by MUKUL DUBE
When I read of the killing, in Bisara village of Dadri, of a Muslim man by Hindus who suspected him of keeping beef in his house, I was taken back to the Gujarat massacre of 2002. That wound is fresh: the passing of a dozen years has done nothing to lessen the pain and the anger. Indeed, many more wounds have been added after Modi’s election victory, which has enabled the underlying evil to spread its tentacles and grow more vicious. It is not surprising that people are reacting to Dadri with fear and loathing.
Anjali Mody writes that where the cow is concerned, the actions of the police are part of the “web linking the politics of cow protection, deep-seated caste animosities, Hinduisation, electoral politics and the exercise of state power.” (Scroll)
Mody said this because the police of Dadri have sent samples of the meat in question for laboratory testing. If it turns out to be cow meat, they can say that the lynched man asked to be lynched. There is little doubt that this course was thought of by the Hindu Right. “’If they ate beef, they are responsible for what happened,’ [Nawab Singh Nagar, former M.L.A.] is reported to have said.” (Catch News)
Attempts at a cover-up began immediately, and I cannot help wondering if they are not part of a larger plan. Nagar said “that the ‘excitement of kids’ who attacked the family was a result of a nationwide movement to protect cows.” (Daily News Analysis) Is this “nationwide movement” a natural phenomenon, inevitable and unstoppable like tides, or is it something orchestrated by the Hindu Right and aimed against the Muslims of India?
Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State for Tourism and BJP MP from NOIDA, said that the incident “should be considered as an accident.” (Times of India) Two people went to the temple by accident so that they might compel the priest to make an inflammatory announcement? (Communalism Watch) Five hundred or so people went together to Akhlaq’s house by accident? And was it an accident that these people carried hockey sticks and, some say, swords?
We may marvel at the imagination of this Mahesh Sharma. Smita Gupta has something else to say: “The murder of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri, on the edge of the national capital, by a violent Hindu mob on Wednesday should come as no surprise … In the months since the BJP-led government came to power at the Centre, similar political mobilisation has been in evidence, with a spurt in rumours and incidents relating to cow slaughter. (The Hindu) This is of course the inter-linking, the “web”, of which Anjali Mody writes.
The simple fact is that civilised societies have bodies of laws and have devised mechanisms to deal with the breaking of these laws. If the cow worshippers of Dadri suspected that Akhlaq had cow flesh in his refrigerator, they should have reported the matter to the police instead of taking the law into their hands and killing him for a crime not proven. If indeed the flesh was from a cow, the system of justice and law enforcement would deal with the matter according to the procedure laid down.
The illogic of laboratory testing was expressed most clearly by the lynched man’s 18-year-old daughter Sajida, who asked, “If it’s not beef, will they bring back my dead father?” (Indian Express)
Not even the Hindu Right, although it now governs the country, may usurp the powers of the established system of justice. If it “punishes” a mere suspect by murdering him, the system of justice must try it and punish it. The Hindu Right is of course aware of this: it began by pressing for the murderers to be charged not with murder but with culpable homicide, which carries a lesser sentence.
But later it went a good deal farther: Local BJP leader Vichitra Tomar said, “We demand the release of all the people who have been arrested in connection with the Bisada incident, who are all innocent. We also demand legal action against those who are engaged in cow slaughter, as it is meant to incite sentiments of Hindus.” (Communalism Watch) As the Yankees would say, these smart people have all the bases covered.
Azam Khan, a minister in Uttar Pradesh, “urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to prevent BJP volunteers from victimizing the [Muslim] community to meet ‘petty political ends’.” He also indicated that the BJP does not rule the whole country: “He challenged the government to impose a countrywide ban on cow slaughter, saying that beef is being openly sold in states like Goa, Meghalaya, Pondicherry and West Bengal,” where beef eaters are not a tiny minority as they are in Dadri.
Azam Khan’s pointing towards the top man is not accidental. It became clear soon after the last general election that the goons of Hindutva get their courage, and
perhaps instructions also, from those above them in the chain of command. It is completely incredible that the prime minister is unaware of what happens across the country. His underlings control two vast networks: Rajnath Singh is in charge of the police and Amit Shah is in charge of the party cadres. It hardly needs to be said that Modi will be fed information, and perhaps instructions also, by the RSS as well, whose network is far larger than that of the police and is widely held to be more efficient.
But friends have told me that I am wrong to speak of these networks as separate. They say that the BJP and the RSS act together and have co-opted the police. “What happens when the law is in the hands of a communalised police force, which willingly allows ‘mobs’ to do as they please and then invokes laws which are not relevant to the case?” (Ghazala Jamil, on e-mail)
This article was completed early on 2 October. Three days later, the following appeared in the /Times of India/: “A police intelligence report accessed by TOI suggests Bisada could have blown up in a bigger way than Muzaffarnagar as it is surrounded by Rajput villages, known as the Satha Chaurasi. Indicating a planned move to fan communal flames, the report also talks of [a] plan to demolish a mosque in a nearby village.” (Communalism Watch)
(This article is to appear in Mainstream Weekly.)
(Mukul Dube is an author/editor/activist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)