|Courtesy: Behance Network
A body lied on the road, damaged beyond recognition, blood washed the entire width of the road. The mood was tense in the gathering. A motorist passed by, was immediately recognized as having allegiance to the community of the killer. The mob went astray chasing the innocent motorist. Sensing danger, he turned the throttle and speeded ahead. But the road was not to tolerate this speed, no sympathy it had with him or his community. He lost balance, skidded sideways going straight under the giant tires of a truck in the next lane.
Another carcase lied silently, peacefully. Death was faster than he would have ever imagined. The color of blood and the darkness of night were indistinguishable. There was silence all around, within the dead victim, among the assailants.
The group of dogs, who were furious till now, backed away calmly. Were they shocked by the death of their victim? Were they now contemplating the consequences of their act? Was the anger within the dogs overpowered by the fear of revenge, the anger that arose after one of them was run down by a motorist?
It is not a story of street dogs going mad at the death of a dog and chasing motorists. It is a story of fear, the fear of death, the fear originating from the failure of mankind to place humanity above communalism, nationalism.
The fear that grips an Arab returning from work, passing through Jewish settlements. The fear that grips a Christian tribal returning from fields in Kandhamal. The fear that grips a Sikh walking in the dark lanes of Peshawar. The fear that grips a Kashmiri Pandit walking down the foggy street of Kashmir. The fear that arises from merely appearing different from the rest, lacking the strength of support from another fellow human.
Flashback 2001: I remember the day of December 13, 2001. Delhi was pleasantly sunny at the paramount of winter. The pleasantness had hardly left a mark in the memory of Delhiites. The day is marked with a blood stain in the memories. Five militants of Jaish-e-Mohammed had stormed the Indian Parliment, the air filled with noise of gunshots, smell of burnt bullets.
The shadow of September 11 attacks on World Trade Center hadn't faded yet. The phrase "Islamic Terrorism" had been coined by now and after the December 13 event, enormous amount of ink was being dedicated to it by the media. There was a frenzy in the press fraternity to report anything and everything related to Islam and terrorism. The issue was made into a demon. The entire Muslim community was being seen through the glass of suspicion. Interrogations and arrests were being made all over Delhi.
Over the past few months, I had fashioned beard, maybe resembling a Muslim guy next door. Though I wore no symbol of any religion, leave alone Islam, my well wishers had concerns that my beard was a bad idea in the current circumstances. In the coming days as numerous citizens were picked up by the police merely based on their Islamic names, suggestions poured in to get a clean-shaven Brahmin look. "I have an identity card displaying Hindu name," I used to say, but no explanation would address their concerns. I had heard the folklore that "a thief would have twig in his beard." In the winters of 2001, it read "a terrorist would have beard."
Finally, I gave up to the repeated requests of my landlord, a nice old gentleman, who did not want to bring trouble onto his family by sheltering a "bearded man" in his house. After getting a clean shave, I wondered whether the neighbors would suspect this very act too, thinking that it was an attempt to hide identity.
It was just my beard that could have made me a victim of state terrorism. I just wore one trait commonly associated with a community. It wasn't hard to imagine the apathy of those who actually belonged to that community and have to live with their identity.
The Crisis of Identity: Our identity itself has become a threat to our lives. Who can predict when we'll be a Bihari in Maharashtra, Indian in Australia. Who can predict which community would be hostile to whom in the near future and with work related migrations increasing, it becomes difficult to control among whom we'll reside. No one knows whose name would turn the game against them, where, and when. It is the very "identity" which has become the cause of crisis, not the lack of it.
Maybe the life insurers would start charging varying premium depending on your community, religion, and hierarchy of the community in the society. Altaf in Ahmedabad and Manish Singh in Mumbai will have higher death risk justifying higher premium.
In these circumstances, it makes perfect sense to disassociate ourselves from any community. After all, life is far more important than the allegiance to a community. We can throw away the talisman, the pendent, the skullcap. Where will we throw our names, our identities, following us like the shadow, like the tumor?
Irreligious Numbers: If you name your children such that they can be identified with a certain community, then you are increasing the risk of him or her being a victim of religious aggression. A better idea would be to number them instead of naming. Numerals cannot be Hindu or Muslim or Jew. Its little uninteresting to be called 911 or 2611, but it might just sound a nice strategy if being called Ram or Rahim turns out to be life threatening. Life expectancy would increase, at least, statistically.
For those unfortunate ones who have names associated with religion, I would be in favor of issuance of atheist ID card which would declare their non-allegiance with any religion. It can be showed off to fanatics of any hue. Will you opt for such an identity if it existed? How many religious souls would want to keep their religion in the closets and wear the batch of atheism to save their souls? Will the world turn atheist, at least on paper, given that fanatics are everywhere?