Lynching to power

Irfan Engineer

Mashal Khan, a 23 year old journalism student was seized from his dorm room by a mob that stripped and beat him, then shot him dead on 13 April 2017 in Mardan in North West Pakistan. Khan was accused of offending Islam (Rasmussen and Baloch 2017). In the month of May 2017, a mob attacked a police station demanding that Prakash Kumar, a 34 year old Hindu, arrested under blasphemy laws of Pakistan, be handed over to the mob (AFP 2017). Just over a week later, a mob attacked a mentally ill man who claimed to be a prophet at his local mosque in north-western Chitral (Pakistan). He was rescued by police. The spate of incidents followed government of Pakistan’s drive against blasphemy. Unproven allegations of “insult to Islam” led to dozens of mob attacks or murders since 1990 in Pakistan.

India is trying to catch up with Pakistan with spate of mob lynching after the BJP Govt. was elected to power in May 2014, different only with regards to minor details. Replace the allegation of “insult to Islam” with “cow slaughter” and you get same lawlessness and lynch mentality on this side of the border. The similarities between Pakistani – jihadi if you prefer the term – and Hindu supremacist lynch mobs are many – on both sides of the border the blood thirsty lynch mobs were encouraged by specific legislations – blasphemy laws in case of Pakistan and anti-cow slaughter laws in case of India.

The lynch mobs on both sides of the border target their respective minorities with the state law and order machinery laid back and taking little action against the members of lynch mob. They target the economically poor, politically weak and socially marginalized within the minorities. Not the elite within the minorities. The lynch mobs do not target owners of the beef packaging and exporting industry and large slaughter houses. Slaughter of large number of cows and progeny would come to a near halt if fear of God was put in the owners of beef exporting industry.

Instead of taking strict punitive action under law against the members of lynch mob, the machinery mandated to uphold law and order investigate the allegations made by the mob against their victims. Booking the victims of the lynch mob is meant as a measure to appease the blood thirsty mob. The Pakistani police registered offence against Prakash Kumar. In case of Mashal Khan, Abdul Wali Khan University launched an inquiry whether Khan insulted Islam. In the case of Dadri lynching, the police sent sample of meat to laboratory for testing whether it was beef.

In both countries, the lynch mob enjoy patronage of politicians from the ruling party and dominant religio-political organisation – Hindu supremacist in India and Islamic fundamentalist organisations in Pakistan. In both the Countries, law abiding citizens were horrified by the violence invoking religious issues. Protestors in India protested in various cities and towns under #NotInMyName campaign after lynching of a teenage boy Junaid in Haryana. Protesters gathered across Pakistan, calling for justice after lynching of Mashal Khan. Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Nawaz Sharif condemned the murder – although it took him two days. Prime Minister Modi too condemned the so called gau rakshaks for records more than nudging the police to act against them effectively.

Indian Constitution is democratic, whereas Pakistan is believed to be dominated by “jihadi” ideology. While there have been only about a dozen lynching in Pakistan since 1990, in India, media reported 33 incidents of mob lynching since the year 2015 beginning with Dadri. Some say there were 67 incidents since 2015. 18 persons, including one Hindu, were killed and 71 persons were injured. 7 of the 71 injured in the lynching have been Hindus and 14 dalits. Two incidents of lynching took place in Karnataka and one each in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Assam, West Bengal and Bihar. Whereas 26 lynching incidents have taken place in BJP ruled states, including Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat, Maharashtra, UP, MP, Jharkhand and Jammu & Kashmir.

We are made to believe by the lynch mobs in Pakistan that they are protecting Islam and the lynch mobs in India that they are protecting cows. Wrong. Neither Islam needs protection of lynch mobs nor are the cows protected by them. In fact their actions endanger both – cow and Islam. Pakistani lynch mobs are in fact defaming Islam by their violent actions. Experts have pointed out that the peasant would not be able to bear the burden to maintain a cow beyond its lactation period and they may opt for other milch animals and the number of cows in the country may drastically go down. The animators and leaders of lynch mobs have other objectives which we would like inquire into a little later.

Silence of the majority

Lynching is possible in a context wherein a social group is demonized and stigmatized for years, particularly the minorities in Pakistan and India. Minorities are demonized so frequently and so widely using media and social media platforms that they are perceived as anti-nationals and loyal to the “enemy” state. Just because a few Muslim women wear veils and a few Muslim men wear skull cap and grow beard, they are stigmatized as fanatics whereas Hindus applying tilaks on their foreheads women wearing mangalsutra or Sikhs wearing their headgear and carrying kirpan are not perceived as religious fanatics.

Such perceptions do not emerge from nowhere. Differences of way of life are politicised. PM Modi when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat had demonized Muslims to be breading like rabbits in relief camps and denied any material support to hapless displaced of riots in 2002. The then PM Vajpayee had to remind the CM of Gujarat of his raj dharma. Maneka Gandhi, Minister for women and child welfare without any evidence said that the profits from cow slaughter are funding terrorism in the country. The Jains and Hindus are owners of largest slaughter houses and have substantial stake in beef export market earning huge profits. Why would they fund terrorism? Sakshi Maharaj, a BJP MP said madrasas are training grounds of terrorists. Amit Shah, BJP President during campaign in Bihar state elections said that Pakistan would celebrate the defeat of BJP! He had earlier during the General election campaign called upon his Hindu audience to take revenge of Muzaffarnagar communal violence. These are just a few examples of demonization of Muslim and Christian minorities by Hindu supremacists for many years and now they have become conventional wisdom.

State functionaries ignore these hate crimes and remain silent. They shirk their Constitutional mandate and duty to bring those committing hate crimes to justice. This strengthens the assumption within the people that the averments may be true. People then come to believe that the law of the land and criminal justice system is not effective to tackle these criminal, unpatriotic and anti-national traitors that the minorities are.

Lynching receives silent approval of the majority in this backdrop. Mere allegation is enough to believe that a Muslim driver transporting cattle or meat in spite of all necessary permits is a “cow smuggler” or a co-conspirator in cow slaughter. Similarly, in Pakistan, mere allegation that a Hindu or a Christian has insulted Islam or Prophet is sufficient to be convinced of their guilt. This assumption of guilt gives rise to silence of the majority. Large majority of populace of the country is converted into believing the allegations of animator of the lynch mobs without any question. Mashal was lynched in Pakistan, the other students were silent spectators as no one even asked what did Mashal Khan do or say! 16 year old Junaid Khan could be stabbed to death and thrown out of the train as all the passengers were silent spectators. Media reports suggest that even on the railway platform on which Junaid bled to death, no one came forward to speak to the police. The credentials of the animators and members of the lynch mobs do not matter. They may be bullies or extortionists or even criminals often having political ambition.

The lynch squads pretending to be gau rakshaks have been functioning Gujarat since at least over a decade. There are over three scores of them in Ahmedabad alone and many more in other towns of Gujarat. The lynch squads are well networked under patronage of a politician and they cultivate informers all over the place. The squad receives information of vehicles transporting animals from one place to another and whose driver or owner is a Muslim. On receiving such information, their animator/leader assembles the members, sets up unauthorised blockades on road. After the vehicle is stopped, the first thing they do is snatch all the permits that the driver of the vehicle may show  (Engineer 2014) At times they extort money and allow the vehicle to carry on and at times they start lynching, they may video graph the whole lynching, summon the police and hand them over. The video is uploaded on social media to exhibit the prowess of the lynch squad. The police would then charge the victims of the lynch squad under anti-cow slaughter legislations and other laws. If a lynch squad is able to mount several such operations, their leader establishes himself as a local bully and has an accelerated political career in the party wherein Hindu supremacist seek opportunities. Hate crimes create silent spectators which enables lynching and which in turn is used as an instrument to deepen demonization of the minorities.

Objectives of lynch mobs

The lynch mobs have a political objective rather than religious one they pretend to have. If the Pakistani lynch mobs wanted to serve or “save” Islam, they should be saying their prayers, observing fast, serving the orphans and the needy through charity and treading the straight path in accordance with Qur’anic guidance, as many pious Muslims do. The lynch mob masquerading as gau rakshaks would not ignore the stray cows and hungry suffering cows in the gaushalas across the country receiving grants from tax payer’s funds. The lynch mobs and their patronisers desire an accelerated political career. Having legally and politically survived lynching operations, their participants have a sense of empowerment and above law. The lynch mobs establish their hegemony not only over the state machinery, but also over politically and socio-economically marginalized sections of the society, including minorities, dalits and other backward classes.

They enforce through coercion the will and way of life of socially hegemonic and privileged upper castes. The Pakistani lynch mobs establish their hegemony not only over the Hindu and Christian minorities but also over Ahmediya, Shias and rationalists. Lynching is leading to Wahabisation of Islam in Pakistan and reinforcing caste based hierarchies, and traditional upper caste and Khap panchayat morality in India. The lynchers trigger off political processes that strengthen patriarchy and control over women’s body, mind and movements. They politically push for more authoritarian state enforcing cultural norms and will of the upper caste. They undermine the concept of citizenship and push the society towards mental ghettoization and acceptance of hegemony of community over the individual.

Resisting lynch mobs and speaking against them is not only in the interest of minorities directly threatened but also in the interest of society in general and democracy in particular. The majority will have to break their silence and be vocal against all forms of violence.


Irfan Engineer, Director, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features

Decoding new India

Manini Chatterjee

Narendra Modi is giving shape to M.S. Golwalkar's dream

To his long list of skills - powerful oratory; indefatigable energy; peerless grandstanding; bear hugging every world leader within handshaking distance - Narendra Modi just added another one: a talent for black humour.

That talent was evident in his remarks in Ahmedabad last Thursday. Speaking at a function at Sabarmati Ashram, the prime minister said, "Killing people in the name of gau bhakti is not acceptable." And added, with a straight face, "We are a land of non-violence We are the land of Mahatma Gandhi. Why do we forget that?"

Those words certainly jogged -and mocked - public memory, coming as they did from a man who was chief minister of Gujarat when riots left over 2,000 dead and who resolutely refused to express any remorse, then or since. And a man who, as prime minister, has chosen to ignore the violence unleashed by vigilantes on a regular basis.

Yet such is the stature of Narendra Modi that his words at Sabarmati have been welcomed, not just by his supporters but even by his critics. The prime minister's belated attack on cow vigilantes, they feel, will have a sobering effect on the marauding mobs and will rein in the "loony fringe" of the sangh parivar.

The speech at Sabarmati on June 29 was not the first time that Modi spoke out against the lynch mobs. He had expressed similar sentiments after the lynching of Dalits in Una last year. That had had little effect on the ground.

But this time, many hope, it will be different. One reason for this hope is that the prime minister spoke out a day after thousands of citizens came out in different cities of India under the "Not In My Name" banner to protest against the growing climate of hate and violence which led, most recently, to the murder of 16-year-old Junaid Khan on a train a little outside Delhi.

The "enough is enough" sentiment that animated the protests may have touched Narendra Modi too and impelled him to speak, some believe. Another view is that for purely political reasons the prime minister has signalled a change of course. He does not want unruly elements, in the garb of " gau rakshaks", to mar his ambitions of becoming a world statesman, jeopardize his goal of building a 'New India'.

This hope, sadly, is likely to be belied because it rests on a fundamental misunderstanding. Narendra Modi may be a consummate politician with an enviable ability to mould his words and persona to suit the audience and the occasion. But he is also a deeply committed ideologue, more ideologically oriented than any Indian prime minister barring, possibly, Jawaharlal Nehru.

The saffron fraternity knows this well. Soon after Modi led the Bharatiya Janata Party to single party majority in 2014, a television anchor asked Uma Bharati whether the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh would now exercise "remote control" over the new government. Uma Bharati's immediate response: there is no need of any remote control because RSS ideology flowed through every vein of Narendra bhai Modi, he was the very embodiment of its ideals, the best vehicle to translate its vision into reality.

Modi may have focused on " vikas" and "parivartan" all through his election campaign but after assuming power he has given glimpses of his deep adherence to RSS ideology. And though he has seldom mentioned M.S. Golwalkar by name, it is Golwalkar's thoughts and writings that seem to have most influenced him.

Since Golwalkar took over the reins of the RSS in 1940 and remained at the helm till 1973, he exercised an enormous influence over generations of young men who joined the RSS in the post-Independence era, the most dedicated of whom became pracharaks (full timers) - Modi a star among them.

One only has to read Golwalkar - not just his infamous We or Our Nationhood Defined but his collection of writings brought together in Bunch of Thoughts - to recognize his imprint on Modi's mind. Modi's recent use of "Attock to Cuttack and Kashmir to Kanyakumari", for instance, is a straight lift from Golwalkar

But it goes far beyond phrases. The RSS's central thesis, extensively elaborated in Golwalkar's writings, is that India is the sacred land of the Hindus and Hindus alone, it was a land of unparalleled glory in ancient times, it fell to ruin because of successive assaults by foreign invaders, and it can only regain its lost glory once it becomes wholly Hindu again.

Golwalkar had the greatest antipathy towards the concept of "territorial nationalism" - the name he gave to the modern nation state which bestows equal rights of citizenship on all those who live within its territory regardless of caste or creed. The RSS's "cultural nationalism", a euphemism for upper caste Hindu supremacy, is the stark opposite of civic nationalism enjoined by the Constitution of India.

The difference between the two is not mere semantics but has very real consequences. Every campaign of the so-called "loony fringe" - be it ghar wapsi, love jihad, cow vigilantism, or painting minorities as anti-national - is rooted in the ideology of the RSS and finds ideological sustenance in Golwalkar's writings.

India's independence from colonial rule in 1947, Golwalkar argued, did not constitute real freedom because the new leaders held on to the "perverted concept of nationalism" that championed India's composite heritage.

"The concept of territorial nationalism," he wrote, "has verily emasculated our nation and what more can we expect of a body deprived of its vital energy? ...And so it is that we see today the germs of corruption, disintegration and dissipation eating into the vitals of our nation for having given up the natural living nationalism in the pursuit of an unnatural, unscientific and lifeless hybrid concept of territorial nationalism."

For the RSS, therefore, the BJP's victory in 2014 marks a seminal moment in the dream of forming a Hindu rashtra. That Modi is aware of his own significance in this journey was made clear when he referred to the end of "1200 years of foreign rule" in his first major speech in the Lok Sabha after becoming prime minister.

In the last three years, Modi has relentlessly run down the achievements of the first 70 years of independence and insisted that India has changed in a wondrous fashion only in the last three years. These exaggerated claims do not result from misplaced hubris alone. It comes from a deeply held belief that only a "Hindu" government and polity - where all "non-Hindu" elements are obliterated or made to surrender their identity - can redeem India's destiny.

Modi's New India, thus, has two inextricably intertwined sides to it. On one hand, it is about rooting out black money, building toilets, giving up LPG subsidies, enhancing India's space programme et al. On the other, it is 'Hinduizing' both State and society by obliterating the myriad influences on art and culture, ideas and scholarship from 'non-Hindu' sources that have so enriched India over millennia.

The men who killed Junaid Khan because he was wearing a skull cap and taking home Eid gifts, Yogi Adityanath's comment that the Taj Mahal does not reflect Indian culture, and Modi's belief that India's efflorescence has only begun with his victory in 2014 are all facets of the same Golwalkarian mindset - a mindset that forms the bedrock of New India.

In his Sabarmati speech, a newspaper report said, Modi narrated a childhood memory of a cow who gave up eating after it was overcome with remorse for accidentally killing a child. "His voice choked with emotion and he fought back tears as he detailed the compassion of the cow," it noted. Modi never mentioned Junaid Khan, whose bloodstains are still visible on the platform of Asaoti station.

In New India, suicidal cows evoke more tears than murdered human beings. But then a cow, we are told, experiences remorse and compassion that a prime minister seems incapable of feeling.

e.mail : manini.chatterjee@abp.in

courtesy : 'Worm's Eye View', "The Telegraph", 03 July 2017

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features