The arrest of Waseem Rizvi: the tragedy for Muslims facing genocide threats in India

The arrest of Waseem Rizvi: the tragedy for Muslims facing genocide threats in India

Minorities
Reading Time: 8 minutes

The arrest of Waseem Rizvi in the infamous Haridwar “Dharam Sansad” hate-speech case has exemplified how the caste privileges that upper-caste Hindus boast of and the impunity with which they operate, can’t be enjoyed by someone who converts to Hinduism, especially a Muslim. This tragedy is going to haunt the man probably for a long time.

Though Rizvi has been using his new name, Jitendra Narayan Singh Tyagi, in public, the Uttarakhand Police, which arrested him from the Haridwar-Narsan border on Thursday, January 13th 2022, and presented him to a Chief Judicial Magistrate’s (CJM) court, is still treating him as “Waseem Rizvi”.

“Rizvi was detained at Haridwar-Narsan border and produced before the CJM court by police late in the evening. The court has sent him to judicial custody. Two cases were registered against him in the city police station. He had made provocative statements against the symbols of Islam during his controversial book launch at Haridwar Press Club and also at the three-day religious conclave”, Shekhar Suyal, the circle officer (CO) of Haridwar Police, told the press.

The arrest of Waseem Rizvi happened due to a first information report (FIR) lodged against him for spewing communal venom and denigrating Muslims from the “Dharam Sansad”—a purported religious grand assembly— organised by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-influenced Hindutva fascists. The FIR under Section 153(A) accuses him of spreading enmity between different communities.

According to CO Suyal, two more—Dharm Das and Annapurna Maa aka Puja Shakun Pandey of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha (ABHM)—have been also accused in the same case. The organisers of the “Dharam Sansad”, which took place from December 17th to December 19th 2021 at Haridwar, called for an anti-Muslim genocide in India to “preserve the Sanatana Dharma (upper-caste Hindu religion)”.

When Rizvi, the former chairman of the Shia Central Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh, converted to Hinduism on December 6th 2021 at the Dasna temple of Ghaziabad, in the presence of controversial Hindutva fascist rabble-rouser Yati Narsinghanand, little did he know that his new upper-caste identity as Jitendra Narayan Singh Tyagi won’t allow him the same privileges that his political masters, who are upper-caste Hindus by birth, enjoy.

It’s not just that the arrest of Waseem Rizvi in the Haridwar “Dharam Sansad” hate-mongering case is ironic, rather, the entire episode following the infamous assembly and anti-Muslim genocide call, shows how the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which rules both the Union and the state of Uttarakhand, has been using double standards on Hindutva hate-mongers who help the Party to polarise the voters and sweep elections with utmost ease.

Why the arrest of Waseem Rizvi is problematic?

After Rizvi, who has been trying to grab the centre stage of political attention since 2018 by playing the Islamophobic card, converted to Hindu religion and took an upper-caste identity, he considered himself equal to his RSS brethren. However, that wasn’t going to be the case anyways.

When Rizvi took part in the “Dharam Sansad” from where anti-Muslim slogans were raised and a genocidal declaration was made, he didn’t know that he is lending his former-Muslim shoulders to the ilk of Yati to place their guns and shoot. The arrest of Waseem Rizvi, while the rest remain scot-free, shows how his excessive show of servility and prostration didn’t pay well.

The arrest of Waseem Rizvi didn’t take place because he had a role in the “Dharam Sansad”, rather, it happened because the BJP-ruled Uttarakhand government wanted a scapegoat, and none fits the bill as Rizvi-turned-Tyagi does. By arresting him, the BJP government has killed two birds with a single shot.

On the one hand, the BJP-led Uttarakhand government will show this arrest as a strong step against the hatemongering that happened at the “Dharam Sansad” in December 2021, on the other hand, it will only persecute a former Muslim, whose political utility is over for the ruling clique.

There isn’t anything new in this approach and the arrest and jailing of accused Tyagi. The BJP has been hitherto using and dumping the handful of opportunist Muslims, who join its ranks in search of a robust career, in a similar fashion. Rizvi didn’t get any special treatment as well.

The CJM could send Rizvi aka Tyagi to 14-day-long judicial custody because the police didn’t ask for his custody. This means that the police have nothing to interrogate, nothing to ask from him, nothing new to know from him. But why? Isn’t it important for the police to seek information from an arrested accused about a crime he or she was about to commit?

How the anti-Muslim genocide calls have been downplayed by the state?

Though the Supreme Court has taken cognisance of the offence after senior advocates Kapil Sibbal and Indira Jaysingh filed a writ petition on the “Dharam Sansad” case and the non-registration of any appropriate FIR by the police, the BJP-led state government has been denying that this assembly called for anti-Muslim genocide.

Firstly, there has been no FIR registered by the government or any police officer against the organisers of the “Dharam Sansad”, which validates the claims made by rabble-rouser seers at the venue that the police and the entire administrative and military machinery of the Indian state will join hands with them in exterminating Muslims like the Rohingya genocide has taken place in Myanmar.

Secondly, even though individuals filed the FIR, it was lodged only under Section 153(A), ie, promoting enmity between different religious groups. However, no charges under the colonial-era sedition law, the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), etc, have been filed against Tyagi and his associates. According to the Uttarakhand Police, the anti-Muslim genocidal calls from the “Dharam Sansad” didn’t result in any violence against the minority Muslims, hence, the UAPA couldn’t be implemented.

This means, even if the state pursues the charge against Tyagi and two others for a long period, the maximum punishment he may get, if convicted, will be imprisonment for a very short period vis-à-vis the life imprisonment provisions of the UAPA and the sedition law under IPC Section 121(B).

Moreover, the press coverage of the “Dharam Sansad” and the hate speeches delivered by Yati, Annapurna Maa, Prabodhanand, etc, didn’t mention the fact that this programme was organised in Haridwar to prepare for an anti-Muslim genocide in different parts of India under the RSS’s aegis. The press has labelled the matter as the “Haridwar hate speech”, downplaying the anti-Muslim genocide threat that emanated from this “Dharam Sansad”.

As none came forward to file an FIR against the perpetrators of this genocide call, these Hindutva fascism-incensed thugs are now excessively motivated and emboldened. In a country where the Muslims are already facing sporadic incidents of violence, mob lynchings, pogroms, ostracization and vilification, such genocidal calls will worsen the situation further.

What about the culprits like Yati, Annapurna Maa, Prabodhanand, etc?

Rather than arresting the main organisers of the Haridwar “Dharam Sansad”, the BJP-ruled Uttarakhand’s police and administration are pleading with Yati to give up his hunger strike. Yati has been adamantly sitting at a riverbank of the Ganges in Haridwar and participating in a hunger strike against the arrest of Waseem Rizvi.

CO Suyal and city magistrate Awadheesh Singh visited Yati at the venue of his hunger strike and tried to dissuade him from continuing the hunger strike. However, Yati, riding on sheer hubris in a poll-bound BJP-ruled state, continues to remain adamant on his demands.

The Uttarakhand Police not only let him off, according to Yati, while arresting Rizvi aka Tyagi, the policemen are also seen at Sarwanand Ghat in Har Ki Paudi, Haridwar, guarding Yati’s hunger strike venue. This shows how the thin line demarcating the state and the Hindutva fascists is disappearing fast.

“Tyagi was with me when he was arrested. I told the police to arrest me too as I am a co-accused, but they wouldn’t listen”, the hatemonger Yati accused on Friday. He also said, “I am on satyagraha and will neither eat nor drink until Tyagi is released.” The Uttarakhand Police didn’t provide an answer on why Yati wasn’t arrested with Tyagi, who is now in judicial custody for 14 days. It seems that either the BJP needs Yati on a long-term basis or there is something Yati knows that the BJP doesn’t want the world to know.

Playing his Islamophobic card, Yati accused that the government—though it’s run by the BJP and the RSS who promote and safeguard Yati and his ilk—didn’t arrest Tyagi when he was “Waseem Rizvi” and spoke against Islam’s vices; he was arrested only when he became a Hindu.

The other accused also remain scot-free even after the arrest of Waseem Rizvi. New “Dharam Sansad” meets are going to take place throughout Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP is going to fight anti-incumbency waves with sheer Hindutva fascist narratives and hatemongering. In this situation, it’s unlikely to see that those who raised the anti-Muslim genocide tempo at Haridwar’s “Dharam Sansad” shall face any sort of wrath of the state.

How does the law torment Muslims?

While the arrest of Waseem Rizvi shows how the police would chase the soft targets to safeguard the important culprits whom the ruling classes need for their political purposes, the Muslims who are unapologetic about their religious identity unlike Rizvi aka Tyagi, always face the heat of state repression.

Activists, politicians and academics like Umar Khalid, Meeran Haider, Khalid Saifi, Sharjeel Imam, Asif Iqbal Talha, Athar Khan, Gulfisha Fatima, Safoora Zargar, Tahir Hussain, etc, had or have been languishing behind the bars under UAPA, sedition and other draconian, non-bailable charges for waging a just struggle against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP government’s divisive agenda and the RSS’s incitement of communal violence.

These people are languishing behind the bars or are out on bails with a threat of imprisonment looming on them because they happen to be Muslims and have been demanding equal rights for Muslims as per the Constitution of India. They didn’t call for genocide of Hindus, they didn’t call upon the Muslim community to arm themselves against the Hindus or even the BJP-led government and they didn’t call for overthrowing the present government through an armed struggle for the establishment of an Islamic state.

Yet, these people are suffering the state’s persecution while those calling upon Hindus to arm themselves and kill fellow citizens are getting police protection and the impunity to spread venom in the society. Thanks to the BJP’s double standards on terrorism and nationalism that such a mockery of the judiciary and India’s constitutional rule has been possible.

Where will the events lead India?

The genocidal maniacs like Yati and his cohorts aren’t going to stop. They will continue to organise the “Dharam Sansad” meets and incite the lower-caste Hindus and ostracised Dalits to kill the Muslims. This will provide a leeway to the BJP, which is worried about a division in Hindu votes due to the lower castes and the Dalits going against the incumbent party in Uttar Pradesh.

If the BJP manages to return to power in Uttarakhand and, most importantly, in Uttar Pradesh, then it will augment the status of Yati and other RSS-sponsored militant Hindutva fascist monks. They may be elevated to constitutional positions and get a greater share of the power pie for their services. While the genocidal calls will also result in sporadic incidents of organised violence against Muslims.

As the RSS and the BJP maintain distance from these events—even though the BJP’s leader Ashwini Upadhyay participated in the programme—and don’t endorse them officially, any aftermaths of such genocidal rhetoric by these fascists wearing saffron robes to hoodwink the masses can be simply blamed on “fringe elements”. Thus, on a global scale, though such incidents draw public ire, the BJP and the RSS remain immune from criticism.

The arrest of Waseem Rizvi aka Jitendra Narayan Singh Tyagi will not lead to the arrest of Dasna temple’s chief Yati or ABHM chief Pandey aka Annapurna Maa or Hindutva fascist Prabodhanand. The only hope for the persecuted and the vulnerable Muslim community is in the defeat of the BJP in the assembly elections in both Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.

However, the ‘secular’ Congress party-led Chhattisgarh’s Hindu “Dharma Sansad” showed how all so-called anti-BJP parties also play according to the RSS’s playbook and there’s no scope for the Muslims to get justice within the Brahminical-feudal order.

So, for the time being, it seems whether the BJP remains in power or whether the Opposition manages to secure Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh in March 2022, the Muslims will need to be content with the arrest of Waseem Rizvi in the infamous “Dharma Sansad” case. They can’t expect anything more, neither from the BJP nor from its self-styled ‘secular’ opponents.

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