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The night of broken glass: Religious fanaticism that costs lives in Israel and India

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Aniruddha Biswas
Aniruddha Biswas
Entrepreneur. Patriot. [email protected]

On the night of 9th November, 1938, the butchers of Nazi Germany laid siege to their own citizens belonging to the Jewish faith, in a pogrom whose unparalleled destruction saw it go down in history as Kristallnacht, or ‘the night of broken glass’.

It was a pogrom without parallel, both in the cruelty it unleashed and the devastation it caused. Over 7000 Jewish-owned businesses were destroyed. 267 synagogues were razed to the ground. The number of Jewish men who died, or simply disappeared, ran into hundreds.

An incident that sent shock waves around the world, it was a precursor to the Holocaust, the annihilation of 6 million Jews, soon to come. 83 years later, for the residents of Lod, a sleepy suburb near the Israeli capital Tel Aviv, the blood-thirsty cries of hate-filled Arab mobs rampaging through their neighbourhoods with Molotov cocktails brought the memories of ‘the night of broken glass’ rushing back.

“It’s another Kristallnacht,” they said. “Nothing short of war.” While few had experienced it themselves, all except the very young were familiar with what had unfolded, and the genocide that followed. As the attacks on their lives and properties began, the Jews drew on every ounce of resilience history had placed at their command, and began to mount a spirited defence.

As rockets continued to fall in Israel, with over 700 explosions in the last 24 hours sending ordinary Jews scrambling for cover, the usual charade gathered momentum across the world media, disseminating what they euphemistically call news. While the western media including the BBC and CNN made feeble attempts to mask their biased reportage, channels like Al Jazeera began to reveal their true selves –  unabashed mouthpieces for the proponents of Jihad.

Even as the terrorist Islamist group Hamas continued to launch its barrage of rockets indiscriminately into the homes of Israeli civilians, in the ‘civilized’ bastions of Europe and America, a massive cover-up operation had already begun.

Was the Israeli action disproportionate? Was Israel deliberately killing children? Was Israel a racist state? The knives were out to blunt the edge of Israel’s legitimate defence of its citizens. It was a cover-up that had always followed the same pattern. One that sought to undermine the tumultuous battle the people of Israel have been fighting from time immemorial, against the forces determined to obliterate them from the face of the earth. Be it the fascist Nazi regime of Hitler, which sent millions of helpless Jews to their graves.

Or be it the Islamists, today the biggest danger to the existence of Israel and the Jewish people, who had already made their intent clear with a wave of attacks on innocent Jews in the streets of Europe, and across the world. The marauding armies of Allah hated Jews with a passion. It was a visceral hatred ordained in their holy book, and propagated in the streets.

A hatred that knew no geographical boundaries, only exclusivist religious ones. In Lod, and in other Israeli cities under siege from its own neighbourhoods, many Jews attempted to escape the pogrom by taking down the sacred mezuzot that hung from their doors.

Thousands of miles away, in a sleepy suburb of Kolkata, capital of the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, a similar action was destined to go unrewarded. Even as Madhabi Sarkar, the 62-year-old mother of Abhijit Sarkar, a member of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), rubbed the sacred Om from her door, she knew the writing was on the wall.

From the day her son Abhijit had decided to sign up for the Hindu Nationalist BJP, Madhabi’s heart had been heavy with fear. After all, she lived in a state in India whose ruler publicly pandered to Islamists, in exchange for the assurance of their votes which kept her in power.

Yet, the election results had just been declared. The Islamist-backing party had comprehensively won. Surely, the jihadists now had no reason to harm her son. Besides, as a glance outside her tiny window revealed, there was the police patrolling right outside, in the lane that led to her home.

It was only many hours later, long after her sons Abhijit and Biswajit had returned home, that she heard the muffled cries approaching, even as she cast nervous glances at her boys, blissfully curled up with the innocence of sleep. Rushing to the window, she tried to draw the flimsy petticoat she used as a curtain, as if to keep the evil eye away from her home.

It was not to be.

Even as the door was smashed open with lathis and sickles, Madhabi threw herself on the floor and tried to stop the onward march of doom. “Amaar chele aar BJP korbe na,” she begged. “Oke chere dao.” My son will never work for the BJP again. Please let him go. As a response, a short skinny man with a skull cap and a beard screamed from somewhere behind. “Oi khankir chele ta kothaye. Oke bar koro.” Where is that son-of-a-whore. Send him to us.

That was the last sound Madhabi heard, before she felt a lathi smash against her skull. Even as she fell, she could sense the mob rampage through her tiny one-room house, smashing everything in its path. Luckily for her, Madhabi lost consciousness, a few minutes before her son Abhijit lost his life. She was to learn later that his head had been smashed in by lathis, and just to make sure, a sickle had slit open his throat. She also learnt that her attackers had not been identified, yet. The police, who she had spotted just that evening patrolling her lane, were simply not interested.

Over 20 mothers across the state of West Bengal, a state which had been carved out of Muslim-majority East Bengal as a homeland for the Hindus, lost their sons in the orgy of violence unleashed by Jihadists, as the party they supported returned to power.

It was Kristallnacht playing out all over again. Except, here there was no Benjamin Netanhayu standing with his people, declaring a ‘state of emergency’, and vowing to do everything in his capacity to deliver justice to his citizens. There was the Chief Minister of Bengal who, in the face of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, mocked the deaths as a figment of the BJP party’s imagination.

Most tragically of all, there was the ruling party of India who, in the face of the systematic slaughter of those Hindus of Bengal who supported them against terrifying odds, did not so much as lift a finger. If you don’t learn the lessons of history, they say, it will repeat itself. Israel, and its people, have learnt the hard way.

India, condemned to politicians who are either sleeping with the enemy, or tragically incapacitated by its machinations, remains oblivious to the lessons of history and as a consequence, the fate of its citizens.

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Aniruddha Biswas
Aniruddha Biswas
Entrepreneur. Patriot. [email protected]
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