Spike in lynchings — It's not the election results, it's a deeper malaise

Spike in lynchings — It's not the election results, it's a deeper malaise

We’ve regressed into a society governed not by law but by mob fury against those who ‘offend our religious sentiments’ or those rumoured to have committed a crime

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Last Updated : 10 July 2024, 06:56 IST

Are we reaping the fruits of the anti-Muslim rhetoric that marked the just-concluded electoral campaign? Is the recent spate of lynchings and communal violence linked to the electoral results? Or, are these incidents nothing more than the outbreaks of vigilantism and hatred that take place regularly in ‘New India’?

It’s a bit of both, it appears.

In fact, polling preferences resulted in Hindu-Muslim violence in three places. In a village in Haryana’s Nuh, and in Uttar Pradesh’s Jaunpur, two Hindu youth who had supported the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were attacked. In Jaunpur, the attack developed into a clash between two communities.

In Mangaluru, two participants of a BJP victory rally were stabbed after they taunted Muslims after Modi’s victory, telling them to go to Pakistan.

However, it would be difficult to find such a direct link in the other incidents. Were those who lynched the three Muslims transporting cattle in Chhattisgarh motivated by the BJP’s sweep there? Among those arrested is the publicity secretary of the BJP’s Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha.

Or, was this incident in line with the violence that has marked Bakri Eid since last year? The arrest of a shopkeeper and the ransacking of his shop in Himachal Pradesh, after his WhatsApp status showed a buffalo sacrifice; and the clashes in Odisha and Telangana, seem to suggest this.

While conspiracy theories doing the rounds allege that Hindutvavadis are wreaking vengeance on Muslims for voting for the I.N.D.I.A. alliance and depriving the BJP of a majority; or, that Hindutvawadis are showing they’re still the boss despite the BJP’s weakened status, most of the incidents that have taken place since June 4 show no such cause-and-effect link. West Bengal has seen a spate of lynchings of both Hindus and Muslims rumoured to be child lifters or mobile phone thieves. In Uttar Pradesh too, initial reports ascribed the lynching of a youth in Aligarh to rumours that he had tried to commit a robbery. The police even charged the dead Aurangzeb with dacoity, on the basis of a complaint that came 11 days after his lynching. When arrests started, not only the BJP, but even traders in the area protested.

Implicit in these protests was the view that a thief deserved to die at the hands of a mob. Indeed, what all these incidents show is our regression into a society governed not by law but by mob fury against those who ‘offend our religious sentiments’ or those rumoured to have committed a crime.

But these incidents also had some redeeming features. Odisha is where Dara Singh had burnt alive missionary Graham Staines along with his two little sons in 1999. Two years back, the man who just took over as Odisha chief minister sat on a dharna against prison rules that forbade Dara Singh, now serving a life sentence, from meeting outsiders. Yet, the administration that reports to this Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh hardliner, did not allow the Bakri Eid violence to continue beyond the day, and arrested 89 persons.

Similarly, in Chhattisgarh, where too the CM is an RSS member, the lynching of three Muslims aroused such public anger that the police were forced to act; they even arrested a BJP functionary. This display of public anger in Chhattisgarh might have been inspired by the increased strength of the parliamentary Opposition.

Though all these incidents are shameful, there are some that point to a deeper malaise. When two gates leading to an Eidgah in Jodhpur were being dismantled, the Hindus were so incensed by the prospect of more Muslims visiting the area that they erupted in violence.

Again, in Anand, furious that the Muslims were playing well in a cricket tournament, some Hindus lynched a Muslim spectator over a parking spat. Salman Vohra was just 23, and newly married. Nine suspects have been arrested, but not two named by an eyewitness.

There was also the demolition of Muslim homes by the Madhya Pradesh government after allegedly finding beef in their refrigerator just before Bakri Eid. All three incidents show an illegal exercise of brute power by the majority; in the last incident, by the State itself.

Did these three incidents have anything to do with the election results? Opposition to new mosques because they would attract more Muslims is not new, but in Jodhpur, this opposition took a violent turn.

In Gujarat, barely a month before the Anand lynching, two Muslims were lynched (one died) by cow vigilantes. As for MP, a day after the new CM was sworn in last December, Muslim homes were demolished in Bhopal and Ujjain as retribution for alleged offences.

It’s not the elections, it’s just the march towards a ‘Hindu Rashtra’.

(Jyoti Punwani is a senior journalist.)

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author's own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.


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