If the fast spreading religious intolerance and the communalism in todays India needed a representative image, it is provided by the picture of the hapless family members of Mohammad Akhlaq lynched by the mob in a UP village on the suspicion of eating beef. The faces of his wife and the daughter exhibit the helplessness of the minorities in the country ruled by Narendra Modi. The sequence of Akhlaqs murder is chilling: a temple announced that the beef was being cooked at Akhlaqs house, a blacksmith by profession. In no time, a large gathering of villagers collected outside Akhlaqs house. He was dragged out and battered by the people he knew. Akhlaq died on the spot and his son Danish received critical injuries. Danish is now battling for his life at the hospital where he has already undergone two brain surgeries. Adding insult to the injury the lynching has been followed by utterances by the BJP leaders which have, in one way or another, justified the murder. The culture minister Mahesh Sharma termed it an accident, whileas some others have issued a conditional condemnation: lynching was bad as Akhlaq hadnt eaten beef. Which means lynching was good if he had.
The blood-curdling incident is of a piece with the bigoted state of affairs in India following Modis takeover as Indias prime minister last year. The minorities, particularly Muslims, have become a systematic target of hate. Not only are they being threatened and subjected to recurrent mob violence but they are also facing an increasing institutional bias. And there are examples to show for it. Soon after Modi became PM, a mob lynched a Muslim techie in Pune after he uploaded morphed pictures of late Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray and Maratha icon Chhatrapati Shivaji on Facebook, His killers exchanged an ominous message on their mobiles which read, The first wicket has fallen.
Similarly, in June, a 22 year old MBA graduate Zeeshan Ali Khan applied for a marketing job at a Mumbai based exports company but was told he couldnt get it because of his religion. While two of his Hindu friends were called for the interview, Zeeshan received an email that read:”Thanks for your application. We regret to inform you that we hire only non-Muslim candidates.
This reveals a grim state of affairs. And this only looks set to get worse by the day. Because the ideological discourse that attends this violence is more justifying than condemning in nature. If one had any doubts, senior BJP leader Tarun Vijays article on UP incident makes it more than clear. He gives a pernicious rationale for the incident while apparently seeming to condemn it. Shockingly enough, Modi who is happy to comment on various incidents in India and abroad hasnt even reacted. Not even a tweet from him. If this is not an encouragement from the countrys premier himself, then what is it. In fact, Modi has yet to specifically react to any act of violence against a member of a minority community. He has issued some generic statements now and then. But a policy action has been conspicuous by its absence. The signals that have emanated from this government show the violence against Muslims as tolerable, something that can even be rationalised through insidious ideological arguments. This is taking India down a dangerous path. One hopes that the situation improves and the better sense prevails on the new minders of this nation. Further lapse will pose a severe challenge to Indias secular fabric. And it will be a pity if BJPs monochromatic national vision becomes the reigning ideology of the country.
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