Have you heard about Saeid Mollaei? The world judo champion is in a crisis today. The Tehran regime asked him to stay away from the World Judo Championship on the grounds that there was a chance of him facing an Israeli judoka during the competition. The logic is that a country which gave the world its first-ever Islamic revolution could not accept that one of its sportspersons could be in the same arena as a Jew.
Saeid found this order unacceptable and disagreeable. As a result, the ruling regime in his country turned against him, forcing him to take up asylum in Germany. Though the International Judo Federation is supporting him, the issue has gone beyond sports, and has become a political game. Saeid is worried that his family may become victims of State-sponsored violence.
Let us look back at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The judoka from Egypt, Islam El Shehaby, after defeat, refused to shake hands with his opponent from Israel because of the fear of reprisals back home. In 2004, during the Athens Olympics, the two-time world champion from Iran, Arash Miresmaeili, also avoided competing with Israel’s Ehud Vaks. There has been a shameful history of communal and racial hate in sports. At first, it was created by the ruling regimes of various countries, and now their societies are supporting this.
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the late Libyan dictator, who once executed people publicly, eventually became a victim of mob lynching himself. This is the very nature of hatred; it ends up killing those who create and nurture animosity. The list of Arab rulers who became victims of this phenomenon is long.
Fundamentalist Islamic States apart, this sort of hatred is now affecting the most inclusive societies of the West. The Sikhs in America are often thrashed because they are mistaken to be Arab fundamentalists. A government delegation from India in Paris was shocked when they were chased away near the Eiffel Tower by a crowd which shouted “Paki, Paki” at them. A person who was there at that time revealed that had their hotel not been in the vicinity, they would have ended up as victims of mob violence.
In our own country, incidents of mob lynchings are becoming more frequent. First, some so-called cow vigilantes took law and order into their own hands, and now innocent people are becoming victims of this violence. There are news reports from different parts of the Hindi-belt states of people being beaten to death on suspicion of child-lifting. People are being consumed by violent impulses for various reasons. In the National Capital Region, a short while ago, two young people fatally beat up a motorcycle rider only because he was repeatedly honking to overtake them. We seem to have created a violent society, which is intolerant of the slightest provocation. These people are not lumpens or goons, but people like you and me.
When such incidents take place, politicians often try to blame each other to serve their own interests. But are the governments of a particular ideology responsible for this? How can we say this?
Recently, the police in Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled Jharkhand restored murder charges against 11 accused of mob violence, while an Alwar court acquitted criminals of all charges in the controversial Pehlu Khan murder case. The state has a Congress-ruled government. The videos of Pehlu Khan’s lynching are still there on social media. Why couldn’t the state police then provide evidence of the crime? It is clear that it is not politics but a vicious fury that is driving people from Atlanta to Alwar.
In Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh, inspector Subodh Singh became a victim of mob violence. Some time ago, the people charged for his murder got bail. When they got out of jail, they received a huge welcome from a large number of people as though they had returned as victors of a war. Some enthusiasts even shouted “Bharat mata ki jai”, and “Vande Mataram”.
There was a time when freedom fighters Ashfaqullah Khan and Bhagat Singh chanted these slogans while they were being hanged. Needless to say, such a warm public welcome to criminals can only further strengthen an already violent society.
In these moments of crisis, I am often reminded of Heraclitus, the great Greek rationalist from 540BC. He said: “The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think and what you do is who you become.”
If not today, tomorrow, we will have to confront the people who are busy misguiding people through social media.