The killing of Mohammed Afrazul, a migrant labourer from West Bengal, in Rajasthan's Rajasamund district last week is the latest in the series of hate crimes the country has seen in recent months, and perhaps the most gruesome. The killer, Shambhulal Regar, pushed Afrazul down on the road, beat him up, stabbed him repeatedly to death, shouting "love jihad, love jihad" and abusing Muslims. He even got the terrible action filmed and circulated it on social media. The murderer was not known to have any personal enmity with Afrazul. And the 'love jihad' conspiracy theory has since been found to be false in this case. There is only one answer to why Regar did what he did: pure religious hatred.
The killing of Afrazul was no ordinary crime and happened in an environment where a man could be killed just for being a Muslim. Shambhulal Regar was not a man of unstable mind and knew what he was doing. He wanted the murder to be seen across the nation and so made a spectacle of it. And he was remorseless afterward. Many such hate crimes have taken place in BJP-ruled states, especially in Rajasthan. The social and political milieu in these states have become conducive to the oppression of and violence against minorities, and this is squarely because of the ideology espoused by the ruling party for decades, and the policies and actions of its governments today, including the Central government. Most importantly, it is due to the signals they have sent to people such as Regar after each such murder. A dairy farmer, Pehlu Khan, was killed by gau rakshaks in April this year. Charges against some accused in that case have been dropped and others are on bail. Senior leaders of the BJP and ministers at the Centre have supported such vigilante actions. Caste and communal groups openly resort to threats and intimidation, and BJP governments support them, as is seen in the case of the film Padmavati.
The reaction of a section of society to the killing is perverse and reprehensible, and indicative of the path down which India is headed. Some WhatsApp groups in the state, including one in which a BJP MP and an MLA were members, have hailed Regar for the murder. Over 500 people from various states have transferred about Rs 3 lakh in the past one week to the bank account of Regar's wife in his support. Have we then become a society that rewards murderers, simply because the victim is a Muslim? This new culture puts the country's human and constitutional values and its best traditions in grave danger.