What can be more unfortunate when a Union minister as responsible as Rajnath Singh makes a plea in the Lok Sabha to frame the strictest law against mob lynchings, but, in the same breath, argues that lynchings of Indian also took place during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
One wonders why Singh’s memory didn’t serve him correctly on this occasion and he comfortably forgot the Gujarat genocide of 2002. Is it because the systematic killings of thousands of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 took place under somebody’s supervision, who now happens to be Singh’s boss- Prime Minister Narendra Modi?
Trivializing lynchings and hate crimes particularly targeting India’s Muslims and Dalits have become a fashion of sorts for both the BJP and its ideological mentor, the RSS.
Not so long ago, it was convenient for both the BJP and members of the Indian media to brush aside the violent acts of Hindutva thugs as crimes committed by ‘fringe elements’ or lone-wolves. While some pro-RSS media houses continue to call these murderers as fringe elements, many have decided to address these Hindutva thugs with titles more suitable to their gory acts.
The central government’s role in promoting lynch-mob mentality in the India society comes under scrutiny for so many reasons. First, the government has stunned everyone by informing the Rajya Sabha that it had no records on lynchings is utterly ludicrous even the law enforcing agencies such as police are controlled by it.
Lynchings are often committed in the name of cows in different states. To gather information on how many people have lost their lives in the last four years in terrorist attacks by Hindutva elements is not insurmountable. How can one expect this government to seriously consider framing a robust law against mob lynchings when it’s not even serious to maintain the records related to this crime?
The need to frame laws against lynchings arose after the Supreme Court recently took a dim view of the alarming rise in the cases of mob lynchings in the country.
Fuelling hatred against Muslims to benefit the BJP electorally may have been a masterstroke at the infancy of this cruel idea. The saffron party, helped by India’s TV channels that played the most important role in turning India into a blood-thirsty mob, may have planned to polarise Hindus by constantly pushing their hate narrative against Muslims. Testament to this was when Union Minister Jayant Sinha, a Harvard and IIT alumnus, recently garlanded the lynch convicts in his constituency in Jharkhand, the pro-RSS media remained quiet and refused to register any outrage on the minister’s unconstitutional act. No one demanded his ouster from the cabinet as his act suited the hate politics of the BJP-led government.
But such hate crimes are no longer confined to targeting Muslims. We saw as many as five people being lynched to death on suspicion of being child-lifters based on a fake WhatsApp forward in Maharashtra earlier this month. A similar fake WhatsApp forward led to the killing of a Hyderabad techie in Karnataka’s Bidar last week.
Under the current Modi government, a mindset has been allowed to cultivate that anyone who disagrees with the Hindutva right-wing ideology, he or she shall be lynched. Social activist Swami Agnivesh’s lynching is the recent case in example.
The visuals of an 80-year-old saffron-clad swami being mercilessly thrashed went viral. What was even more discomforting was how the members of the saffron brigade began to flaunt the criminal act by demonising Swami Agnivesh and highlighting his alleged anti-Hindutva stand. This was the most glaring sign yet of the collapse of the traditional Indian value system, which taught us to respect our elders.
So, when did this corrosion of values start exactly? It started from the very top somewhere in 2014. When the prime minister of the country starts to push hate-filled messages in his speeches and routinely peddles lies, then the outcome on the ground has to be nothing less than deadly.
In recent times, Modi as India’s prime minister made several desperate attempts to polarise Hindus by falsely accusing Rahul Gandhi of calling his party, the Congress, a party of Muslims. This was in Uttar Pradesh. A few days later in West Bengal, he made another despicable attempt to instigate Hindus by, once again, peddling lies that Durga Puja was in danger under Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Modi knew that on both occasions, he was peddling lies, but he simply couldn’t care about being objective and truthful because he knows it too well that it’s important for him to turn India into a communal cauldron for as long as possible if he wished to remain relevant in the modern day Indian politics.
Yesterday, I read about a top Swiss squash player refusing to visit India to take part in the ongoing junior World Championships in Chennai for the fear of her safety. The same day I also came across another incident of lynching involving a Muslim man in Alwar in Rajasthan, where one Pehlu Khan was murdered by a Hindutva mob last year. If this trend continues, then I’m afraid, soon India will become a no-go country for many if the government thinks it’s perfectly fine to turn a blind eye to lynchings because the victims are mostly Muslims.
(Saira Shah Halim is an educator and a civil and human rights activist actively involved with causes such as gender equality and preserving secularism and democracy.)