By Arun Mitra
Health refers to a state of complete emotional and physical well-being. It is, therefore, important that social and environmental milieu is conducive and fulfils the criteria of better nutrition, equitable distribution of resources and affordable healthcare facilities. There have to be sufficient conditions to prevent mental health issues. For all this, it is imperative to imbibe and practise democratic values for rapprochement of cultures, freedom of expression, right to dissent and right to demand for better life. But when these conditions are disturbed because of political and economic interests of a few, physical and mental health are bound to suffer.
Nature has bestowed upon us life of the finest creature on earth with a promise to live in peace, harmony, care for other life forms and preserve ecology for a sustainable development. Diversity is the essence of human civilisation. In our country we have different cultures, languages, customs, dress codes and above all the will and strength to assimilate other viewpoints. We collectively have maintained unity in diversity.
For the last few years, however, we are witnessing persistent attack on these values. Concocted stories are being projected, history is being distorted and false propaganda unleashed against those who disagree. These circumstances have created prejudice and bias against others in the mind of people. These cause the feeling of alienation and lead to physical and mental trauma.
During a visit to the North East Delhi where the communal violence was perpetrated we could find several health problems in the make-shift arrangements for the victims of violence. As in all refugee camps, these health issues were a result of lack of proper food, hygiene facilities, lack of family atmosphere and privacy of a home. The sense of insecurity could be seen in the minds of all, particularly among women and children. It was evident that the violence was engineered by some vested interests. Similar situation was witnessed during violence against the Sikhs in 1984. Terrorist violence during that period also had similar overtones.
The worst kind of massacre in our country occurred during Partition in 1947 when Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims killed each other because a propaganda of hate was unleashed against each other. Over 1.5 crore persons migrated from one place to the other, the biggest ever in the history of mankind. Trains were full with people sitting even on their roof top. At many places they were looted, killed and women raped. Many perished on the way because of lack of food and absence of medical care. Several pregnant women died because they did not get timely care. The violent nature of the partition created an atmosphere of hostility and suspicion between India and Pakistan that affects their relationship to this day. The sense of mistrust against each other generated through hate mongering against the other community resulted in killing of about 20 lakh people.
That was the time of colonial rule, which had conspired to split the continent on communal lines both in terms of geography and social relations. But now we have our own elected government and we expect the government to be impartial and work as per our constitution. But when the state supports falsehood and hate, the situation is bound to get worse. It was unexpected of the Prime Minister to speak the words like ‘recognize them form the clothes they wear’. This was a clear signal to the bandwagon to go berserk and be rest assured of no punitive action. When a minister of state gave an open call ‘Goli Maro Saalon Ko’, he should have been reprimanded. But instead he has been promoted as a cabinet minister. What happened during Godhra we do not exactly know, but what happened in other places of Gujarat when killing hundreds of Muslims with overt and covert support of the then Chief Minister occurred, is not hidden from anyone. The then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee at that time had to ask the Chief Minister to do Raj Dharma.
The resultant effect is the incidents of mob lynching, hitherto unknown in our country. Instead of punishing the accused it is the victims who have been put behind bar in many instances. Release of the rapist and the killers of family of Bilkis Bano is a clear cut signal. It was well synchronized with date and time when the Prime Minster spoke of respect to women and stringent punishment to the rapists from the Red Forte on 15th August 2022 that all the 11 accused were released.
A letter by Umar Khalid published in The Wire telling his anguish for being jailed without reason or investigation has to be taken seriously. The judgment of Allahabad High court while granting bail to Dr Kafeel about his illegal detention should be an eye opener.
It is not just the people of minority community, who at present form nearly 50% of the undertrials under UAPA, but people from majority community who question the wrong will also meet similar fate. Subodh Kumar, the police inspector killed in Bulandshahar by the unruly mob belonged to majority community.
It is time to speak now, otherwise with such incidents on the rise, social cohesion, which is so essential for health, education, and inclusive growth will suffer. It would be naïve to think that we cannot become Germany of Nazis. It must also be remembered that hatred towards any community is not forgotten for generations. (IPA Service)