Thursday, July 02, 2009

Ek Dhakka...

aur do, babri masjid tod do...The Liberhan Commission report has been submitted.

Not one hate filled slogan spouted in the past 17 years has filled me with more dread and despondency.

'Hum mandir yahan banayenge'was scrawled everywhere. We guffawed when we spotted the slogan on a public urinal near Andheri station. We were secure in our ridicule of the ridiculous.

A single brick rattled our composure.We argued and fought bitterly with a classmate who urged us to send bricks for the kar seva. He said the brick was a symbol against the dominant pseudo securalism practiced by the state. We said the brick symbolised all that we abhorred. Fear and dread was never in the picture. It was a fight, well actually more of an argument, in the realm of abstraction. We were heady with the power of ideas and constructs.

And then, driving back from someplace in Chembur that sunday evening, my mother and I realised that something was amiss. The roads seemed very still. My mother stepped on the accelerator, we knew that something had happened in Ayodhya.

We came home to see the images on TV. All of us saw the top leaders urge their men, Ek dhakka aur do...The leaders did not step in, not the police, not the army. A stone structure crumbled in a matter of hours.

We lived in Andheri, five minutes away from Jogeshwari. Jogeshwari was burning.I had just begun work in an NGO, and I knew the bylanes, the people who lived in the area that was burning. A structure somewhere had crumbled, lives everywhere were crumbling.

A week later, late in the evening I got a call from a fellow activist who lived in those bylanes."Can you bring your video camera/ still camera/anything and come right away." I had the office video camera at home, I rushed out. My mother urged me to hurry.

I interviewed 17 men in the same mohalla, maybe more but thats the number etched in my brain. They were between the ages of 15 and 50. I would walk into each house, get introduced to the person, I would be offered tea, and the same, very same story would unfold. Of being dragged from the streets while rushing back home, or from within the house, by the police and kept in the lockup for a week. Swollen shoulders, fractured fingers, welts, bruises, I went over these marks with my camera.I so desperately wanted to avert my gaze.But each wound had to be accounted for. A zari worker with broken fingers. A carpenter with an immobile shoulder. A young student with deep welts and shattered confidence.

I had no wounds, I was secure in my hindu, middle class world. The one non descript plastic tape that I held in my hand as I got back late that night had dented the bubble I lived in. I am grateful for that.

I went onto learn how to make images.I became more conscious of the act of switching on the camera. The photograph of the terrified man, his hands begging for mercy, splashed across the dailies during the Gujrat riots led to a precious exchange of mails with a friend and batchmate. She was shaken by that moment when the photographer clicked the photo- the nudity of the moment in full display in our comfortable homes the next day.I said, thank god for the raw wounds put on view while we sat pretty in our drawing rooms.

Its been years, I still dream of gallis burning, sometimes I am being chased, at times I am charging, and at times I stand partially hidden watching.

The stark image of a dome crawling with people remains one that I can not deal with. Even after years of being numbed by all kinds of horror telecast live 24x7.


Space Bar said...

yes, that year was a watershed one for us. i remember a year or two before, i saw, for the first time on the doors of our hostel, stickers that said 'garv se kaho hum hindu hain'. in a few months, the 'pyar se kaho hum insaan hain' stickers started to appear. we didn't recognise any of those signs.

SUR NOTES said...

Spacebar: I was shaking when I realised that someone from my own building had torn off the 'pyar se kaho hum insaan hai' that i stuck on our front door.

Munchkin said...

wow..that must have been an intense experience. i got goose flesh just reading it. i remember my maasi who used to go to work in the best buses. she used to carry a bindi with her- put it on while passing through a predominantly hindu area and take it off when she passed through a muslim one. that story itself was enough to remind me of the terror that struck the city then.

dipali said...

We were living in Lucknow at the time, hoping against hope that the state government would maintain law and order and prevent this madness from happening. Apart from all else, I remember being unable to meet my old subzi-wallah's eyes that evening, when buying veggies from him near what was known as the 'Pir baba ki mazaar', a place that was venerated by people from all communities.
That was the time when our young son learned that even his little world of childhood was inhabited by people of different faiths and beliefs, and that this often became a question of life or death.
That was a time when so much innocence was lost forever.
And 6th December became another day to dread, yet another anniversary of hatred and horror.

sushma said...

I remember , going with a morcha to sakinaka , such neat job of burning , left and right house standing erect , the middle was charred .

was crying seeing a shop selling wooden planks, it belonged to a muslim . my heart was in my mouth , a teen ager come from our building , sees me standing , tears streaming out , he asks what happened , we all knew it yesterday about this one . I looked blind , hard of hearing ,,, my fabric was being torn apart.

pfizz said...

A really gripping read... It made me want to just run out. I was immediately reminded of the Babri Masjid images that were shown on TV, when I saw it years later after the demolition. People crawling all over the dome... Such a frightening sight it was. Because they were people, just as you and I are...

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