In 2002, when Gujarat was blanketed by arson, looting and killings, it took a single photograph by Arko Datta to encapsulate the horror. It was a 28-year old’s, standing on a narrow veranda, his light checked shirt stained with dried blood, eyes fearful, hands folded in subservience. The imagery made for a sense of despair and helplessness because Ansari, a tailor who lived in Ahmedabad’s Sone Ki Chal, was encircled by an armed Hindu mob baying for his blood. He might have been killed had the Rapid Action Force not rescued him. Ansari fled to Malegaon to live with his sister and took up work in a shop. By then, the epic picture was all over, in the papers and on political posters. Ansari was sacked once he was identified. He left for Kolkata after an NGO and the ruling Left Front government promised help, which came in soon.
Two years later, Ansari returned to Ahmedabad to look after his ailing mother and restart his tailoring business. It was tough but he was clear he did not want political parties to prey on his sufferings. Finally, in 2019, keen to leave the past behind, Ansari made peace with one of his assaulters, Ashok Parmar. Parmar distanced himself from the
Khan is a paediatrician who worked in a government hospital at Gorakhpur, the spiritual and political abode of Yogi Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh chief minister. He didn’t face communal violence but the trauma he experienced was the outcome of a communalised society and polity that didn’t need to be goaded to view the “other” through a certain prism.
In 2017, when Gorakhpur was gripped by an encephalitis epidemic that strikes every year after the rains, the hospital where Khan was on duty ran out of piped oxygen, which was cut off for overdue payments. Khan said he bought oxygen with his money to save the lives of the children. When the press wrote about the helping hand act and the state’s apathy, Khan was removed as the nodal encephalitis ward officer and arrested for the “dereliction of duty”.
Somebody had a knife into the doctor. He was exonerated of all charges in September 2019 but it was practically impossible for Khan to resume life in Gorakhpur. His former patients turned away, he couldn’t begin private practice and his brother survived a murderous attack. In January 2020, Khan was arrested a second time under the dreaded NSA for allegedly making an incendiary speech on the CAA at the
Unlike Ansari, who settled for as much quietude as he could possibly get in Gujarat, Khan, like a quintessential UP-ite, signalled he would throw himself in politics. The difference between Gujarat and UP is Muslims don’t count for a decisive vote grouping, except in stray seats, in the former. Cynical as that sounds, political calculations are an arbiter of a community’s status and destiny. In UP, doubtless Muslim representation in the legislatures and Parliament declined since 2014 but they still matter as an electoral block in many constituencies. It’s another matter that the opposition was muted over Khan’s continued pain for fear of alienating the Hindu vote until
Priyanka directed the Congress workers to receive him after he was let off from the Mathura jail and ensure safe passage to Rajasthan, across the border. Khan has apparently adopted Jaipur as a second home for the time being but not before demanding justice for himself from Adityanath. The UP government could well contest the high court’s verdict because Khan is a political hot potato. The Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party finally tweeted in his favour but it is
There are enough Muslims who got the rough end of the stick during the anti-CAA protests in UP. Sadaf Jafar, a Lucknow Congress activist, was one of them. There were several faceless people in the districts tortured by the police in detention. History picks on one individual to signify the hard times and become the centre of a counter narrative that will surely build, regardless of the opposition’s attitude. Khan could be the pivot.