** People rescuing an injured passenger from inside a passenger bus hit by a truck on Dhaka-Mawa Expressway in Shologhar area of Shreenagar upazila in Munshiganj on Thursday. ** Motorcycles allowed on Padma Bridge after 10 months ** Commuters charge extra fare, passengers disappointed ** 78 people killed in Yemen stampede ** Moon sighting committee meets today to ascertain Eid day ** 9 killed in road accidents in 3 districts ** US announces new $325 m military aid package for Ukraine ** Eid-ul-Fitr in Saudi Arabia today ** Eid exodus begins ** LPG price cut illusive ** 15 hurt as bus overturns in capital ** New interbank cheque clearing timings set for Eid holidays ** Four women hit by a train die in Tangail ** 12.28 lakh SIM users left Dhaka on Tuesday ** Sylhet engineer threatened over power outage ** People rush to village homes to spend Eid holidays with their near and dear ones. This photo was taken from Sadarghat Launch Terminal on Tuesday. NN photo ** Surge in cases of dehydration, diarrhoea amid summer heat wave ** Padma Bridge construction cost increases by Tk 2,412cr ** PM gives Tk 90m to Bangabazar fire victims ** Textile workers block highway demanding wage, Eid bonus ** Attack on PM's motorcade Ex-BNP MP, 3 others get life term ** Load-shedding increases for demand of electricity during heat wave ** Motorbikes to be allowed on Padma bridge from Thursday ** 5-day Eid vacation begins from today ** Take Nangalkot train accident as a warning about negligence of govt functionaries **

To the person sitting in darkness

29 January 2023

Shah Alam Khan :
This refers to the article, 'White Media's Burden', by Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) Vice Chancellor, Dr Tariq Mansoor (IE, January 21). The author has very dexterously used Rudyard Kipling's 'White Man's Burden', a poem with imperialist overtones, to further the case of shunning the BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots.
It may be of some interest to the AMU VC, who also happens to be my teacher, that the rebuttal to Kipling's 'White Man's Burden' was given by one of the most anti-imperialist authors of his times, Mark Twain. His rebuttal was called 'To the Person Sitting in Darkness' and was published in 1901.
What Dr Mansoor has clearly missed in his piece is the moral landscape which stretches in the storytelling of mass killings. This landscape is full of unmarked allegations and assertions as well as untold truth. It's like those unmarked graves that harbour the corpses of the murdered but without proof of the culpability of the perpetrator. Documentaries like the one in question are a documentation of the event. Before we decide whether it's valid or not, let us first establish what it wants us to hear. It is imperative that we respect this documentation, and listen to the white, black or brown man who is telling that story. By targeting the narrator, we kill the story. I am sure that's not what the vice-chancellor of a prominent university was aiming to do, even if it happens to be an opportunity to be in the good books of the regime.
The Gujarat riots of 2002 are a blot on the face of the country. Dr Mansoor's lack of exploration of the moral landscape of those times makes him argue that the Muslims of India no longer live in the past. True. Unfortunately, the past has been brighter than the present. Dr Mansoor should realise that not living in the past is not a choice for Indian Muslims, it's a compulsion to salvage self in the crisis of today.
Imagine Dr Mansoor's "not live in the past" argument in the context of the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. A group of these survivors was rehabilitated in a dilapidated building in a congested Delhi locality. This cohort only had women and children. A whole generation of children thus grew up in this building without any male (read father) figure. Can we even imagine the mental state of these kids? To tell this generation to stop living in the past is like violently shaking a comatose man to wake him up. The erasure of past can only happen with compassion and care, definitely not by stalling documentation of, and debate on, that dubious past. "Fake godparents" (as Dr Mansoor calls them) of the brutalised do exactly that - they try to induce compassion and debate. They don't push the victim into the past but hold their hands in that past and walk them into the present.
The mention of India's good relations with the Islamic states of West Asia by Dr Mansoor is also worthy of note. Dr Mansoor, who surprisingly uses a lot of "left" jargon in this piece (colonialism, imperialism, etc), forgot a very simple left argument - nothing is bigger in the world than capital. India is a bubbling market of 130 billion consumers. No country on the planet would miss an opportunity to tap this market. The Islamic countries of West Asia are well entrenched in this neoliberal capitalist order and to believe that they would speak for human rights somewhere else would be inanity par excellence. The stink of human rights violations in their own backyard should actually be a rallying point for democratic countries like ours.
The points enumerated by Dr Mansoor make me sad not because he is playing the game by the rules of the regime but because he is a teacher. As a teacher, he has the responsibility to educate. The arguments laid by him are devoid of sensitivity. Sadly, he is Mark Twain's person sitting in darkness. As a surgeon, he should have dissected the BBC documentary to try and search for answers to the questions it raises. The current communal crisis of India is serious. In the centuries to come, when the torchlight of history shines on us, we shouldn't appear naked with blood on our hands. We should be a model civilisation worth emulating.

(The writer is professor, Department of Orthopaedics, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. Courtesy: The Indian Express).

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