HATE, THREAT & VIOLENCE: Bodies of Muslims, Dalits Piling Up On Path to Modi’s ‘New India’
SINCE the Narendra Modi dispensation assumed office for a second term, mob lynching and attacks on Muslims and dalits have become a regular occurrence. Their script bears chilling similarity, and their geographical spread and frequency are horrifying. Worse still, the reactions of ruling party leaders, including the prime minister, to such diabolic incidents lay bare the quest for a “New India” – an RSS notion of Hindu rashtra where minorities are second-class citizens and have to submit themselves to the diktats of Hindutva forces, the self-proclaimed flag bearers of the Hindu religion.
‘JAI SHRI RAM’ CHANT RETURNS TO HAUNT MUSLIMS
Nearly three decades after Jai Shri Ram-shouting kar sevaks of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) demolished the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh triggering widespread riots, the chant has returned to haunt Muslims across the country. In the last two weeks of June, at least half-a-dozen incidents were reported from various parts of the country wherein Muslim men were targeted by Hindutva goons and forced to shout ‘Jai Shri Ram’ – the chant hailing Lord Ram, the mythical king of Ayodhya. And if they tried to resist, they were either injured or killed.
On June 18th morning, 22-year-old Tabrez Ansari was returning home from Jamshedpur on his motorcycle when a group of men accosted him in Seraikela Kharsawan district in Jharkhand. They accused him of stealing a motorcycle. He was then tied to an electricity pole, beaten up and forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Jai Hanuman’. A video of the incident shows Ansari chanting the slogans and pleading with the mob to stop the assault. But the beating continued. Ansari died of injuries on June 22. According to the family, Ansari married in April and was set to leave for Pune, where he worked as a welder. A family member said Ansari did not have any criminal record. “Let us assume he was caught for theft, but tying him up and beating him for hours and then asking him to chant Jai Shri Ram is shocking…His mistake was that he was a Muslim, otherwise he would have been alive,” Ansari’s uncle told the media.
Two days after Ansari was assaulted in Jharkhand, a 40-year-old madrassa teacher in Delhi was hit by a car for refusing to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ on June 20. Maulana Momin was injured and had to be hospitalised. “I was taking a stroll outside the madrassa when three men inside a car called out to me. They asked me to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’, I refused to do so. They started abusing me but I ignored them and started walking back to the madrassa. Suddenly, I was hit by the vehicle, and I fell near the footpath as the men fled. After some time, two-three people came to help me,” Momin told the media.
On the same day, another madrassa teacher was punched, kicked and pushed off a local train in Kolkata for refusing to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’. The victim, in his 20s, escaped with minor injuries. “...a group of people were chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ inside the compartment (of a Canning-Sealdah local train). They asked me to chant the same. When I refused, they started to beat me, nobody came to my rescue...They pushed me off the train at Park Circus station,” he told the media.
The week after, a 25-year-old Muslim taxi driver, Faisal Usman Khan, was beaten up, abused and forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ in Maharashtra’s Thane. On June 24, Khan was on his way to Mumbai when his car broke down. “I switched on the parking lights and was trying to restart the car when three men on a scooter came from behind and started banging the windows. They wanted to know why I had stopped my vehicle in the middle of the road…The accused started hitting me with wires and when I screamed out loud ‘Ya Allah’, I was told to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ if I wanted to be spared,” he said. The list is not exhaustive, but it reveals how much the right-wing forces have been emboldened by the victory of Narendra Modi’s BJP in the April-May Lok Sabha election.
DALITS UNDER ATTACK IN MODI’S GUJARAT
Having “shown Muslims their place” in Gujarat – the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president and union home minister Amit Shah, the Hindutva brigade has now trained their guns on dalits. After the 2002 carnage of Muslims, dalits are now facing the brunt of violence by right-wing forces.
On June 19, a deputy sarpanch of a village in Botad district of Gujarat was killed by a group of upper caste men who, according to the victim’s son, “cannot stand the fact that dalit get elected as sarpanch”. Manji Solanki was attacked with clubs and iron pipes when he was returning home on his motorcycle. This was the fifth attempt on his life by upper caste men since 2010. He died on way to a hospital.
Manji had applied to the district authorities for security in June 2018, but his application was “under process” when he was killed more than a year later. It shows the attitude of the administration towards dalits in Modi’s Gujarat. The June 19 killing of Manji is the third incident in less than a month in the Saurashtra region where a dalit man has been murdered, allegedly by upper caste men, according to The Indian Express.
Days after the killing of Manji, a dalit man was beaten up in Una in Gir Somnath district. According to 29-year-old Piyush Sarvaiya, he was abused and assaulted by two persons on June 27 when he was passing by Una town on his motorcycle. The accused included a convict in the murder case of Sarvaiya’s brother. “They told me that court had sentenced them to imprisonment till their last breath and they were not afraid of any further punishment,” Sarvaiya wrote in his complaint with the police.
Una had hit the headlines in 2016 when an upper caste mob assaulted seven members of a dalit (Sarvaiya) family for skinning a dead cow, triggering a nationwide outrage. During the 2016 attack, four of the Sarvaiya brothers were stripped, tied to the back of a car and beaten with sticks and iron rods, while some of the attackers filmed the assault.
MOB LYNCHING DEATH A ‘CUT & PASTE’ ALLEGATION: BJP MINISTER
As the mob lynching of Tabrez Ansari in Jharkhand triggered outrage across the length and breadth of the country, state minister C P Singh called it a “cut and paste” job of using whatever allegations fit such incidents. “Trend is prevalent these days to associate such incidents with the BJP, RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal. It’s a time of ‘cut and paste’ wherein who fits what words and where, it is difficult to say…The trend to politicise such incidents is wrong,” Singh told the media.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who often maintained a studied silence on such matter, too was compelled to speak out. But the prime minister stopped short of condemning the lynching outright and sending a stern message against such crime. He padded his condemnation of the incident with his criticism of some opposition leaders’ remarks on the incident.
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, he said, “It was said in the House that Jharkhand has become a hub of mob lynching and mob violence. The murder of a young man has saddened us all, I am also saddened. And we all should be…Nobody has the right to defame the entire state of Jharkhand…they are also our citizens.” According to a report in The Indian Express, Tabrez Ansari was the 18th mob violence victim in Jharkhand in three years. While Modi objected to the opposition calling Jharkhand “a hub of mob lynching” given its record on such crime, what he conveniently forgot is that he had called Delhi “the rape capital” following a series of cases of assault of women.
Modi’s assertion of building “a strong and inclusive India” after the BJP secured victory in the 2019 parliamentary election is belied by the recent spate of attacks on Muslims and dalits. The Left and democratic forces have to make concerted efforts to arrest the rising trend of mob lynching and targeting of Muslims and build a truly inclusive country, and not the RSS-BJP version of ‘New India’.