FIVE hundred and sixteen. That is the number of people from all over the Indian Union who deposited money in the past one week amounting to more than 3 lakh in Indian rupees (what we Bengalis call taka) in the account operated in the name of Shambhulal Regar before the account was frozen. Who is Shambhulal Regar? He is a Rajasthani man whose politics is Hindu nationalism. His politics is also Hindi nationalism for he chose to communicate with his Hindu brothers and sisters in Hindi. He knows what kind of people he wants to communicate with, hence he used Hindi over Marwari or Mewati.
What did he communicate? He communicated the reasons for his actions and some hate speech. What was his action? This Hindi-Hindu man had taken Afrazul Khan, a Muslim Bengali seasonal migrant to Rajasthan, and had hacked Afrazul to death. He had begged for his life in his mother tongue Bengali and the Hindi he could muster as he lay bleeding. In his last moments, he called his mother, laying on the brutal soil of a land far away from Bengal, a land where no one heeded or understood his calls for help.
Then Shambhulal Regar burnt Afrazul’s body. How do we know all this? Because this Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan ideology inspired hate machine called Shambhulal Regar got a 10-year-old child, Shambhulal’s nephew, to film the whole thing. After he did what he did, he recorded another video message. Then he made the videos (the killing and the ‘message’) public. It went ‘viral’. That was the whole point.
Imagine the impunity and the general ecology of Bengali-hate and Muslim-hate in which such a crime and its video making occurs. Afrazul was a married family man. Shambhulal claimed he was out to entrap a Hindu woman in Rajasthan. This has been shown to be false as the Hindu woman in question said that she did not even know Afrazul. So a man can be killed, with a completely random made-up charge and the killing can be filmed. While this practice has been pretty shockingly routine for all kinds of government-salaried security forces in the Indian Union, Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan ideology vigilante groups in Hindi-belt states have now joined this bloodsport.
Afrazul’s family tearfully asked that this man Shambhulal Regar be hanged. Let me state on the records that he will not be hung. Let me also predict on the records that if he is convicted (I use the ‘if’ very consciously), he will not serve a complete term. He will have opportunities to come out of the jail under various ruses. He might even be released early as part of some pardon or ‘good behaviour’. Let me put all of this on the records. We must confront the criminal state ecology and ideology that non-Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan ideology people are dealing with here.
Why was Afrazul killed? Shambhulal Regar himself provides some clues. He was unhappy that a temple dedicated to the main character of the epic Ramayan called Ram was not built even so many after Hindi-Hindi-Hindustan ideology radical mobs destroyed an old mosque called Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. It is not that this toxic ideology is absent in West Bengal. In the run-up to the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition, funds were raised from Kolkata too, from areas with the biggest amount of money-makers and the greatest alienation, even hatred, for the syncretic and non-communal culture of Bengal. It is important that this is said out aloud.
This Bengali brother, Afrazul Khan, has been killed and burnt in Rajasthan and those who contributed to the hate-filled ideology that killed him exist in Bengal, as we speak. They are the ones who are most conspicuous with their silence (they falsely imagine that tactical silence makes them inconspicuous) while everyone else is enraged at the killing of a brother. But they are simply not silent. They are active. Funds in Shambhulal Regar’s name also came from some people in West Bengal. Who are these people? Are these the people due to whom the BJP gets solid votes in certain areas of West Bengal? Who are these people? The people of Bengal have the right to know the traitors of Bengal and sick sociopaths in their midst who raise funds for someone who killed a Bengali in Rajasthan because he was a Muslim Bengali.
Some of these people who are silent now were not silent during the so-called Padmavati controversy — a queen from Rajasthan. Padmavati like other Bollywood controversies have that same element on and on, Northern Hindu-Muslim divisions and this makes such ‘controversies’ an attention and resource sink for the rest of us, the non-Hindi people. It is not accidental. It is by design. It is the Hindi film industry called Bollywood that makes film and after film on Pakistan while no majority Hindi-speaking state shares a border with Pakistan. It is a warped ideology, a factory of producing hate, that scratches that Hindi-belt itch of Muslim hate through the proxy word Pakistan, something that Narendra Modi did so regularly earlier and given the tightness of the Gujarat election, resorted to even now.
Hindi imagination and Bollywood thus captures that self-imagination where Pakistan is the necessary evil other and without whose demonisation, their own self-identity or nationalism or whatever does not exist. The Tamil or the Naga or the Kannadiga have no such anxiety. During the Padmavati controversy, an outfit called Karni Sena and some Rajasthani migrants to Bengal protested at some portrayal of ‘their’ queen who mythically committed suicide by self-immolation through a norm that is characteristic of intense anti-women and patriarchal societies, where ‘honour’ is a cover for wanton brutality.
None of these people protested at the real killing and real burning of a real human being, a migrant like them, from the land they earn their bread and butter from. That is how toxic this ideology is. That is how shameless it makes some human beings. The Bengalis have noted this. It is all over on the social media. The Bengalis have also noted that a huge procession came out in Rajasthan on December 14, 2017, in support of this sociopath who killed a Bengali migrant worker. The procession was so huge that the number of people arrested from the procession stands at 175. The violent protesters have injured 12 policemen. There has been no condemnation of the fund-raising or the procession in support of the killer from any significant Rajasthani group in West Bengal nor the West Bengal branch of the BJP.
The Delhi media and the Delhi liberal circles pointed out that Afrazul was a Muslim and that he was ‘Bengali speaking’. They cautiously avoided the word Bengali. Yes, Afrazul was a Bengali. The Delhi media know well the potentially politically explosive possibilities of this obvious characterisation and, hence, it dutifully avoids it. For that has the potential to destroy the Delhi hegemony. And the word is out on the street in more than whispers. Bengal does not need Delhi to recognise its martyrs. The popular and populist chief minister of West Bengal immediately condemned the killing and characterised Afrazul as a Bengali. She knows where the pulse of public rage is. She knows its cuts across religious lines.
She has used the term Bengali and this is a break from nearly 70 years of tradition when Delhi-headquartered parties which squirmed at saying the word ‘Bengali’ ruled Bengal. Not any more. And that matters. It is not accidental that Bengal is the frontline target state of communal forces — the amount of pressure being built through fake news, communal provocations, outside-Bengal funds and the union government policy is staggering. The struggle for keeping peace in fortress Bengal shows the developing unity against Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan that is being forged.
It is being realised by certain sections of Bengal and in some other non-Hindi states that the present regime has unleashed a socio-political culture that is completely alien to the values of these non-Hindi linguistic national homelands. It is this uncoupling of values as well as politics where the Hindi-Hindu belt has sought to dissociate itself from the rest of the Indian Union which poses the greatest threat to the unity and integrity of the diverse federal democratic Union of India. And in its divergence, the Hindi-Hindu lands find themselves more similar to their historical long lost brother whose ideas of vain honour, religious fanaticism, self-identity built upon hating others and hate of minorities it closely resembles.
That is the communal belt of Pakistan. It is here that Mumtaz Qadri is considered a martyr, for killing a fine man called Salman Taseer because Taseer believed that compassion and justice are pre-conditions of being human — Hindu, Muslim, Christian comes later. Lawyers feted this Qadri, funds were raised for him and after his hanging, his grave has become a mausoleum and his Barelvi followers are now considering him divine. Shambhulal Regar has already matched Qadri in being a fanatic killer, having supporters who otherwise camouflage as ‘decent’ people and in being the recipient of funds raised in the defence of a cold-blooded murderer. But divinity will elude him. Because he will not be hanged. He will not become god or demi-god. He might become a living saint.
Garga Chatterjee, an Indian brain scientist at MIT, writes columns from Kolkata for newspapers in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.