What I saw as a kid in riot struck Kanpur post-Babri Masjid Demolition

Not sure where to begin this article.

The atmosphere of threat and violence.

Or the deafening silence of the then elders on bigotry and harmony.

Either way, the demolition of Babri Masjid and the riots that followed were purge like, to say the least.

I was a little kid visiting my grandmother in Kanpur in the 90s when a riot began.

My grandma’s home is in the heart of the super crowded Muslim population of the city of Kanpur, an area called Chamangunj. A place where illiterate young boys spend their days loitering in the narrow lanes listening to Tere Naam songs, with that same dope haircut from the said movie. A place where the community is closely knit and poverty is prevalent.

We had been hearing that the communal tensions were rising and my Dad who was in Saudi Arabia then, had asked us to go to Lucknow, our comparably modern and less riot preferring colony. Before the travel plans could be made, someone stuck posters of a burning Holy book around the local Masjid and thus began the riot. Muslims were obviously furious and the police had announced a total curfew.

In the deep and densely populated narrow lanes, police do not dare to just loiter around during those riot times and only the military and SWAT teams dare to get in the middle of all of this.

At some point, we heard gunshots fired. We heard someone got killed. There were plenty of fake encounters. We heard that Hindus were attacking homes in the outskirts of the Muslim community and you could sneak through the balcony and see the rioters on the streets in their black outfits and black bandana, carrying weapons or sticks, guarding through the night, in case there was an attack.

What I noticed that even as a kid, and why I am writing this article is because of what I noticed about the RIOTERS- the actual men who were on the forefront of these riots.

The educated, wealthy, or even middle class, privileged families kept their cherished sons at home. Or rather let’s say the young men who had something going on for them, in terms of education or a career or family business, did not participate in the riots.

Sure they were interested in knowing what was going on. They had sticks by the doors and made sure the house doors and windows were properly locked and secured. But they did not bother to go out in the danger zone against Hindu mobs who were attacking Muslim homes.

I am not saying that no educated guys ever may have participated in riots but clearly, what was happening there was remarkable. Did education make them coward or selfish? 

Who can say for sure?

Were the educated men scared and chicken? Or were they selfish not to put their own selves in danger?

Whatever it may be, one thing I can say for sure is that education makes a human think differently. Their brains are otherwise occupied. They have something to do and something to look forward to.

But the minds of the idle young boys that loiter around in the streets all day, what do they have to do or look forward to? They assume their manhood and their bravery can be shown to the community in a time like this. Its a piece of cake to even hire such mobs to cause violence for specific political purposes as seen in TV, films, and news.

And mind you, these young men participating in these communal riots were not the ones who attend a mosque ever, by the way. On the contrary, they are the farthest from religion. People often assume that it’s the hardcore Muslim fanatics who are violent and cause riots. Maybe in Iraq but not in India, not that I have seen any.

In India, Muslims who practice the faith and visit the Mosque on a regular basis, are not among the ones who’d kill other humans for rioting. A rioter is a very different case altogether.

I don’t know that when an angry mob attacks you or your family or someone in your community, do you sit and wait for the Indian police or the justice system to play its role or you take matters in your hands and defend those you love, no matter what.

At some point, education or no education, one has to stand against the persecution and subjugation of one’s gender, community or faith. But how wonderful would it be if this standing up did not involve violence and unnecessary killing of the innocents?

What I know for sure is that whether Hindu or Muslims, the rioters who go to streets are all the jobless youth of India who have nothing to look forward to. The Lallantop did a great video on the poster boy of the Babri demolition riots, who he is and what he does now.

What’s crucial is that a nation that has unemployed and uneducated youths on the streets has a high potential for violence and nuisance. I can only wish that our future governments spend money on educating youths and provide them with dignified ways of making a living instead of spending our tax money on religious causes and stupid statues.

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