- They have not been forgotten, and they will not let us forget about the country’s constitution.
It’s been one year of seeing our farmers face police batons, water cannons, rainfall, scorching heat, freezing temperatures and propaganda, but what kept the hope alive is the resurgence of the idea of India as envisaged by its founding fathers where they placed humanity above identity. The farmers’ protest not only stands as testimony to the resilience of farmers but of camaraderie, brotherhood, and “Seva” as communities have come together in resisting the laws.
Last month, during a Mahapanchayat (farmer’s rally) in Muzaffarnagar, farmer leader Rakesh Tikait, in a show of unity between the communities — shouted the slogans, “Har Har Mahadev” (Glory to Lord Shiva) and “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is great). The disinformation machines swiftly swung into action and the video was edited to show Rakesh Tikait chanting “Allahu Akbar,” thus inviting criticism that the protests are communally motivated. The original clip was published later to soothe the issue.
I talk about this incident not for the pettiness of the miscreants, but the banality of distrust towards Muslims, that even well-meaning liberals are inured to. One does not question why an event is derided, labeled communal just because “Allahu Akbar” is chanted. Ram and Rahim together is our secular India, but Ram can stand alone, and Rahim needs to stand with Ram, as if he doesn’t have locus standi on his own.
The didactic Bollywood movies would almost always have a Muslim man whose patriotism was doubted, who would be snubbed for his identity, and yet towards the end, he would be embraced for providing succor despite the indignities. I adored these movies, but after moving abroad I realized the perniciousness of these stories of secularism and inclusivity.
I am not one to hold grudges, but would I be enthusiastic in my reception after a snub like a recent much-talked-about tea ad would have me believe, where a Muslim woman is delighted as her cantankerous Hindu neighbor relents and asks for tea. The ideas that enamored me earlier now raises the question that why in India do we perceive our acceptance a favor, that model minorities should aspire for, no matter how arduous the journey is.
In the United States, inclusion is exhibited by the American president conveying Diwali wishes, colleagues wearing traditional Indian dresses, trying Indian food, dancing to Bollywood songs, attempting to understand my culture so as not to offend and so on.
The farmer’s protest at Muzaffarnagar fills me with hope because it shows an India where we all embrace one another. The city, which witnessed horrific riots a few years ago, now witnessed communities coming together irrespective of religion, as the farm laws affect them all. They all were farmers before they were Hindu, Muslim, or Sikh, and as farmers, they seek the blessings of Lord Shiva and Allah in their fight against hate and bigotry to keep the values of India’s constitution alive.
(Top photo, courtesy Facebook)
Swati Garg is a software engineer based in Seattle and a board member of Hindus for Human Rights. She spends most of her life staring at the computer screen.