Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam
If anything, 2017 was marked by an all-pervasive sense of fear and loathing. Virtually everyday people were beaten up or killed for allegedly eating beef, conducting love Jihad, resisting ghar wapsi (forced conversion to Hinduism), or “trying” to convert tribals to Christianity.
These random goonda attacks were carried out by specialised cadres of RSS–gau rakshaks (anti-beef eating cow vigilantes), Beti Bachao (save the daughters by preventing marriage to Muslim men) and assorted RSS front organisations trying to convert Muslims to Hinduism and prevent tribals from entering Christianity.
Lynching, rape and murder were common themes in these terror campaigns throughout 2017.
2017’s most gruesome murder was that of Affrajul, a mason contractor from West Bengal working in Rajasthan. He was waylaid and attacked with a pick axe from behind by 36-year old Shambhu Regar. After that Shambhu poured petrol over Affrajul and set him on fire while Affrajul was still alive. Meanwhile he was shouting that it was punishment for love jihad (a Muslim marrying a Hindu woman). He got a video clip of the entire act made by his nephew. The fact was Affrajul never loved or married a Hindu woman. Incidentally, this act was committed on the 25th anniversary of Babri Masjid demolition. Regar said in the video that he was doing it to teach Muslims a lesson. The video went viral.
Several cases of lynching of Muslims by cow vigilantes were reported from Rajasthan last year. A similar pattern of anti-Muslim, anti-Christian and anti-Dalit hate crimes was reported last year from large parts of north India.
STRING OF WINS ON ANTI-MUSLIM PLANK
Later in the year, BJP barely scraped through in a bitterly-fought assembly election in Modi-Shah’s Gujarat. There were loud murmurs of EVM (electronic voting machine) tampering. However, Congress as usual did not raise the issue.
Observers noted that voters had given BJP a victory that would worry it in days ahead while they had handed Congress a defeat that would gladden and inspire it for a much better performance.
True to its character, BJP had fielded candidates keeping their caste base among voters in mind, but ceaselessly lambasted Congress for allegedly playing the caste card. Also, BJP used its fail-proof anti-Muslim plank to wrench victory from the jaws of defeat. Gujarat assembly election victory continued the winning streak for BJP, whose main election plank remained anti-Muslim rhetoric. This time it dragged in Pakistan as well. Pakistan objected against its use for India’s domestic purposes.
The year 2016 had ended with a strange sight: Large, serpentine queues of people standing outside banks from early morning to well into the night. This extremely difficult trial of bank account holders had begun from November 8, 2016 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a note ban. He did it without prior information and any preparation by citizens. He announced, in his familiar cocky manner: “At the end of this, India will shine like gold.”
People were forced to stand in queues for up to 10 hours to take a small part of their own hard-earned money. Not all of them were lucky enough to get a meagre Rs 2,000 from their own accounts at the end of a 10-hour wait in queue.
By the time they reached the payment counter often the cash was exhausted, and they were told to go home to try their luck next day. Marriages were cancelled. People died in shock, some right in the queue. As many as 125 people had lost their lives in note ban, according to estimates made at the beginning of 2017. The PM had no word of consolation for the bereaved. A BJP leader said people died in India every day and it did not matter if a few more died in shock.
People suffered the consequences of the PM’s cavalier ways. Hundreds of thousands of daily wage earners returned home in villages as there was not enough cash in cities to pay their wages. Job creation was affected. Even large firms retrenched employees in huge numbers.
The whole of 2017 passed amid economic worries.
The hardships brought by the note ban were deepened by GST (goods and services tax) even before the country could recover from the shock of note ban. This tax dampened spending by people as goods and services suddenly became more costly. Traders, on the other hand, were distressed by extremely complicated rules of ledger-keeping and filing tax return. Industrialists were overburdened with filing registrations and returns in several states instead of one. People who needed a single CA earlier had to get the services of five to six CAs at a time. All this, put together, dampened the economy and destroyed the economic wellbeing of the people.
DEEPENING TROUBLES OF MUSLIM WORLD
The deeply divided Muslim world’s troubles and divisions grew in 2017. Saudi Arabia and UAE imposed an embargo on Qatar for the latter’s closeness to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah and its patron, Iran. As if it was not trouble enough, severe divisions emerged in the Saudi royal family that seemed to threaten the royalty as well as the country itself. Yemen-based Shia Houthis, backed by Iran, continued to rain rockets on the Saudi capital, Riyadh, sometimes targeting the royal palaces.
As the Shia-Sunni conflict of the Mid-East aggravated, the United States announced that it had decided to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which would mean that Israel’s capital would be Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv. That also means that Palestine’s capital would not be East Jerusalem as stipulated in peace talks so far. Significantly, President Donald Trump made this announcement on the 25th anniversary of Babri Masjid demolition.
At the dawn of the New Year news reports of political unrest in Iran began to come in. Will this country, untouched by political turmoil so far, be the next site of trouble?
At the end of 2017, not much seemed to cheer for.
Writer is chairman of IOS. View expressed in this article is his personal..