Delhi: Mohammad Zubair was grievously injured after being beaten by a group of men during protests sparked by India's new citizenship law Image Credit: Reuters

Delhi was my home for more than a decade. I remember getting off the bus at the Inter-State Bus Terminus at Kashmiri Gate many years ago as a lanky 19 year old.

Here I was — a young man from Kashmir — in the capital of India. Almost immediately, I was taken in by majesty of Delhi, its grand history, nightlong joints, its great Sufi culture but above all, the anonymity the city offered.

I attended two universities in Delhi — Delhi University and Jamia Milia Islamia. Though I never came to like its torrid summers, Delhi shaped and honed me over the years.

There were times when the gruffness of Delhi-ites came across as a rude shock to a lad from the hills but ultimately the charm of the city won me over.

How did it come to such a pass? In the heart of India’s capital — a city of 20 million people with a 84,000 strong police force. How could this violence be allowed to continue?


It is perhaps for the same reason that the visuals coming out of Delhi over the last couple of days aches my heart.

Someone out there to buy sweets for his kids is surrounded by a mob, their faces menacing, contorted, sticks in hand, circling around the poor sod on the street. He is hunched down, like in a sajda, a prayer, hands over head, in a very primal, human effort perhaps, trying to save himself.

The mad horde circles around him, baying for his blood. We were supposed to be all Delhi-wallas. Same people. Different faiths, OK, but, still the same. What changed? Who injected hate into the body politic of our beloved city?

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Delhi is on the edge with 35 dead and over 200 injured after four days of violence over India's new controversial citizenship law Image Credit: AP

No lessons learnt

It has been more than 70 years since India’s partition. We seem to have learnt nothing. In 1947 when the great Urdu playwright Sadat Hasan Manto decided to leave India because of growing communal violence, his friend Shyam Chadda asked him to stay back.

“You are not a pious Muslim that you shall get killed, Sadat,” his friend tried to reassure him. Pat came the reply from the literary great, “Well, I am Muslim enough to get bumped off.”

The history of Delhi dates back to millennia and it is not surprising to see 12-century mosques abutting temples in some places. I would often visit the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi with my Hindu friends. We heard the Qawalis, set to Sufi devotional music, together.

Foot soldiers of hate

Something snapped in me as shaky cell phone video of men -- planting a saffron flag atop the minaret of a mosque in a Delhi neighbourhood -- appeared on my timeline.

I have read about the politics of rioting. One understands the psyche of the foot soldiers who carry out these hit-missions, partly out of hate and partly out of the wild kick, it gives them, but to find the abomination being cheered on in this fashion wants to make you cry.

How did it come to such a pass? In the heart of India’s capital — a city of 20 million people with a 84,000 strong police force. How could this violence be allowed to continue?

The first impulse is to blame the politicians but then we live in extremely polarised times. It is perhaps too much to expect from politicians to bear the cross alone. This is on the people of Delhi also. This is on us all.

An elderly lady — possibly older than the country itself — was burnt to death in the madness in the last few days. Think about it. What civilizational greatness can possibly come from burning a grandmother alive?

When did such savagery become normal in the city of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya? Have I been away from Delhi for too long?

I get no answers. In all frankness, I am not even interested in the answers. The answers, I know, like poisoned darts, will disfigure my imagination of Delhi.

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