Whenever a tragedy takes place, humans are quite quick to point the finger of blame on whoever they deem responsible even despite the lack of evidence. Thus, the incident concerning the murder of a pregnant elephant in India is no different. Moreover, while people do have every right to be outraged by this inhumane act, the incident shouldn’t start a “hate campaign” against the Muslim sector.
Circumstances regarding the death of the elephant
The elephant died while standing in the middle of a river in the southern state of Kerala, allegedly at the age of 15. She suffered for four days after she was found injured and before passing away. Moreover, reports indicate that she was almost one month pregnant at the time.
The India Today network stated that the mouth injury was caused by explosives. These exclusives ended up fracturing the bones and causing a lot of damage to her mouth. Thus, the poor elephant couldn’t eat and became weak. Then she died.
She was found initially injured on May 23. However, when forest officers and a veterinarian tried to immobilize her for treatment, the elephant ran away. She was then found again two days later while standing in the river. Though ultimately she didn’t receive any treatment because the officers couldn’t use a tranquilizer while she is in the water.
Officers tried to remove her from the water with the help of two other elephants but with no success. Thus, they couldn’t save her.
Furthermore, Kerala’s chief wildlife warden, Surendra Kumar, stated that local villagers sometimes leave pineapples and other sweet fruits filled with firecrackers around their fields as means of warding off wild boars and other wild animals. Such fruits are suspected to be the main reason behind the explosion.
Triggered hate on social media
With everyone outraged by the current situation, people started pointing the finger of blame on a whole religious sector, instead of blaming the incident on the culprits themselves. Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) parliamentarian Maneka Gandhi, who is also an animal rights activist, stated that the incident took place in the Malappuram district. A district where 70 percent of the population is Muslim. Moreover, she told the ANI news agency on Wednesday that “Malappuram is famous for such incidents, it’s India’s most violent district,” and that “they throw poison on roads so that 300-400 birds and dogs die at one time” without stating who she meant to by “they”.
Thus, her statement ignited a fire filled with anger towards the Muslim community on social media where hundreds of posts suggested that the culprit is a Muslim.
However, journalists and some actors from the region disclaimed the BJP leader’s statement, indicating that the incident happened in Palakkad and not Malappuram. Also, Chief Minister Vijayan denied the accusation and urged against importing bigotry into the narrative of the elephant’s death.
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Whether the culprit is Muslim, Hindu, Christian, or belongs to any other religious sector, they should be held accountable. Moreover, if the Malappuram district citizens are truly committing any crimes against animal rights, they should also face consequences. However, holding an entire religion accountable for the actions of a few is just wrong.
On the other hand, using a tragedy as fuel to ignite hatred and further an agenda is simply wrong.
Many clinched on this opportunity to promote hatred towards the Muslim community in India instead of hating on animal abusers. Thus, twisting a tale that could have helped in raising awareness about human’s inflected cruelty to helpless animals. Instead, the incident with the help of social media was used as a weapon against a religious sector.
The Indian Express reported that one arrest was carried out after days of investigation. The minister stated that the alleged culprit is a farmer who works in areas around Ambalappar. Moreover, collaborative efforts are underway to nab the remaining culprits.
Whenever a tragedy takes place, we can either learn from it or we are bound to repeat the same mistake. The death of the pregnant elephant was truly tragic. however, using such tragedy to invoke hatred is simply an easy way to create another one. Thus, the cycle of human-made tragedies will never end. After the arrest of the culprits, people should judge them by their actions and not their religion.
Al Jazeera. “Pregnant Elephant’s Death in India Triggers ‘Hate Campaign’.” India News | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 4 June 2020, www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/06/pregnant-elephant-death-India-triggers-hate-campaign-200604101245365.html.
Gan, Nectar. “Elephant Dies after Suspected Firecrackers Hidden in Fruit Exploded in Her Mouth.” CNN, Cable News Network, 4 June 2020, edition.cnn.com/2020/06/04/asia/india-elephant-death-intl-and-scli/index.html.
Joseph, Jeff. “A Pregnant Dead Elephant Becomes A Symbol Of Anti-Muslim Hate.” The Lede, www.the lede.in/politicking/2020/06/04/a-pregnant-dead-elephant-becomes-a-symbol-of-anti-Muslim-hate.
“One Arrested for Alleged Role in Pregnant Elephant’s Death in Kerala.” The Indian Express, 5 June 2020, indianexpress.com/article/india/kerala-pregnant-elephant-death-arrest-6443683/.
Kashmiri Journalists Caught in the Battle of Narratives
A proscribed militant outfit in Kashmir recently made anonymous online threats to over a dozen journalists belonging to several media organizations. The outfit published the threat on a website and people circulated it on social media. The Kashmiri journalists were accused of being “collaborators”. Five of the journalists who were threatened have already resigned.
Subsequently, the Jammu and Kashmir Police registered a case under the anti-terrorist law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and launched an investigation. On November 19, police raids were underway at the residences of journalists Gowhar Geelani, Qazi Shibli, Rashid Maqbool, Khalid Gul, Waseem Raja, Sajad Kralyari & militant Momin Gulzar, Mukhtar Baba and advocate Abu Adil Pandit.
The police alleged that The Resistance Front (TRF), which is an offshoot of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), was behind the threat to journalists. The security agencies further found that journalist Mukhtar Baba was the mastermind behind putting out the list of journos accusing them of being informers for security forces. Baba, who is currently based in Turkey, is has worked as a journalist in Kashmir. He is familiar with the media environment in Kashmir. The police also revealed that Baba is very close to Pakistani intelligence agencies.
The police requested media houses “not to fall for sensationalism in discussing names of victims in reporting and also to behave responsibly and not endanger the safety and security of their fellow journalists”.
Battle of Narratives
The ongoing battle of narratives in Kashmir between pro-India and anti-India has created a false and dangerous binary in Kashmir. Journalists, who work for various media houses and newspapers in Kashmir, increasingly face themselves choosing sides between anti-India and pro-India narratives. Choosing sides has led journalists into a trap. If they report and support the pro-India narrative, militant groups accuse them of being collaborators. If they report anti-India narrative, the Indian security agencies accuse them of supporting terrorism in the region. In this vicious cycle, many journalists have lost their lives, and many are languishing in jails.
Kashmiri Journalists Face Killings and Jail
The same Let killedpProminent Kashmiri journalist Shujaat Bukhari in 2018 in Srinagar. The police alleged that Sheikh Sajad alias Sajjad Gul was responsible for his killing.
In February this year, the police booked and arrested Fahad Shah, the Editor-in-chief of the online news magazine, ‘The Kashmir Walla’, under anti-terrorism law and sedition for his reporting on Kashmir. He continues to be in jail. His online magazine faces several cases for reporting controversial news. The security agencies have alleged that Fahad was propagating fake news through his portal.
In August 2018, the police arrested Aasif Sultan, an assistant editor of the magazine Kashmir Narrator, under the anti-terror law. The police accused him of “harbouring known militants”.
There are several other stories of Kashmiri journalists being harassed by militants and police alike. While militants make death threats to journalists, the security agencies in Kashmir arrest and intimidate the journalists. There are several cases where chilling details of threat and intimidation of journalists by police have emerged.
In October this year, Indian authorities prevented Pulitzer-winning Kashmiri journalist Sanna Irshad Mattoo from travelling to the US. Mattoo, a freelance photojournalist, was part of a Reuters team that won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography for their coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic in India. She was flying to the US to receive the award. Earlier in July this year, Indian authorities prevented Mattoo from travelling to Paris.
This was not the first time that Indian authorities prevented a Kashmiri journalist from flying abroad. Several other journalists were prohibited from flying.
Also Read: India Gags-up Media in Kashmir
Journalists in Dilemma
The threats by the militants and the harassment by the Indian agencies have put Kashmiri journalists in dilemma. They do not know when their reporting will invoke the wrath of Indian agencies or the militants. It is a huge risk to invoke the wrath of any one of them.
As a result, political reporting in Kashmir has become very difficult. Various news agencies, in order to evade the binary, do not cover political issues. They just restrict their reporting highlighting societal issues.
Hence, in this battle of narratives, objective political reporting has become the real victim.
Also Read: The Rise of Hybrid Militants in Kashmir
The Forgotten Jammu Massacre
In November 1947, thousands of Muslims were murdered in Jammu by paramilitaries under the command of Maharaja Hari Singh’s army, the Hindu Dogra ruler of Jammu and Kashmir. Although the precise number of victims in the killings that lasted for two months is unknown, estimates range from 20,000 to 237,000. Nearly half a million Muslims were compelled to flee across the border into the recently formed country of Pakistan. These Muslims had to settle in the part of Kashmir that is under Pakistan’s administration. The massacre of Muslims in Jammu and the forced migration of others set off a chain of events that included a war between India and Pakistan, two newly independent countries. These incidents also gave rise to the Kashmir issue. The massacres occurred as part of a British-designed strategy to divide the subcontinent into India and Pakistan, as millions of Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs crossed the border from one side to the other.
An Orchestrated Massacre
Before the two-decade-long massacre against Jammu’s Muslim majority really began, The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders from Amritsar met in secret with the Maharaja and his officials. They chose Poonch as the beginning place for the massacre of Muslims because of its record for fierce resistance. A two decade long and horrifying anti-Muslim pogrom began with the murder of a herdsman in the Panj Peer shrine and a Muslim labourer in the centre of Jammu city in the first week of September. Extremist Hindus and Sikhs committed the murders with the help and complicity of the Maharaja Hari Singh-led armies of the Dogra State. The RSS leaders and workers were complicit in organising and carrying out the atrocities.
Idrees Kanth, a fellow at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam who studied the history of Kashmir in the 1940s, told Al Jazeera that the immediate impact (of partition) was seen in Jammu. “The Muslim subjects from different parts of Jammu province were forcibly displaced by the Dogra Army in a programme of expulsion and murder carried out over three weeks between October-November 1947,”.
The Dogra Army personnel started evicting Muslim peasants from Jammu province in the middle of October. The majority of the refugees were housed in refugee camps in the districts of Sialkot, Jhelum, Gujrat, and Rawalpindi after being directed on foot toward West Punjab, which would eventually become a part of Pakistan.
On November 5, Kanth claimed about the Dogra Army forces’ planned evacuation of Muslims that “Instead of sending them to Sialkot, as they had been promised, the trucks drove them to wooded hills of Rajouri districts of Jammu, where they were executed.”
After the deaths and expulsion, the Muslims, who made up more than 60% of the population in the Jammu region, became a minority. According to a story from The Times, London, dated August 10, 1948: “2,37,000 Muslims were systematically exterminated – unless they escaped to Pakistan along the border – by the forces of the Dogra State headed by the Maharaja in person and aided by Hindus and Sikhs. This happened in October 1947, five days before the Pathan invasion and nine days before the Maharaja’s accession to India.”.
According to historians, the executions carried out by the Sikh and Hindu ruler’s armies were part of a “state sponsored genocide” to alter Jammu’s demographics, which had a predominately Muslim population.
Reports mention that Muslims who earlier were the majority (61 percent) in the Jammu region became a minority as a result of the Jammu massacre and subsequent migration.
According to PG Rasool, the author of a book The Historical Reality of Kashmir Dispute “The massacre of more than two lakh (two hundred thousands) Muslims was state-sponsored and state supported. The forces from Patiala Punjab were called in, RSS was brought to communalise the whole scenario and kill Muslims.”
Covering up of the Jammu Massacre
While it is unknown how many people were killed during the two-month-long killing spree, Horace Alexander’s report from The Spectator on January 16, 1948, is frequently cited. Alexander claimed that 200,000 people had died and that nearly 500,000 people had been displaced across the border into the recently formed country of Pakistan and the region of Kashmir that it controls.
India has ever since tried to free itself from the accountability of the past. The Jammu massacre has not only been left out of J&K’s historical narratives by the Indian state, but it has also been openly denied in its entirety.
Khurram Parvez, a noted human rights defender in Kashmir, told Al Jazeera that the ongoing conflict in Kashmir has its roots in 1947 massacre. “It is deliberately forgotten. Actually, the violence of that massacre in 1947 continues. Those who were forced to migrate to Pakistan have never been allowed to return,” he said.
Also Read: The Rise of Hybrid Militants in Kashmir
What Does the Jammu Massacre mean for Kashmir today?
The Jammu massacre gave India the opportunity to rewrite history, therefore relieving the Indian government from owning up to any responsibility for the atrocity. The Indian government is attempting to replicate this pattern in the Kashmir valley by systematically killing and exterminating Muslims and then covering it up. As more and more Indians obtain Kashmiri citizenship and are granted the ability to vote in state elections, this provides the necessary motive and encouragement for non-Kashmiris to relocate to Kashmir. While the right-wing BJP government has been milking the targeted killings of Kashmiri pandits in Kashmir. The communal violence against Muslims and the Jammu Massacre is the least talked about and written about in the history of the region.
What is wrong with BJP’s Appropriation of Sardar Patel?
It was Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s 147th birth anniversary last week. Patel worked with Mahatma Gandhi as a freedom fighter during India’s anti-colonial struggle and served as independent India’s first Deputy Prime minister and Home Minister under Jawahar Lal Nehru.
What is Patel’s Legacy?
In Srinagar, on National Infantry Day, union home minister Rajnath Singh mentioned that what we started on August 5 2019, will end with integrating what he termed Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and Gilgit-Baltistan with the rest of India. He added that this would fulfill the dream of the National Unity of Sardar Vallabhai Patel. A couple of years back, Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned him in both houses of the Indian Parliament. Taking a dig at the opposition, he said that India would not have faced the issue of Jammu and Kashmir had Patel been India’s first Prime Minister. He questioned why Congress does not own him and his legacy. Signaling that the owner of his legacy is BJP, the question is, what is Patel’s legacy? Is it the same picture that BJP is painting?
Patel Banned RSS
From building the Statue of Unity to declaring his birth anniversary as National Unity Day, the ruling party BJP embracing him today makes Patel a contested figure who openly opposed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) activities. BJP’s forerunner is RSS, its ideological parent, and Patel banned RSS right after Gandhi’s assassination. “India is a secular country and it will be nothing else. There is no doubt in my mind that the extreme section of the Hindu Mahasabha was involved in the conspiracy. The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of the government and the state. Our reports show that those activities, despite the ban, have not died down. Indeed as time has marched on the RSS circles are becoming more defiant and are indulging in their subversive activities in an increasing measure,” remarked Patel in a letter to Hindu Mahasabha leader Syama Prasad Mukherjee in 1948. Therefore, we must know the BJP’s ironic yearning to convey that it is the only party concerned about Sardar Patel. The BJP is an outfit which does not have the greatest freedom-fighting heritage—so going ahead and settling down for Patel, who conveniently fits all the parameters of a freedom fighter and strong mass leader and not having Gandhi or Nehru as a surname. Thus, owning a stalwart, even from the pantheon of Congress, has become obvious.
Over the years BJP has created a sense that Congress has tried removing Patel’s name from history. The claim is ironic in that last year in February, the ruling BJP chose to rename the Motera cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, which had been given Patel’s name, to Narendra Modi Stadium.
Patel and Kashmir
The BJP’s portrayal of Patel as someone who unified erstwhile princely states seems far-fetched regarding the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to Indian dominion. Once the Partition Plan was announced, Congress and Muslim League engaged in high politics. The major Princely states aimed for relative independence instead of joining either of the newly formed dominions. VP Menon, Secretary to the Ministry of states under Vallabhai Patel, came up with the idea of acceding to Indian dominion on three subjects; foreign affairs, defence, and communication. This would give these states relative autonomy in deciding on other subjects on their own.
Most princely states joined the Indian dominion with the same sense of autonomy; however, Hyderabad, Junagarh, and Kashmir held out. The government of India, after a lot of internal deliberations, offered to hold a Plebiscite in Junagarh. The point is that the idea of a referendum was there even before the question of Kashmir popped up. In November 1947, M A Jinnah shot down the offer of holding referendums in the three princely states. Jinnah, Governor General of Pakistan, says why do not we exchange Junagarh with Kashmir? The real question is, would Patel have allowed giving Kashmir to Pakistan? In the rounds of dialogues with Pakistan, Patel offered an exchange of Hyderabad with Kashmir. So the BJP’s claim that Kashmir would have entirely been part of India falls apart. At this point, he was ready for Kashmir to become part of Pakistan. In his book Integration of Indian states, Menon mentions that “He went so far as to tell the Maharaja (king of Kashmir) that if he acceded to Pakistan, India would not take it amiss and that he had a firm assurance from Sardar Patel himself.” The aim is to prove how uncomfortable Patel was with Kashmir joining India, given the political environment at the time.
The case is convincing. Despite Prime Minister Modi’s assertions to the contrary, Patel’s behaviour, attitude, and worldview did not align with the BJP. One can claim that there is a huge possibility that the first deputy prime minister disagreed with much of what is happening in India today.
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