Rise of mobocracy and invisiblization of Muslims in India

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Members of Muslim community and family members of mob lynching victims gathered during the protest in New Delhi . A file image.

 

Is Hindutva paying dividends for Hindus or will ultimately engulf them too in the crossfire of extremist hate against Muslims sooner or later? Thus attacking an ordinary citizen on the street in name of protecting a cow is in fact an attack on Constitution, Indian Army, National Anthem, National Flag, Bharat Mata, and the India itself.

By Hijab Khatoon

On March 15th , right wing terrorist Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a New Zealand Citizen, rampaged through the two mosque in the Christchurch city, New Zealand and slaughtered 50  and injured around 36 people during Friday prayers with semi-automatic weapons. Bangladesh cricket team just escaped unhurt, during shooting while it was present in the vicinity of the mosque. Hate crimes are rampant and manifesting it throughout the world today in various forms. At a time when the Christchurch attack on Al Noor Masjid has sent the shock waves throughout the world. At time when cruel lynchings of Muslims through the nook and corner of the country in the last five years of Bhartiya Janta Party rule has shattered the confidence of second largest minority  of India in the law of land. The release of congress election manifesto on April 2, has just initiated the hope for better. It has just provided a hope to bring normalcy in the functioning of liberal democracy. It has promised to establish rule of law, to disperse the power of government to different institutions, to strengthen and stabilise the institutions and to check the abuse of law by scrapping laws like Sedition under Section 124A, Section 499 of the India Penal Code and reviewing laws like AFSPA in order to strike a balance between the powers of security forces and the human rights of citizens. Congress manifesto has also promised to end the culture of impunity enjoyed by police, armed forces and security agencies in relation to enforced disappearance, sexual violence and torture. However the most important issue which concerned the Muslims at current times is to get freedom from Hobbesian state in which Muslim are forced to live since May 2014. Congress promises through its manifesto to end hate crimes in the form of lynching and targeted attacks are important step in the right direction. Congress under its manifesto point number 39 tagged as “Religious And Linguistic Minorities” has promised that if voted to power, will pass a new law in the very first session of the 17th Lok Sabha and in the Rajya Sabha to prevent and punish hate crimes such as mob engineered stripping, burning and lynching as matter of priority. Congress decision to include this vital and significant problem of tackling hate crimes in this era of populism where mere spelling/uttering the word “Muslim” itself lifts too many eyebrows is an appreciable and courageous act. It has given a dim hope to the Muslim community that they too constitute the citizens of this country and their life too is important.

Tyranny of Cow Terrorism

Supreme Court’s landmark decision last year on 17 July 2018, against lynching was a welcome step in the right direction. The Apex court took a tough stand against fake news, hate news, cow terrorism and consequent violence. Supreme Court judgment brought a hope for establishing the Rule of law and justice in times of chaos and anarchy, however very little has been achieved since then. It’s true that mob lynching is not a new phenomenon in this country but it has become a new norm in ‘New India’. The incidents of lynching took place mostly in the backward parts of India like Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Assam etc. in the form of witch hunting and usually old poor woman used to be the victims. It was not against a particular community or had a communal angle (barring post Godhra Gujarat carnage). However Muslims became the main target of mob lynching since BJP came to power as 80 % of mob lynch victims are Muslims. Lynchings of the innocent, poor and the old people have become so normal that India is being called a ‘Lynchistan’.   After five years of its recklessness, lynching has become an unstoppable monster. First victim of lynching was Mohammad Akhlaq, father of an Indian Navy Officer from Dadri, Uttar Pradesh who was brutally killed  by a belonging to his village in 2015, for rumours of having cow meat in his fridge. Cow- Terrorism has cost the life of many Muslims, since the BJP has captured power in May 2014. Starting with Mohammad Akhlaq to, Pehlu Khan from (Nuh) Mewat, Qasim from Hapur, Rakbar khan from Mewat, we have a long list of Muslims cattle traders, drivers, labourers, farmers and even a young student Junaid, who lost their life in mob lynching.

These IT-enabled lynchers are savagely butchering the Muslims mostly in Hindi speaking northern states of the country as the  perpetrators of these barbaric crimes have not only committed these terrific crimes but filmed their act of brutality and violence and proudly circulated the hate content on social media platforms like YouTube, WhatsApp and Twitter. Explaining, justifying and taking pride in their brutality as we saw in Afrazul’s killing and burning in Rajasthan (Rajsamund).

Junaid Khan, a 15 years old Madarsa student, was stabbed to death in the local train near Ballabhgarh railway station. Before being killed Junaid his brother and a  friend were accused of carrying beef meat, abused as anti-nationals and ‘beef eaters’. Attackers threw their skull cap on the floor, caught their beards and taunted them with term such as “mulla”

Culture of Impunity and Invisiblisation of Muslims

No doubt minorities are persecuted throughout the world. But what is most horrifying, is the fact of glorification of these barbaric, horrendous and deliberately organised crimes against the most marginalised and backward minority of this country and open support to accused from those in power. Extremist hate is ruining the life of Muslims and there has been a conscious effort on the part of extremist forces to invisiblise them from public sphere.

The invisibilisation of Muslims from public life must concern every Indian (Rajeev Bhargwa, The Hindu, dated- 29/04/2018). On April 22, 2018, a man named as Abhishek Mishra, a VHP member who claims to be a ‘Hindutva thinker’ cancelled the Ola taxi because the driver of the cab was allegedly a Muslim man. He is said to be followed by many Central Ministers including defence minister Nirmala sitaraman and Mahesh Sharma on Twitter. On 18 June, 2018, in another case of bigotry, a Lucknow girl who introduces herself on twitter as a proud Indian/proud Hindu/India first/ Love our Army refused to take the services of Airtel customer services agent Shoaib as he was a Muslim.

The continuous and explicitly state sponsored systematic criminalisation of Muslims in the name of Ghar- Wapsi, Love-jihad, cow vigilantism and triple Talaq has instilled a deep sense of insecurity in the Muslim community at large. What Ravi Shankar Prasad, Mahesh Sharma, Jayant Sinha, Giriraj Singh and Nitin Gadkari did by meeting and garlanding the accused of lynching’s leaves no doubt in the minds of a conscientious citizen of this country that lynching’s are fully encouraged and supported by the government of the day and perpetrators of such heinous crime enjoy full impunity.

However there are certain pertinent questions to be asked? Is this brand of Hindutva extremism is going to pay dividends for Hindus or in the long term the extremist hate against Muslims will engulf majority community too in the crossfire of hate later or sooner? Is the lynching’s only a law and order problem? Are the mob killers spontaneous? We have already got signals suggesting that hate crimes against Muslims are going to endanger majority community too if the jinn of Hindutva hate will not be put in the bottle in the right time.

Mobocracy will destroy everyone who comes in its way. On 24 January, 2018, a G D Goenka School bus full of children as well as teachers was attacked in Gurugram by mobs, going frenzy on the issue of Hindi Feature film Padmavati which later named as Padmavat under the pressure of violent mobs masquerading as defenders of Indian culture and ethos.

In 2018, in the months of May and June itself, 30 people were lynched by mobs in the rumours related to child lifting. Government blamed it on social media particularly WhatsApp, but the fact is that instead of WhatsApp, the mind-set of criminals and the full immunity they are enjoying since five years is the root cause of the rising cases of lynching for different reasons. The attack on prominent social activist Sawami Aghnivesh on July 17, 2018, in Jharkhand, the same day when SC has delivered order against the lynching is a proof of how far India as a country have moved towards mobocracy with scant respect for rule of law and justice.

All these slaughtering of largest minority of this great country is going very well with full impunity and zero prosecution rate of the accused. Every time when a Muslim has been lynched, false cases were filed against the relatives of victims themselves instead of lynchers. It happened in case of Mohd Akhlaq and the same was followed in other lynching related cases too. The purpose was always to double victimise the victims and secure full impunity for the killers by intimidating and instilling a sense of the fear among the witnesses to cold blooded murders. So that no one dares to gave their witness against the accused before the court. In 2017 an analysis by research group IndiaSpend tabulated that 97 percent of cow related violence that has taken place was reported after Modi’s government came to power in 2014 and half of these cases were from states governed by BJP.

Ending the culture of impunity

Speaking at Aligarh Muslim University, On 10 April, 2019, Professor, Akash Singh Rathor on the ‘modern concept of justice’ highlighted many characteristic of Indian constitution which makes it unique and revolutionary in many sense. Professor Rathor, pointed out that the founders of Indian constitution, especially Dr. B.R Ambedkar decided to put the dignity and rights of individuals first and the idea of nation later because they believed that without maintaining the dignity and rights of people a nation cannot be one and united in the real sense of the term. But today’s rulers of India are emphasising the idea of nation first and individuals and their rights and dignity later. All these abuse of rights of people, in the mob engineered stripping, burning and lynchings practically means an insult and violation of constitution. Professor Faizan Mustfa former vice chancellor NALSAR University says that ‘respect for the Rule of Law will go down if a single person is persecuted/ violated or tortured. Thus attacking an ordinary citizen on the street in the name protecting cow  is in fact an attack on Constitution,  Indian Army, National Anthem, National  Flag, Bharat Mata, and the Nation itself.It’s an abuse of Rule of Law and negation of Due Process of Law.

When The Hindu correspondent contacted the only Muslim family left in the Lisad village (Muzzaffarnagar) the family said that they will vote this time for security- security of life and development.

Indian Muslims are going to vote this elections for security of life first and development later because development will follow only if people will be safe and secure. Congress manifesto echoes Tagore’s vision of a land where mind will be free from fear. Congress through its manifesto promises to ensure freedom, harmony, and inclusion and to fight fear, hatred, exclusion and systematic otherisation. Only time will tell if congress will live up to its promises and end the culture of impunity for abuse of rights and life of people and will strengthen civil liberties by bringing new legislation and implementing the existing laws.

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Hijab Khatoon is research Scholar at the Department of Political Science, AMU.

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