A man was very recently killed in rural Uttar Pradesh over rumours of his eating beef. The family claims it was mutton and not beef. What someone eats in his own house without harming others is his private business, and one can legally get access to pork in places like Dubai. Trying to impose religious tenets at the cost of civil liberties is intolerant and undemocratic, and if there is a ban for pragmatic or other reasons, then a legal process should be followed to punish those violating it, but killing someone over an issue like beef is monstrous and insane. While sporadic hate crimes do unfortunately take place across the globe (there have been many relatively minor Hindu-Muslim riots in India in which some innocent people of both religious groupings have been killed but which never get as much media attention), even in developed countries, often without the collusion of the state, this hate crime wasn’t a one-off incident, if the UP police is to be believed.
To quote from a Times of India report–
“The priest, who announced over the temple loudspeaker that the family had beef in the house, has told police that he was forced to do so by two youths from Bisada, the village where Iqlakh lived. It was after this announcement that a lynch mob rushed to Iqlakh’s house and killed the 58-year-old man and seriously injured his son Danish, 21.
Sources in the police and district administration said in the past few months there have been attempts to disturb the communal harmony in the area. Source said a few days back, in Dankaur area, two cows died in a gaushala, but when their bodies were being disposed of, some tried to portray it as cow slaughter and incite people. A mosque was damaged, but the police managed to control the situation.”
Thus, attempts at communal disharmony were being made from earlier times. The reaction of the BJP is also indeed very noteworthy. To quote the report-
“While the Akhilesh Yadav government wants the six arrested for Iqlakh’s murder to be tried under the stringent national security act, BJP is pressing for the release of all six. On Wednesday, the local BJP unit held a meeting and decided to hold a mahapanchayat on October 11 to press for their release.
Instead of focusing on the murder, BJP’s main beef appears to be the meat in the man’s house. ‘The locals gave samples of meat to the police but they (the cops) did not take it seriously. Then some people got agitated,’ BJP district president Thakur Harish Singh said on Tuesday, in effect giving a ‘rational’ explanation for the attack.
‘The police have arrested innocent people. We also demand legal action against those people, who are engaged in cow slaughter as it is hurting Hindu sentiments,’ local BJP leader Vichitra Tomar said after a two-hour meeting on Wednesday.”
With the local unit of the party taking such a stand, has there been any reprimanding or withdrawal of stance by the top brass in this case? So far, no! In fact, the union culture minister Mahesh Sharma called the mob murder an “accident” that shouldn’t be given a “communal twist”! This has perhaps been the most shameful and insensitive statement from a union minister in the last so many years.
The worst part of the story is that many of the Muslims of the village are considering leaving their homeland. As the report points out-
“Many Muslims in Bisada are now living in fear for their lives and are thinking of leaving the village. Iqlakh’s family also planned to leave, but finally stayed on after the district administration guaranteed their safety and pledged to arrest those responsible for the attack.
‘My son has been killed, while my younger grandson is battling for his life. For the time being, police are giving us protection. But they can’t stay in the village permanently. We fear that more such attacks may take place. We are in touch with our relatives and are planning to leave the village for a safe location,’ said Asgari, the deceased’s 70-year-old mother, who had also sustained injuries in the attack.”
While the Akhilesh Yadav government failed the Muzaffarnagar riot victims – both Hindu and Muslim – and some of its leaders like Azam Khan are believed to even had a hand in the riots from the Muslim side, it ought to allay the fears of the Muslim minority of the village and punish those who are guilty. India cannot afford more repeats of what was inflicted upon the Hindus of Kashmir by Muslim extremists (for a rebuttal to the rationalizations and conspiracy theories given about the same, read this article) and what was inflicted upon the Muslims of Muzaffarnagar and Atali by Hindu extremists.
Recently, we also had an incident of a Muslim lynched in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, based on rumours of him being a Pakistani terrorist. There seems to be a clear pattern to this madness in the wake of the coming elections in Bihar, where the BJP and some local Muslim politicians have allegedly played dirty riot politics in Muzaffarpur (not to be confused with Muzaffarnagar), though the police and administration under the JD(U) government were effective in checking the riots. In Muzaffarpur, we also had an instance of a rural Hindu widow bravely gave sanctuary to some Muslims in her own home, and we have indeed seen many such instances of good people from among both the Hindus and the Muslims protecting innocent people of the other faith in such turbulent times.
Inclusive, secular nationalism is what makes nations go forward and exclusive, discriminatory notions of nationalism, as are very popular in Pakistan (though there are liberals in Pakistan as well), push nations backward, for if we allow someone to infringe on our religious freedom and personal liberties to think independently, the democratic fibre gets eroded. While some Pakistani propagandists like to harp on incidents like these to justify the partition of India, Muslims in India are still much safer than Muslims in Pakistan, who are killing each other in ethno-linguistic clashes (e.g. Sindhi-Mohajir clashes in Karachi), sectarian (Shia-Sunni) clashes and TTP terrorism. All those Indian Hindus who have any resentment against Muslims are requested to peruse with an open mind (not skim through and judge based on preconceived notions) this e-book of mine available for free download, and all those Indian Muslims who have any resentment against Hindus are requested to peruse with an open mind this article. Don’t we happily coexist in educational institutions, workplaces and recreation centres and don’t security personnel of all faiths shed their blood for India? By the way, the man killed over beef in UP was the father of a man working in the Indian Air Force.
Dehumanizing a minority (I would again refer the readers to my e-book aimed at addressing and dispelling anti-Muslim prejudices in the Indian context) and accepting an exclusionary brand of nationalism, especially with blind hero-worship of a political leader, can, in the long run, pave the way for a breakdown of democracy, eventually proving to be violative of everyone’s human rights, for one goes down a slippery slope. We saw that in Germany, for example, and Pastor Martin’s following quote about the Nazis is famous in that regard-
“First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Likewise, in Pakistan, Muslim extremists initially only targeted Pakistani Hindus, Christians, Jews and those they regarded as following deviant sects of Islam, but now, the average Pakistani Sunni going to a mosque or market too faces the threat of being bombed! Similarly, the elements in India that wish to promote undemocratic ideas like the prohibition of apostasy from Hinduism, prohibition of inter-religious marriages (for them, every instance of a marriage between a Muslim man and a Hindu woman amounts to “love jihad”, overlooking how very many Muslim women have married Hindu men and changed their religion and name, prominent examples being sitarist Roshanara Khan, model Nayyara Mirza and actress Nakhat Khan, who on getting married, changed their names to Annapurna Devi, Nalini Patel and Khushboo Sundar respectively), seek to impose their version of history on us, and often have an aversion to the English language and other cultures, should be kept in check.
Communal flare-ups only retard economic development and have no positive outcome. Let us not allow politicians to succeed in their dirty games. Jai Hind!