India’s Lynching Epidemic

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There have been more than 90 incidents of cow related violence in India almost 90% during periods of BJP governments. Cow vigilantism—a phenomenon unique to India—has led to numerous cases of mob lynching—again uniquely Indian. ‘Mobocracy’ is fast becoming a norm in India. The highest court in India has asked the Indian Parliament to enact laws specifically to deal with this menace but so far the BJP government remains unmoved because it relies on radical Hindu votes and the extremist organizations like the RSS that brought Modi to power.

The targets of Hindu zealots ’rage are mainly Muslims though a never to be forgotten incident in the past was the one in which a Catholic priest and his children were burnt alive in a car that a crazed mob had surrounded. In 2017 11 Muslims were killed by demented fanatical mobs. Compiled and researched data published by India media indicates that—- “Most of these incidents have occurred over the last four years since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) assumed power in May 2014. Only one incident each was reported in 2012 and 2013. Of all victims killed or injured, whose identity was reported in news reports, 56% were Muslim, 11% were Dalit, and 9% were Hindu. —-According to the IndiaSpend’s data, 47 of these incidents were reported from the BJP ruled states. The number of such incidents reported from Congress ruled states was 10”.

In August 2017, Human Rights Watch in its report said that Indian authorities should promptly investigate and prosecute self-appointed “cow protectors” who have committed brutal attacks against Muslims and Dalits over rumors that they sold, bought, or killed cows for beef. India’s judiciary has stated that it is the responsibility of states to tackle this menace and ensure law and order. The states in northern India account for more 70% of this violence but there have been incidents in the south and east also. Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan lead the pack.

Mob lynching is now an epidemic in India. In an article Apoorvand had this to say— “This was the first major show of protest by the Muslims of India to express their anguish and anger at the continuing violent attacks on members of their community across India. The day before Eid, 15-year-old Junaid Khan lost his life after being attacked by fellow passengers on a train. He was mocked for being Muslim and a “beef-eater” and was knifed to death. Mob violence has threatened not just the Muslim community but also other minorities. In 2016, seven members of a Dalit family were attacked by cow vigilantes in the state of Gujarat, which led to mass protests by the Dalit community. Attacks on Christians remain under-reported, but incidents involving churches and priests accused of converting Hindus to Christianity continue. The media has come to call these incidents “mob lynching”, a term that misrepresents what is really going on in India. The spate of violent attacks is in no way spontaneous expressions of mob anger. They are the product of systematic incitement to violence by Hindu nationalists”. Activists of Hindu Sena protested against a government inquiry’s conclusion that Mohammed Akhlaq, victim of mob lynching in Uttar Pradesh was innocent. The crazed Hindu mobs do not want justice they simply want to have their own as part of a strategy.

Apoor vand goes on to write that— “One of the first major cases to be prominently covered by the media in recent years was the 2015 murder of 52-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq. An angry mob accusing Akhlaq of eating beef dragged him out of his home in Bishara, a village near the city of Dadri in the state of Uttar Pradesh, and beat him to death. The attack happened after the local Hindu temple announced on its public address system that a cow had been slaughtered. The killing of Akhlaq attracted media attention and widespread condemnation from political parties except for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). For more than a week Prime Minister Narendra Modi kept silent over the incident and even after he spoke about it, he did not condemn it outright. BJP officials kept calling it an accident and a result of the genuine anger of the Hindus over the slaughtering of a cow. Since the murder of Alkhlaq, attacks on Muslims related to cow slaughter or smuggling rumours have increased. In October 2015, amid protests spurred by rumours of cow slaughtering, a truck was attacked with a petrol bomb, killing one Muslim man in Jammu and Kashmir state. In March 2016, two Muslims were killed and hanged in in the tribal state of Jharkahnd after being accused of smuggling cows”.

This year, The Indian Express, an English-language daily, identified seven other incidents between March and May involving lynching of a member of a minority group, four of them instigated by cow vigilantes. On June 22, three Muslims were killed in West Bengal state after being accused of cow smuggling. On June 27, a Muslim dairy owner in the state of Jharkhand was attacked by a mob after being accused of killing a cow; the man was rushed to a hospital in critical condition after the police managed to save him from his attackers. This analysis is spot on and goes to the heart of the problem—

Engaging in “meat politics” and calling for cow protection have been a favorite tool for many Hindu nationalist politicians. Even PM Narendra Modi has use. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist organisation affiliated with the BJP, has also had a role to play in whipping up nationalist Hindu sentiments and encouraging, even if indirectly, cow vigilantism. Other Hindu nationalist organisations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), loosely associated with the RSS, have gone further and declared: “Cow protectors are protectors. How can they be killers? Killers cannot be protectors.” The RSS never condemns or distances itself from the VHP; neither does the BJP. Hinduisation of public spaces also helps to mobilise solidarity for groups targeting minority communities. Small groups singing religious or devotional songs or distributing religious pamphlets can be increasingly seen in local trains, parks and other public spaces. They often propagate anti-minority rumors and sentiments. Within Hindu communities, the formation of cow protection groups has intensified in recent years and has also contributed to the spread of rumors and hate speech. These groups encourage various hateful beliefs about Muslims: that they are “cow eaters”, a threat to Hindu women, and members of terror sleeper cells. They spread ludicrous fears that the Muslim population is growing and will outnumber Hindus in India. This atmosphere of sustained hatred against Muslims makes attacks on them seem spontaneous and the product of mob anger. But few question why the mob is angry in the first place. In addition, the general perception of the justice system as slow and ineffective is making popular the idea that the people should take justice into their own hands. The culture of acceptance of summary justice is harnessed by the Hindu nationalist groups to justify punishments for perceived crimes committed by Muslims”.

 Most shameful is the silence and the complicity of the political class in India. The media and some observers, including as cautious a political analyst as Pratap Bhanu Mehta, feel that the—“ current spate of mob lynching is qualitatively different and is setting a new benchmark. They see clear complicity of the people at the helm of power in the violence. When you have a prime minister who as the chief minister of Gujarat had himself advocated extrajudicial encounters and a man as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, who has built his political career propagating violence against minorities, the mobs feel empowered. They also know that they enjoy impunity and patronage from the power. —Minorities no longer expect the ruling BJP to condemn the mob lynchings. What is more worrying is that other political parties are also not too forthcoming. Other than in one or two tweets and customary condemnation, they have refrained from visiting the victims or their surviving families. An imaginary Hindu fear seems to have overpowered the political class and rendered them paralysed. Their failure to come forward in support of Muslims and Christians shows that the secular resolve in the Indian body politic has weakened. The decision of the Muslim community to use its most important festival of Eid to lodge its protest against the continued attacks and lynchings should serve as a wake-up call to the governments and the political class in general. Muslims are telling them that they will not take it lying down anymore. It is high time liberal Hindus and the political parties get their act together, or it may be too late for India.

This graphic depiction shows the horror that is mob violence in India today—9 states 27 killings in one year—the pattern is discernible.

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