Widespread condemnation and protest against the terror attack on a bus carrying pilgrims of Amarnath Yatra on July 11, which left seven dead and 15 injured, is a strong indication that the people of India are not going to tolerate indiscriminate killing of human beings. Traders, students, teachers and civil society groups took to the streets of Srinagar to protest against the killing of the pilgrims. In Kashmir leaders of all political parties, irrespective of their ideological differences, condemned the dastardly act. On the same day night, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti rushed to Anantnag to meet the survivors of the terrorist ambush and spent the night there, calling the attack a blot on Kashmir. Opposition leader Omar Abdullah used #NotInMyName — the hash tag used to protest incidents of lynching of minorities and Dalits across states earlier this month — in his denunciation of the attack. Separatist leaders of Jammu and Kashmir condemned the terror attack on the Amarnath pilgrims, saying the incident goes against “Kashmiri ethos”. In a joint statement, Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik expressed grief over the killing of seven Amarnath Yatris.
Protests were held in other parts of the country by different sections of the society. Religious leaders of different communities organized a protest in Lucknow against the terror attack on the Amarnath pilgrims. Besides leaders from the Hindus, Christian and Sikh religions, leaders of Islamic Centre of India, Darool Uloom Firangi Mahal, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen and All India Sunni Board participated in the protest.
Delhi witnessed several protests and candlelight vigils on Tuesday, 11th July. While Jantar Mantar saw a gathering of citizens under the #NotInMyName banner, Jamia Millia Islamia was the venue for a candlelight vigil by teachers, students and members of Khudai Khidmatgar. Jantar Mantar, also saw at least two other protests organized by the student wings of different political parties.
Several prominent city organizations and activists gathered at Azad Maidan on 12th July to condemn the attack on Amarnath pilgrims. Feroze Mithiborwala, one of the organizers, said, “This is a continuation of the protest for communal harmony, protest against the politics of hate and fear. The ‘Not in My Name’ movement is growing in momentum and people of different religions are coming together for it. People can see suffering across all communities,” he said.
A press note issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) secretary general Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas expressed “distress and sadness” at the “dastardly and cowardly attack on a bus carrying pilgrims to the Amarnath shrine.” “Violence (in whatever name) be it the name of animals or of God or of religion is appalling and unacceptable. We also condemn atrocities against Dalits, Tribals and other weaker sections. We condole the death of so many innocents and pray for God’s comfort to their families,” the CBCI press release said.
The placards carried by the protesters, especially by the youth, had sent out the message of peace, harmony and solidarity. “We are here to stand in solidarity with all those who were killed. We wanted to make it loud and clear to the terrorists that they don’t belong to any religion, they are against humanity”- Kushboo Khan, Jamia Student. “It is important to condemn the attack. We believe that the world is our family and we stand in solidarity with those killed at Amarnath”- Sahil Ahmed, Jamia student. “I condemn the violence. I remember my grandmother would tell me how safe the Amarnath Yatra was. This protest will send across the message that any kind of hatred is not acceptable”-Anjali Yadav, a graduate from Miranda House.
The statement of the Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh about the atmosphere in the valley aftermath of the terror attack on the Amarnath pilgrims was very positive and encouraging. On Twitter, Singh welcomed the widespread condemnation of terror by the people of Kashmir. “It showed that the spirit of kashmiriyat is alive”, the Union home minister said. The same sentiments were echoed in the statement of the Chief Minister Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti. She appreciated the condemnation of the attack by all sections of the society as a beautiful expression of ‘kashmiriyat’.
It is heartening to note that the citizens of India are spontaneously coming out their comfort zones to protest against violence and killing of human beings under the pretext of caste, religion and ideology. Leaders of different religions coming forward to denounce hatred, violence and killing is also a welcoming phenomenon in the context of fundamentalist groups in all religions trying to create enmity and hatred among the people of India. This could be the first step in building a civilization of love.
Often the religious leaders fail to denounce violence perpetrated in the name of religion. In spite of many incidents of lynching innocent persons by the cow vigilantes the Hindu religious leaders in general kept silence. They could have taken the initiative to explain to the people, quoting the scriptures, that killing a human being is against the basic teachings of Hinduism and hence a sin and a crime. In fact, Hinduism calls for the protection of all lives, human and animal. How can it be achieved by ‘protecting’ cows and killing people? Similarly the Muslim and Christian religious leaders have to instruct their faithful that their religions do not permit violence and killing of human beings on any ground.
God is to be seen and worshiped primarily in human beings with flesh and blood. If the followers all religions were taught that respecting and serving human beings is the best form of worshipping God there would not have been bloodshed in the name of God and religion. Jesus has very clearly taught his disciples that serving the needy is the true worship through the parable of Good Samaritan. According to the Gospel of Mathew, on the Day of Judgment a follower of Jesus will be judged on the basis of his/her sensitivity to the other human beings. "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Mt. 25: 40)
When religious sentiments of the people are exploited for gaining and retaining political power, human beings become the casualty. Lynching of human beings is done by the gaurakshaks not because of their concern for the protection of cows but to polarize the Hindus and create enmity between the Hindus and Muslims as well as to deprive the Muslims of one of the sources of their livelihood. Terror attack on the innocent Amarnath pilgrims was undertaken with the same objective of inciting communal riots so that the fundamentalist Muslims would be able to control the lives of the ordinary Muslims.
The Prime Minister, addressing an all party meeting on the eve of the monsoon session of the parliament, sent out a warning to cow vigilantes, saying strict action will be taken against those who are indulging in violence. The PM said that all state governments should take stringent action against those who are violating law in the name of cow protection. The Prime Minister also underlined the belief of many Hindus that cow is like mother, but said that this should not let people take law in their own hands and every state government should act against violation of the law. The PM has to go beyond making statements. Lynching in the name of cow is the result of a series of omissions and commission of the Modi government. The PM should have condemned the lynching of Mohammed Aklaq and asked the BJP led state governments to take strict action against the cow vigilantes. He should have warned the ministers and BJP MPs who had tacitly supported and made statements justifying the action of the cow vigilantes. PM should not have succumbed to the pressure of RSS to ban the sale of cows and buffaloes in the market for slaughter. The first step the PM has to take now is to withdraw this ban.
The political class in India has to realize that the protest by the citizens of India against killing innocent persons under the guise of religion is also disapproval and protest against abuse of religion for political purpose. If the religious leaders who condemned or protested against the terror attack on the Amarnath pilgrims are sincere to themselves they should have the courage to denounce the misuse of religion for political purpose. The protests by the people throughout the country is nothing but a triumph of humanity in a tragic moment and sends out a strong message to the political class that the people cannot be taken for granted.
(firstname.lastname@example.org)(Published on 24th July 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 30)