Hafiz Junaid, Pehlu Khan, Akhlaq, Yakub Sheikh, Najeeb Ahmed- these are not just some Muslim names; these are names of the victims of hate crimes, in the newest emerging- The Lynch Republic.
The vanguard of the right wing which is hell bent on enforcing Hindutva as a political agenda, is invoking the base and primeval instincts of common people by arousing a ‘fear of the unknown, of the other’. There is a striking similarity in the slurs hurled at Junaid-the 16 year old boy who was killed by a mob of 15 men on a train to Mathura, just a few days before the auspicious occasion of Id and Yakub Sheikh, the Mumbai based Toyota employee who was killed just few days after Bakri-id on the 28th September. In both the cases the remarks hurled at them were, “Tune kya gosht khaya?(What meat did you eat?) It is not even necessary to state here that neither of these incidents were about the “gosht “as the contractors of religion would have us believe. India is the largest exporter of cattle meat and most of the export houses are owned not by Muslims but Hindus! The real issue therefore is not cattle but Hindutva.
As things stand today, the present regime has completed more than three years of being in power. However the much promised ‘Ache Din’ remain as elusive as ever. On the contrary, the government has only unleashed a reign of terror, with unprecedented escalation of atrocities on Dalits, Adivasis, farmers, peasants, working masses, religious minorities, and people of oppressed nationalities. With historically undemocratic moves like demonetisation the fissures in the government policies and structural issues have become evident. It is here that the rhetoric of cow protection is being used as a double edged sword: one to distract people from the issues of growing structural inequality and the other to polarize people for electoral gains.
In this state of undeclared emergency under Modi’s rule, such measures are being used to rally together the majority in mobs, to keep the oppressed castes and minority communities in check. Not only do incidents like the attack on Junaid go unpunished, but people are even scared to testify them. The perpetrators in these lynch mobs go scot free and if even arrested, are immediately released on bail. The perpetrators of a heinous crime that devoured a life of a young person are already out on bail. Ordinary people have assumed the role of ‘gau-rakshaks’ and are indulging in these incidents. Cow is made more valuable than human lives. The obsessive Hindutva politics is leading to a veritable economic calamity on the already distressed rural India. With open support of the government in such episodes, people are unleashing their cathartic rage on Muslims and Dalits. The number of Muslims killed so far, were lynched just because they were Muslims: in appearance, name or wore a skull cap, beard etc. The rhetoric of hate against Pakistan is being used to charge them as Pakistanis. This has become a normalized practice against Muslims. This phenomenon has to be understood as an evolving genocide against Muslims in India.
The most alarming thing is the silence of the bystanders, the public, which amounts to tacit approval. While the media should take up this issue in a more significant way, a section of the electronic media is just about justifying it. The formal political opposition being meek, perhaps by choice, it becomes peoples’ responsibility to say emphatic NO to these crimes.
The Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights is appalled by this growing phenomenon and strongly condemns the role of the state in dealing with it. Lynching gives the state an opportunity to stand by and watch as vigilantism grows and people take law into their own hands. The near impunity shown towards the perpetrators encourages mob violence, a dangerous phenomenon. It perpetuates the belief that formal processes and the state machinery are useless and vigilantism is the only alternative. CPDR appeals to all the progressive sections of society to not only condemn these acts of lynching, but to also act strongly for the safety and security of citizens belonging to the minority and vulnerable communities. We must come forward to protect the tenets of democracy, egalitarianism, secularism and free speech.