To say that the death of Mohsin Shaikh was disturbing would not only be cliched but irresponsible as well, because Mohsin’s tragic end is more than that.
Here was a 28-year-old hale and hearty IT professional, who like most approaching 30, was probably planning a decent future; who like many hard-working honest Indians had small dreams to fulfil – a Royal Enfield, a car or a 2BHK; who like an IT professional worked in shifts, yawned before the computer at times and also stole some time for a Facebook update.
Mohsin was no different from any of those aspiring Indians who, with a bag on his back and an ID card dangling from the neck, alighted from a local train and headed to an IT park in a hurry.
Reports said that the 28-year-old was targeted because he “looked” Muslim, that he had a beard, and was wearing a skull cap after offering his evening prayers from a nearby mosque.
Since when did India become intolerant to people who “looked” the way they did, leave aside looking like a Muslim?
The neighbourhood to which Mohsin belonged to had long witnessed communal brotherhood without any politically opportunistic exhortation. One report said that Muslims had even helped build a Ganesh temple some years back.
How then did a dubious Facebook post planned to spread malice, miles away from that spot, incite violence culminating in the death of a 28-year-old dreamer?
One would guess political conspiracy. Known for politics of hate, radical Hindu outfits like the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navanirman Sena cash in on reverse polarization of upper caste Hindu votes and with the state elections approaching, the old hate mongering in the garb of Maratha pride is making a comeback.
But whatever the political theories are, the death of Mohsin affects us young Indians who had been projected as a game changer before the general elections and whom the new government sees as the force that would take India ahead of the world.
Sadly for us, today the reality is that young Muslims in Pune are shaving off their beard and saying no to skull caps. Instead of the Pathani suit, they are dressing in a more ‘secular fashion’ to avoid the ire of Hindu extremists.
Thus the immediate fallout of Mohsin’s death is fear, a fear of persecution for being what one is.
It would be foolishly heroic to say that today’s youth does not live in fear of professional failure or personal loss. But the youth that grew up in the third millennium, and learnt to opine in 140 characters, never expected to be punished by saffron bandits for one’s religion or beliefs.
Hence it is sadder to see that this same digital generation, that treasures an inherited freedom, condone the murder.
While several rightly condemned the act and called for the Prime Minister’s direct intervention lest the centre sent out a wrong message to the minorities, there were just too many who behaved in unbecoming fashion, welcoming the murder and spreading hate in news websites. (One wonders what the site moderators do.)
This online Hindutva crowd forgets that of all things, the Hindu Rashtra Sena represents Hinduism as much as the Lashkar-e-Taiba or Indian Mujahideen are mascots of Islam. Any self-styled ‘sena’ is the Hindu equivalent of jehadis who gun down innocent people in the name of the Allah and in the greater idea that India represents there is no place for such saffronization.
If one goes through the anonymous comments which news websites chose not to moderate or delete, a dangerous proposition emerges that a large chunk of the online readership is not ready to treat the Muslim as an Indian citizen. What one would witness are radical opinions, at times vulgar, which tom-tom the emergence of a Hindu right-wing party at the centre.
Online comments, however ludicrous the idea might be, throw light on the psyche of the reader and when many comment in a similar tone, the majority reaction to the story can be gauged. If a Facebook post can spread hatred, imagine what a flood of communally charged comments, celebrating Hindu majoritarianism, can do.
When Narendra Modi won the election albeit with a one-third vote share, theories of reverse polarization did the rounds as did fears of the hit the ‘Idea of India’ would take. While the Prime Minister has been diplomatically inclusive, his silence on the issue is rather loud. And the clamour saffron trolls in the overlooked online comments space are raising is deafening.
Mohsin’s murder ought to unite us, bring together the youth. The fact that it is being otherwise and in a more subtle way is dangerous. This does not promise ‘acche din’.
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