Views from Srinagar
THE timing of Narendra Modi’s condemnation of cow vigilantism couldn’t have been worse, for the day he finally chose to lash out at ‘gau-rakshaks’, a Muslim man was lynched in the name of ‘gau bhakti’ in Jharkhand. The incident is symptomatic of the dichotomy between BJP government’s feeble condemnation and its tacit approval of the violence against Muslims.
Addressing a gathering at the Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat, Modi had said that “killing people in the name of ‘gau bhakti’ (cow worship) is not acceptable and this is not something Mahatma Gandhi would approve”. Just hours after Modi’s speech, Alimuddin was beaten to death in Jharkhand’s Ramgarh district.
The ‘Economic & Political Weekly’ rightly pointed out the pattern to the public lynching of Muslims in the last three years—“a rumour, often planted, linking them to cattle slaughter, the presence of a large group of people, the trails of photos or videos which record the violence, the eventual silence of “witnesses,” official denial topped with calculated insensitivity, and the slow response of the police”.
Needless to say, the inflammatory speeches of politicians from Hindu right-wing parties, including BJP, against Muslims provoke the killings.
Alimuddin’s lynching followed the equally tragic deaths of Junaid Khan, Mohammad Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan, Zahid Rasool Bhat, Abu Hanifa, Riazuddin Ali, Zafar Hussain and the list will go on as long as the killers enjoy patronage of the BJP government.
A report by IndiaSpend, a website focused on data journalism, points to the systematic manner in which violence is being perpetrated against Muslims in India.
Based on a survey of reports in English media, IndiaSpend concluded that 86% of those who died in incidents related to cow protectionism are Muslims. In the last 8 years, IndiaSpend found 63 cases that fall under this category, of which a staggering 61 took place after the BJP-led government at the Centre came to power in 2014.
In the last three years alone, 97% of these incidents took place, with 20 “cow-terror attacks” reported in the first six months of 2017, a 75% jump over the total number of such incidents in 2016. Further, almost half of all the instances of cow-terror took places in states governed by the BJP.
Indicating the political patronage enjoyed by the culprits, there was no mention of the culprits being arrested in about 5% of the attacks, though police registered cases in 21%, or 13, instances. In 23 cases, the attackers were mobs comprising people from various Hindu outfits, such as VHP, Bajrang Dal and local gauraksha committees.
The IndiaSpend report came close on the heels of a 15-year-old boy Junaid Khan’s murder by a mob over a brawl for a seat on a train. Curiously, the provocation, as one of the alleged attackers told the police, came in the form of the victim sporting a skull cap and beard, as also being abused as a “beef eater” by a passenger.
A day after the Jharkhand lynching incident, Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the lynchings should not be given political or communal angle. His statement was not any different from his other cabinet colleagues and serves as a chilling reminder of the BJP’s approach to the issue.
When Mohammad Akhlaq of Dadri (Uttar Pradesh) was lynched two years ago, it evoked feeble response from the BJP leaders. In the name of condemnation, Home Minister Rajnath Singh termed 50-year-old Akhlaq’s murder as “unfortunate”. He added a note of caution that it should not be given any “communal colour”. The ‘communal colour’ remark sounded ironical since the incident bore an unmistakable imprint of saffron brigade patronized by his own party.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was concerned about the bad image that such incidents bring to India and the “policy diversions” they cause. Like Rajnath Singh, he also didn’t spare a word for the victim’s family.
The stance of BJP leadership on the lynching incidents has been clear from the outset. The confirmation to this effect came from none less than the prime minister himself. The mainstream media would have us believe that the he ended his silence on Dadri, but the fact remains that Modi, like his cabinet ministers, said too little to serve as a condemnation of the shameful incident. All that Modi could say was Hindus and Muslims should fight poverty rather than each other and that people should ignore controversial statements made by politicians. Again not a word for the victim’s family. One would have expected outright condemnation from the PM and call for action against the perpetrators of the heinous crime.
One wonders which controversial statements Modi referred to because all of them came from his own party leaders like Sangeet Som, Sakshi Maharaj, Sanjeev Balyan, Mahesh Sharma and who can forget Yogi Adityanath and Sadhvi Prachi’s brazen attempts to incite violence against Muslims.
Forensic tests proved that the meat that the lynch mob found in Akhlaq’s fridge and which they claimed was the proof they needed to lynch him, was mutton, not beef. His family had insisted all along that there was no beef in the house. But did this revelation change anything. The saffron parties remain remorseless and defiant to this day. During his recent visit to the United States, PM Modi spoke vehemently against terrorism. Perhaps he should take a lead in this regard and practice what he preaches by not ignoring the “terrorism” of Hindutva groups in India. email@example.com