By Dr. M. Mohibul Haque, Muslim Mirror
Lynching is a new word added to our collective memory since 2014.With the BJP’s rise to power at the centre and Modi’s elevation as the Prime Minister the rightist forces seem to be emboldened to target Muslims, Christians, Dalits, Communists and rationalists across the country. It began with the brutal murder of Mohsin Shaikh,a techie who was killed in Pune for wearing beard while returning from evening prayer on 2nd June 2014. The response of government to the brutal killing and the blame game that followed made it clear to the lynch mobs that it is a new normal under the ruling dispensation. In a disturbing judgement the Court granted bails to all the accused and shockingly observed that the victim spotted beard and wore Pathan suit which was justifiably the cause of outrage of the mob.
Lynching is an organized form of collective violence. It cannot take place unless a large number of people in a given society are convinced that the time has come to go for collective violence against a real or perceived enemy. Therefore, lynching may appear as a spontaneous act of violence but in reality it is the outcome of a sustained campaign and propaganda. It is the manifestation of deep rooted biases, prejudices and hatred found in a considerably high number of people in a given society.
Lynching is also the collective dishonouring and degrading of a community. When a person from a particular community is lynched, a message is sent to all other members of that community that they are vulnerable and they must submit to the will of the majority.
The incidents of lynching since 2014 and the patterns involved in those incidents suggest that lynching is deliberate and systematic targeting of Muslims across the country. It is the result of persistent propaganda against Muslims by the Hindutva groups. The issues like ‘love jihad’, ‘cow slaughter’, ‘population explosion’, ‘Islamic terrorism’ etc. have deliberately been brought in the political arena by the rightist forces to generate hate which would eventually create anxiety and fear amongst the majority. This fear and anxiety can easily be exploited for expanding social and political base among the majority communities who are otherwise divided horizontally and vertically. This ‘fear of the minority’ would unite a significant portion of majority to vote in a desired manner. Unfortunately, this design seems to be working for the rightist forces. However, the systematic propaganda against minorities especially Muslims has not only generated desired fear but it has also created a kind of mass approval for the targetting of Muslims and teaching them a lesson.
The incentives for lynching and hate politics are lucrative. The killers are glorified and rewarded, and the party supporting the perpetrators is voted to power. For instance, Akhlaq who was brutally assaulted and killed in Dadri in presence of his family on the pretext that the meat that was found in his fridge was of cow. All accused of the gory incident are not only granted bail by the Hon’ble Allahabad High Court but 15 of them have also been given jobs in NTPC which is a government body. According to reports the local leadership of BJP had mounted pressure on NTPC plant located in Dadri to accommodate the accused persons.One of the accused’s dead body was draped in National Flag after his natural death in jail. One of the accused reportedly is going to be fielded as a candidate in the next parliamentary election by a new rightist political outfit.
Similarly, eight convicts of Ramgarh (Jharkhand) mob lynching of Alimuddin Ansari who were awarded death sentence by fast-track court and latterly granted bail by Hon’ble Ranchi High Court were garlanded by Union Minister Mr. Jayant Sinha in a felicitation ceremony organized by the BJP in honour of the convicts. A tableau of Shambhulal Reger was taken out by Hindu outfits during the Ram Naumi procession on 25th March 2018 in Jodhpur.Shambhulal Reger is the man who seriously wounded a Muslim labourer from West Bengal and later burnt him alive. He was cruel enough to filmthe gruesome act and later release the video on social media with an open threat to Muslims against love jihad. He also instigated Hindus to unite against Muslims and teach them a lesson.
Kashmir conflict is also used for inflaming the passion against Muslims. The Kathua rape case in which an eight- year old girl Asifa Bano was abducted, tortured, raped and then murdered in a highly barbaric manner is a manifestation of the deeply ingrained hatred against Muslims. The police solved the mystery of a difficult case by arresting eight men including four police officers for committing the crime and destroying evidences. The arrest of accused persons of this heinous crime was opposed by the rightist Hindu organizations. Lawyers tried to prevent police from filing charge sheet while two ministers of the ruling BJP in J&K marched shoulder to shoulder in rally organised in support of the accused persons.
Causes and Motivations
Although lynching is not a new phenomenon in India yet the sudden surge in the incidents since BJP’s coming to power in the centre in 2014 and the targets in almost 90 percent of these cases being the Muslims suggest that it is the result of a sinister campaign. According to an Indiaspend report 97 percent of the bovine-related mob violence was registered after BJP’s coming to power in May 2014 and most of these cases were reported from the BJP-ruled states.Behind all these gruesome tragedies a particular ideological narrative is at work. We should not forget that Sangh ideologue Golwalkar projected the Muslims, the Christians and the Communists as ‘internal threats’ (Bunch of Thoughts). Perhaps the lynch mobs are confident that they enjoy impunity if the victim belongs to the group categorised by Golwalkar as ‘internal threats’.Lynching is not a sporadic event as being smartly projected. It is a systematic attack on Muslims to psychologically demoralise, economically destroy, socially isolate and to make them politically irrelevant. This ideological narrative of ‘othering’ is contributing to a horrific mass anger which is resulting in lynching after every brief interval and which is capable of generating enough emotional lava to destroy a delicate inter-communal harmony and the cherished ideals of our composite culture. This trend if not controlled through strong political will and social mobilisation, may culminate into genocide. The political leaders of the ruling dispensation must break their silence on this issue and openly condemn it. It is worrying that the perpetrators of the lynching are not showing any signs of remorse rather they are justifying it.
Certainty of punishment works as a deterrence to crime. In most of the cases of lynching in India the accused were granted bail by the courts as the police did not pursue the case effectively and were warmly welcomed by the rightist forces. Political leaders to the rank of ministers in the Union and states garlanded the accused which gave a message to others that this form of violence against minorities has been legitimized. It is important that the ruling dispensation and its affiliates do not approve lynching in any circumstances whatsoever. The principle of compensatory justice must be applied in the cases of mob violence and the family of the victim must get adequate compensation and job to a member of the family should be given by the state government.Moreover, police should be held accountable for the lynching because in many cases police personnel were present on the spot while the victims were lynched. The police personnel should be specially trained to control mob violence.
Lynching is becoming a national scourge. There is a need to sensitize people at large against this growing menace. However, it must be pointed out that it should not be seen as merely a law and order problem. The phenomenon of Lynching has a legitimizing ideological narrative behind it. This is high time to learn lesson from Pakistan where theo fascism has created havoc. The attempt at subordination of minorities and other vulnerable groups like Dalits, Tribes and women will degenerate India into what Shashi Tharoor calls a ‘Hindu Pakistan’. The murders of Kalburgi, Dabholkar, Pansare, and Gauri Lankesh must alarm us that an ideology of violence and intimidation is gaining space in India which is directed against all who disagree with a particular way of thinking. One of the oldest spiritual and intellectual traditions of the world is being hijacked by politicians who are turning it into a political ideology of hate and violence. The spiritual and intellectual tradition is to be reclaimed by its adherents.
The author is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, AMU Aligarh