Vol. XLIII No. 23 June 09, 2019

HATE, THREAT & VIOLENCE: Modi Victory Emboldens Right-wing Goons

SOON after the Narendra Modi-led BJP secured an emphatic victory in the parliamentary election, reports about targeting of Muslims and dalits started trickling in from various parts of the country. The second consecutive win for the BJP, riding on a narrative built around communal nationalist jingoism, has emboldened right-wing goons and vigilantes.

Mohammed Barkat Alam experienced it first-hand in Gurgaon. On May 25, two days after the Lok Sabha election results were declared, a group of men accosted Alam when he was returning from a mosque after evening prayers. He was assaulted and asked to remove his skull cap and chant Jai Shri Ram. Hailing from Begusarai in Bihar, Alam worked as a tailor in Gurgaon.

Narrating the incident to the media, Alam said, “Four men on a motorcycle and two pedestrians intercepted me. One of the pedestrians hit me with a stick and told me that I was not allowed to wear a skullcap in the area. He told me to take it off. I told him that I was returning from the mosque. When I refused, he hit me and forcibly took the cap off. He said that if I resisted too much, he would make me chant ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and ‘Jai Shri Ram’.”

In Bihar, a man was shot at after he revealed his “Muslim name”. 28 year-old Mohd Qasim, a detergent salesman, was shot at in Begusarai on May 26 after the assailant asked him his name.

A video of an injured Qasim speaking about the incident has gone viral on social media. “I was stopped by Rajiv Yadav and he asked for my name… when I told him, he fired on me, saying ‘What are you doing here? You should go to Pakistan’,” he says in the video. “Rajiv Yadav was drunk and when he started loading another cartridge in his pistol, I pushed him and fled leaving my motorcycle.”

Qasim said none of the bystanders came to his rescue at first. However, when Yadav left the spot after firing in the air, some villagers took him to the local police station and the police then admitted him to the local government hospital.

Not just physical assaults, the BJP-RSS has unleashed a large number of trolls to target artists, academicians and celebrities who are critical of the Modi dispensation on social media. Here is one such example. An Instagram user celebrated the BJP's election win with a rape threat to filmmaker Anurag Kashyap’s daughter. The troll, whose Instagram handle has 'chowkidar' before his name, sent a vitriol-filled message to Kashyap's daughter on Instagram while also abusing the director. Tagging the prime minister's official Twitter handle, Kashyap wrote on May 23, "Dear @narendramodi sir. Congratulations on your victory and thank you for the message of inclusiveness. Sir please also tell us how do we deal with these followers of yours who celebrate your victory by threatening my daughter with messages like this for me being your dissenter.”

Persecution of Muslims by law enforcement agencies was again reported from Dadri in Uttar Pradesh, which hit the headlines after Mohammad Akhlaq was beaten to death by a mob following rumours that he and his family stored and consumed beef in 2015, a year after the Modi government began its first term in office.

On May 24, a day after the parliamentary poll results, police arrested two Muslim men – Zahid and Yakub – after what they called seizure of “gaumaas (cow meat)” from their homes. According to the FIR, police seized “20 kg gaumaas (cow meat)” from Zahid’s fridge, another 10 kg from a “tasla (vessel)”, a weighing scale, and a chopping board from Zahid and Yakub’s homes. A police officer told the media that “the local police was tipped off by a source…Yakub was at Zahid’s home when the police arrived. The two men were carving and weighing the meat. It has been sent to the forensic laboratory at the College of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry in Mathura.”

In the period between polling and election results in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state Gujarat, a dalit couple was attacked by a mob of 200-300 upper caste men. The incident took place in Vadodara district on May 19 and was reported to police on May 23. The couple was attacked after the husband posted on social media that the government does not allow their village temple to be used for dalit marriages. The police, instead of acting against the mob, registered a case against the husband and charged him with promoting enmity between different groups.

Such incidents of intimidation of Muslims and dalits have become a hallmark of the Modi dispensation.