Muslim men holding a blood-soaked knife and the video of Kanhaiya Lal pleading for his life flip a switch that only visual representation of brutality could? Do I need a video to feel anger every single time a Hindu is murdered? Without the video, without the slap across the face that the video represents, was my heart too hardened? Did I even care? Can I, beyond doubt, convincingly claim that I care for the lives of Hindus if every murder does not inflame me just as much? Am I not just as bad as the rest of them? Did my lack of rage mean that Nishank’s life was less precious than that of Kanhaiya Lal simply because his murder was not captured on camera?

“Your son was brave”, the killers messaged. He must have fought. He must have tried to defend himself. He must have been defiant in the face of death. Why else would they say Nishank was brave, I thought. He did not beg. Or maybe he did. But he fought, I tried to convince myself. Nishank was brave.

It is us, you and I, dear Hindus, who are cowards. The killers were not particularly wrong when they sent a message to “Hindu cowards”. “Never blaspheme” – the warning should ring true in our ears. We have steered so far from the path of our ancestors who laid their lives down for Dharma, that even shame alludes us. We choose to close our eyes and hearts and assume that the beast of Islamism affects “others”. The Kashmiri Hindus were far off in Kashmir and it happened in the 90s – things are different now, we convince ourselves. Kanhaiya Lal lived among uneducated Muslims, our friends are different – they would never do this, we tell ourselves. Our residential area is better, this only happens in low-income groups, economic prosperity and education would solve this problem, we know better Muslims, we know secular Muslims, we know Muslims who hardly practise religion, they don’t go to the mosque, they don’t pray 5 times a day, they are just like you and me, we repeat to ourselves. We pretend that our economic prosperity, coupled with the educational superiority of the ones we associate ourselves with, is the only shield we need.

The delusion is necessary, perhaps. It is necessary because reality would paralyse us with fear. Would “Hindu cowards” survive the realisation that it was Umesh Kohle’s friend of 20 years who sold him out and planned his murder? That the most infamous Islamists have had an education far superior to most of us? Would we survive the realisation that money has never been an effective way to combat religious conviction, least of all conviction that, for centuries, has pushed its adherents to turn into barbarians? Do you think Kanhaiya Lal could have saved himself had he offered those knife-wielding barbarians some money? A better house? A better job? Do you think Kanhaiya Lal, Umesh Kohle or Nishank’s killers would have suddenly realised that their religious conviction to behead could be set aside if only they had a better car? Can “Hindu cowards” live with the realisation that it could be, and most probably, will be, them next? Could we live with the realisation that our friend, our neighbour, our cook, our vegetable vendor could be the one who picks up a knife next to behead us because we breathed wrong? Could we?

Cowards are a special breed. They spend a large portion of their time convincing themselves that their cowardice either stems from a legitimate abyss created by the circumstances that surround them or that their cowardice is actually an act of silent bravery.

And don’t we Hindus do just that? We feel such pride in telling ourselves that we are a peaceful people, a plural people, a people who never defend themselves even when the sword is slicing through our neck. We take such pride in telling the world that we died without so much as a toot. We call a man a Mahatma, who asked us to die with a smile on our faces as our Mohammadan brothers came to kill us. He insisted that Hindus remain “non-violent” when the Moplah Muslims were raping our women, killing our children and beheading our men – for the sake of unity, he said – remain non-violent because the Mussalman had “gone mad” after the British “insult to Islam”. We call him a Mahatma, very proudly.

Today, we have even lost the ability to be angry. It is said that fatigue makes cowards of us all – and fatigued we are. In West Bengal, when Islamists and TMC goons (often the same) went on a rampage, raping women, and killing Hindus, after a certain point, the news of death just became par for the course. Ritu, the girl who was gang raped in front of her father after goons came to her house saying “we want Hindus girls” became just a statistic – a news report to be read, forgotten and used occasionally to prove a point during arguments.

The Islamists, are in essence, repeating the TMC module. They are killing so many of us, that ultimately, we lose the ability to even be angry about Hindus being murdered. When we lose that anger and fatigue sets in, the bravest of us turn into cowards – and they know this.

They know that if they keep killing us, ultimately, we will consider our own death par for the course. They know our anger will turn into despondency and our despondency will soon turn into nonchalance. The fear that we feel every time a Hindu is murdered by Islamists, fear for our children, and our future, will turn us into paralysed cowards who will continue to take pride in tolerating our own annihilation. They will continue to weaponise our innocence, our naivety, while we wither away and bury our anger deep in our hearts, justify our cowardice in the name of unity, brotherhood, peace and plurality.

There is a message in this for “Hindu cowards”, indeed. There is a lot that needs to be done. There is a lot that as a people, Hindus need to unlearn, learn and internalise. But let the bravery of Nishank not go in vain. Let us “Hindu cowards” at least, not let our rage be extinguished. At least that.

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