Why thoughts and prayers ring hollow

There’s a numbing air of wariness as I write this. One that many of us are unfortunately accustomed to, even. After a while, the shock stops registering until everything becomes a repeated cycle of newspaper numbers, tasteless TV debates, ‘patriotic’ radio songs and a sense of gloom wondering where the next WhatsApp hate message would come from, and if you have enough emotional strength left to ‘make excuses’ to the person in perpetration or to just block them and get on with it, hoping the next time is more merciful. Because yes, there is always, always a next time. 

In the sixteen years I have been alive, and the fewer years in which I’ve actually cared, I do not (regrettably) remember a single ‘peaceful’ year which wasn’t graced by the endless circle of black bands, candle marches, and people crying in general. It all feels extremely insensitive to even think in such brash terms, but after over 16,554 deaths due to several terror-related ‘incidents’ in just the last 19 years, I daresay this terrible routine is one we’ve settled into and show no signs of recovering from. And cynicism doesn’t begin to cover it.

Two hours after the news of the Pulwama blast hit the mainstream media, I found myself with a screenshot someone had forwarded, titled ‘How Not To Be A Twat After A Terrorist Attack’ and what made me sick wasn’t the fact that there guidelines on how to behave like a decent human being but the fact there was a need for it in the first place. Or that there had to be admonitory headlines streaming by the likes of  ‘No need for hate, Muslims condemning Pulwama blast’. For in crisis there are always two types of victims, the ones who die and the ones who have to live with it. And in times like these, though Muslims may die and Muslims may kill, the Muslims have to live with it. 

Because even though our hearts wrench and bleed like any other, we must march through the streets, release statements and ‘condemn’ that which is obviously evil, in order to justify our inclusion as worthy Indian citizens. Because it hasn’t been even two complete days and people are already being booked on sedition charges over Tweets and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who they are. Because hate isn’t just poison, it’s also the plague. And you know how the plague is stopped? By burning down it’s carrier.

The more we tolerate intolerance, the more it will keep blowing up in our faces. So let’s make a vow to not get into a petty fight with with the bigot aunty from the colony WhatsApp group, to not get let your boiling blood get to your brain watching Arnab Goswami (I mean, seriously?), to not claim having a higher moral ground because you used a hashtag, to not own the privilege of crying victim when there are far worse alternatives, and most importantly, to never, ever be just another ignorant idiot our country seems to lamentably have an abundance of. Let us not sit back or make excuses and play pacifist either, because that would really be the ultimate dismissal. 

We can’t demand justice or fairness if we’re not willing to be stand there and watch it be delivered. The solemn ‘thoughts and prayers’ are in the end, just words and noises. It’s about time we make our voices heard, not only because they matter but also because no one else is going to speak for us. 

PS: Just as I finish writing this, comes the news of another blast  near Jammu.

O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah and be just witnesses and let not the enmity and hatred of a people make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety, and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do.

Surah Al-Maidah, (5:8)