EDITORIAL

Serial Re-Enactment Of The Dadri Lynching By The Sangh Parivar

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, breaking his silence very late, claimed that the lynching of a Muslim man over ‘cow slaughter/beef-eating’ rumours was a mere ‘social tragedy’ with no political motive, for which the Central Government and the ruling BJP bore no responsibility. The Minority Affairs Minister in his Cabinet said Dadri belonged to “the past” and India needed to “ look to the future.” 

Since then, a series of lynchings and attempted lynchings of Muslims in various parts of India, is a chilling reminder that far from being an isolated ‘tragedy’ that is ‘past,’ communal mob lynchings of Muslims is becoming a grim part of India’s present. A young man, Noman was killed by a mob in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, over an allegation that he was driving a truck that smuggled cows for slaughter. Another young truck driver, Zahid, in Udhampur (Jammu and Kashmir) was burnt to death by a mob – on the pretext that he was transporting cows for slaughter. There have been attempted mob violence over ‘beef’, ‘cow slaughter’ and ‘cow smuggling’ at Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh) and Hubbali (Karnataka). 

Leaving no doubt whatsoever about which forces are planning and carrying out such organized mob violence, the RSS mouthpiece Panchjanya has defended the Dadri lynching by repeating the lie that “Mohammad Akhlaq was killed in Dadri because he killed a cow.” Not only that, the Panchjanya has brazenly rationalized mob murders by saying that "Vedas mandate killing of those who slaughter cows."

The Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has also declared that Muslims “can live in India but must give up eating beef.” BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj has called for public hanging of those who eat beef and support the eating of beef. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has announced a countrywide ‘cow protection’ campaign that promises to ‘rescue’ cows from ‘smugglers.’

The timing of this vicious campaign is quite deliberate. Assembly elections are on in Bihar, and the BJP is desperate to create a Hindu-Muslim polarization over ‘cow slaughter’ and ‘beef’, hoping in particular to prise away Yadav support from the RJD. Prime Minister Modi himself led the charge, making repeated speeches asking Yadavs to consider if they, the worshippers of the cow, wished to vote for those who defended the eating of beef. The non-BJP ruling parties in Bihar too had begun to falter and fall into the BJP trap, getting defensive on the question of beef. It is ironic that while the BJP and Modi himself are so openly using lynch-mob politics to forge a Hindu vote-bank in Bihar and the rest of India, PM Modi has dismissed all concerns about the hate-crimes against Muslims as ‘pseudo-secularism’ and ‘vote bank politics.’  The so-called 'reprimand' by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and BJP chief Amit Shah to the hate-mongering BJP leaders is an unconvincing eyewash, especially since the said leaders are openly unreprentant, the lynchings continue unabated, and the BJP remains as wedded as ever to communal politics over 'beef' and 'cow.' 

It is India’s writers, artists and intellectuals who have spearheaded a remarkable tide of resistance. At present count 315 writers, performing artists and others have expressed protest – by returning awards, stepping down from posts, writing essays and open letters, or otherwise speaking out, to condemn mob lynchings and murders of writers and India’s minorities.

Common people too are speaking out, and resistance can be seen all over the country in various forms. In Bihar itself, a national daily found that across rural-urban and caste-community divides, young voters are declaring “This is a democracy: we have the freedom to eat what we like,” and voicing opposition to communal polarization and violence.

The Modi Government’s attempt to shrug off responsibility for the lynchings of Akhlaq, Noman and Zahid, and to jeer at and question the credentials of the protesting writers, artists and intellectuals is only exposing the Government’s arrogance and high-handedness.

India is a country of diverse cultural traditions and dissenting voices. The serial lynchings of Muslims and murders of writers and rationalists accompanied by explicit and implicit encouragement and patronage from the Narendra Modi Government make it clear that a war is being waged both on diversity and on dissent. The courage and conscience displayed by India’s common citizens and writers and artists show the way ahead. India’s Culture Minister derided the protests, saying ‘Let writers stop writing.’ But threats, insults and even bullets have not silenced the pens of India’s writers, nor the voices of India’s citizens who are defending pluralism and democratic values.