An open letter to Psychology/Psychiatry Associations and Bodies in India

Sadaf
3 min readAug 2, 2023

On June 18th, I wrote a hopeful blog here on medium, about people choosing love and solidarity over hate. And while I still believe that this is largely the case, the recent spat of Islamophobic hate crimes has become difficult to deny. An RPF officer shot his senior who could have stopped him, and then went on to target racially and shoot visibly Muslim men, on the Jaipur express. He said that if one has to live in India, one has to choose Modi and Yogi Adityanath. Maybe the other incidents that followed are related, copy cat, domino effect hate crimes or they are not. But in both Bihar and Haryana, a mosque was targeted and burnt. In Nuh, Haryana, the imam was killed, Muslim-owned shops were burnt and a mob of 200 was seen threatening people and setting fire to shops and property. The unrest is reported to have reached Delhi NCR. Other incidents from Assam, Gujarat and other parts of the country include Muslim men being beaten, Muslim women being sexually assaulted and their hijab taken off.

With the violence in Manipur, rightly so, there are calls to take cognizance of the matter and even the Chief Justice of India has spoken about it. There are even calls within the psychology community to come ahead and provide pro-bono therapy for Manipur victims.

However, apart from a small minority of therapists who came forward during Shaheen Bagh and the Bhuj earthquake that had communal favours, usually the clinical community is silent about the rising Islamophobia. Due to the proactive legislation, they have been compelled to give statements supporting queer and trans rights and banning conversion therapy. But there is a studied silence when it comes to hate crimes.

In the inquiry into the RPF officer incident, the angle that is being used is of mental health. It is being said he was not mentally okay. The fact that he specifically targeted Muslims or used hate speech is being erased from the inquiry as well as most news reporting. This is such an old card, being used forever whenever a White shooter in the US goes on a rampage. Instead of gawking in shock about the racism in the US psychology space, perhaps we should see the hate, Islamphobia and casteism in ourselves. When we try to glorify how amazing Indian ancient psychology/yoga psychology is, we should also balance it out with taking account of systemic erasure and hate, even in the clinician community.

This is the time when the mental health community, especially organized committees like the National Association of Psychology, Indian Association of Clinical Psychologists, Indian Psychiatric Society, Bombay Psychiatry association and others, need to come forward and a) declare the difference between taught hate (and systematic dehumanization of minorities) and mental health/illness b) call out the news channels and politicians preaching hate and c) talk about the mental health cost on Muslims of India, of living under dread.

The news channels and whatabouters might claim that if the hate speech is responsible for this then why is it “only one incident”, but we need to remember, it is not one incident, cow vigilantes and others have been targeting Muslims constantly over the last few years and secondly, the “extremes” prove the norm — that is how the bell curve works. Everyone has to hate/dehumanise the minority enough to not be shocked when one person acts on the hatred.

We need to wake up and act like a democracy if we are to celebrate 75 years of being democratic, of being G20 hosts and hosts of other international sporting and political events. And its time for apolitical health and mental health bodies in the country to wake up.

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Sadaf

Love psychology, economics, art, music, books, poetry, blogs, cooking and select sports.A jack of all trades, perhaps master of none. Psychologist.