Dadri Lynching: Come and see the Blood in the Streets
Incidents of violence targetting the minorities have become routine in the last 16 months. Prime Minister Modi’s government has done little to shun the belief that the culprits don’t enjoy its patronage
Sadiq Naqvi Delhi
This year, October, which is a month of celebration and festivities, has been unusually violent. Days of calm and peace have been few and far between. Hatred and intolerance seem to have taken over the festive mood. So much so that it forced President Pranab Mukherjee to invoke Goddess Durga against those who have been working consciously to undermine the Constitution by openly targetting the Muslims and others who don’t conform with their worldview. He was not specific but it was certainly a reference to the radical Hindutva outfits which seek to change the country’s image from a secular republic to a Hindu Rashtra.
The lynching of Akhlaq Ahmad in Dadri came as a shock even to those who have been watching this show of bloodlust and hatred from the margins since the BJP-led NDA government took oath under the Constitution in May 2014.
September 28 was just another normal day in Bishara village of Dadri, situated 45 kilometres from national capital New Delhi until about 10 pm when an unusual announcement from the local temple set off a violent mob. The priest, on the insistence of some people including relatives of Suresh Rana, a local leader belonging to the BJP, announced that the Muslim family of Ahmad had slaughtered a cow. Soon, the Hindu villagers, which included some of Ahmad’s friends, attacked his house. The family pleaded for mercy and tried to explain to those they had been living with for so many years that the meat in the house was not beef. They had barely finished celebrating Eid ul Adha, a festival which mostly goes on for three days during which Muslims mostly sacrifice goats, sheep or buffaloes. However, the bloodthirsty mob had come with a definite plan. The 52-year-old Ahmad, who worked as a daily wager, and his son, 22-year-old Danish, were dragged out of their house by the 100-strong mob and brutally beaten with bricks. While Ahmad succumbed to injuries, Danish was critical and recovering in the Army hospital. Ahmad’s other son, Sartaj, serves in the Indian Air Force. Reports suggest that there was a campaign going on for about a week on different platforms including Whatsapp on the disappearance of a calf in the region.
As a police officer from UP put it, “Merely rumours are leading to killings. You suddenly hear that a stone was thrown and that it hit someone, but when you investigate you are not able to make out who threw the stone and who was hit. It all turns out to be mere rumour.”
The lynching of Ahmad is not an isolated incident. Scores of such incidents have taken place ever since Narendra Modi began his journey from Gandhinagar to New Delhi. “We are lately seeing that a lot of outfits which subscribe to ideology similar to that of the RSS have become more active in the past year,” a senior police officer in Lucknow told this reporter. “Some of them are doing it in the garb of cow protection while others have raised the bogey of Hindu women being in danger from Muslim men.” A recent documentary by Al Jazeera, India’s Hindu Fundamentalists, shows this formidable network which is particularly active in North India.
A day before the incident in Dadri, an unidentified 42-year-old Muslim man was lynched in Jana village in Kanpur. The villagers started calling him a Pakistani terrorist after he started screaming, “Allah, Allah!” when he was thrashed by them. Even there reports suggest there were rumours that a Pakistani terrorist was present in the area. He was dragged half-a-kilometre to the bank of the Ganga and beaten to death. With the Dadri incident overshadowing this, the state government is yet to come out with all the details of the investigation including the identity of the victim.
In March this year, in Dimapur, the capital of Nagaland, one Shareefuddin Khan, whose siblings served in the Indian Army, was brutally lynched inside the jail by local students. Khan, who was initially accused of raping a college girl, was in judicial custody after arrest. It was later found that it was a case of consensual sex. The rumours which began doing the rounds after his arrest in local newspapers and social media platforms branded Khan an illegal Bangladeshi immigrant and finally led to the violence which resulted in his killing a week later. The BJP including Modi have been raising the bogey of illegal Bangladeshi immigration which has led to sharp divisions and even widespread violence in Assam and other parts of the Northeast where Bengali-speaking Muslims have been routinely targetted. “You can write it down. After May 16, these Bangladeshis better be prepared with their bags packed,” Modi had announced in a Lok Sabha election rally in Serampore in West Bengal, which like many parts of Assam shares a porous border with Bangladesh.
On June 4, 2014, Mohsin Sadiq Sheikh, a Muslim techie, was killed by a mob in Pune. The attackers were said to be from the Hindu Rashtra Sena, a radical outfit. They attacked him after an objectionable post started doing the rounds on social media platforms. His friend, Riyaz, who was accompanying him, told a newspaper that he was targetted because he wore a skull cap and sported a beard.
All these incidents have led many to wonder if these killings have the sanction of the central government. Modi has been reluctant to criticise these acts. Even when he has done so, he has been very careful with his words. As when he blamed the state governments and said the Centre is not at fault since law and order is a state subject. Modi, who won the election on the popular plank of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’, which loosely translates into a promise of development for all sections, didn’t mention the barbarity in Bishara village. In an election speech in Bihar on October 8, he instead launched a veiled attack on Lalu Yadav, a leader of the secular alliance which is in power in Bihar, over the latter’s statement that even Hindus eat beef. Modi and his colleagues in the BJP are the biggest champions of Hindutva politics and cow protection in the country. In his campaign speeches for the Lok Sabha elections, consciously not making a distinction between cow and buffalo meat, Modi had repeatedly evoked the ‘Pink Revolution’, a term he coined for burgeoning beef exports, and targetted the Congress-led UPA government for failing to protect cows. Since cow slaughter is banned in most states, India mostly exports buffalo meat.
His reluctant utterances also don’t square with what his own partymen have been openly doing. Parliamentarians and legislators belonging to the BJP, too, have been outspoken about their communal biases. Statements from several BJP leaders asking anyone who doesn’t abide by their worldview to ‘move to Pakistan’ have become routine in the past 16 months. They are not afraid of engaging in violence too. On October 8, Engineer Rashid, an Independent legislator, was thrashed by BJP legislators inside the premises of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly after he organised a beef party. “Whoever disrespects Gau Mata (mother cow) will have to face this. Everyone knows the cow is sacred to Hindus,” said Ravindra Raina, a legislator from the ruling BJP, who was among the attackers. The beef ban in Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim- majority state, which led to protests by the Kashmiris in the Valley was recently suspended by the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, some of Modi’s colleagues in the Union Cabinet and the BJP, like Agriculture Minister Sanjeev Baliyan and Sangeet Singh Som, both accused in the anti-Muslim riots of September 2013 in Muzaffarnagar, a town less than 100 km from Dadri, in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, have given out statements warning of more such incidents. “If the UP government doesn’t stop cow slaughter, there can be more such incidents,” Baliyan told a news channel. Another outfit called the Hindu Yuva Vahini, floated by rabble-rouser BJP MP Yogi Adityanath, tried to enter Bishara village and offered arms to the Hindu villagers who it said were being hounded in the aftermath of
There is a belief that the lynching is part of a strategy to keep the communal cauldron simmering since panchayat elections are on in Uttar Pradesh and neighbouring Bihar is voting in its
Even in 2013, the riots in Muzaffarnagar, the most violent flare-up in a string of incidents of communal violence in UP, led to a massive polarisation which finally culminated with the BJP bagging a mammoth 73 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 general election. Even then Modi maintained silence, while Amit Shah, BJP chief and Modi’s lieutenant, was caught on camera seeking revenge. “This election is about voting out the government that protects and gives compensation to those who killed Jats. It is about badla (revenge) and protecting izzat (honour),” he had said in an election speech in Bijnor, a town next to Muzaffarnagar. While Shah spoke for the Jats, more than 50 Muslims were killed and several thousand displaced from the Jat-majority villages during the riots in Muzaffarnagar.
Meanwhile, these incidents are also a manifestation of the vitriol against the secular intelligentsia and minorities which was mostly confined to social media but is now spilling over to the streets. As this was being written, two more incidents of brutal lynching of Muslim men surfaced. Noman was killed by a mob in Nahan, Himachal Pradesh, when his truck carrying cattle was apprehended by alleged Bajrang Dal members, while Zahid Bhat, a trucker from Anantnag in Kashmir, was attacked by a vigilante group in Udhampur in Jammu. He succumbed to his injuries at Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi.