Who killed Zahid?

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In death of the trucker Mohammad Zahid, the beef ban politics has claimed its first victim in J&K. Zahid is the third Muslim to have lost his life to Hindu rightwing’s push to enforce their culinary choices on the minorities in the country. And in case of J&K, this diktat has been imposed over the majority community of the state.  And Zahid by any measure wasn’t a party to any shade of politics over the issue.  He was an ordinary person working extremely hard to make ends meet. He could hardly have been conversant with the violent and vicious politics being played out over the beef. What is more, he wasn’t even transporting cattle. He was carrying coal. He was burnt both for the heck of it and for his identity. And he was burnt because the perpetrators empowered by the politics of hate thought this was normal. They thought this is how they were expected to behave and that they could somehow get away with it. And in this thinking they were not wide off the mark. This is indeed what was expected of them as the RSS mouthpiece Panchjanya would have us believe. A recent article in the Sangh publication said that the “Vedas mandate the killing of those who slaughter cows” and that the Dadri killing could not have been “without reason”.  

In an environment where the state is politically, ideologically and institutionally seen supportive of one particular religion, incidents like Dadri, Sirmaur and Udhampur are bound to happen. And even in these killings, though the killers have been apprehended and charged, the ideological cover to the incidents has only been strengthened. As Panchjanya article tells us, the killings of Muslims under the garb of beef ban has a larger moral and religious sanction, even though in mundane terms it might be a law and order problem. “Of course India has laws and no one has the right to take laws into their hands but what should one say about those people and their leaders who, while living among 80 percent Hindus, have no concerns for the majority sentiment,” says the article.

But with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political background, nobody should have been in any doubt as to what was in store. Though many people had anticipated him to take over from where his benign NDA predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee had left off, Modi has remained true to his hardcore political mantra – albeit he may have topped it off with a commitment to the development agenda. Truth is that the polarizing politics that Modi seeks to pursue, strategically balanced with his development pitch, has its own inherent political advantages in India. Being a predominantly Hindu majority, a substantial chunk of polarized vote is sufficient to give BJP championing Hindu nationalism  a pan-India presence and always a credible shot at power. It is this reality that is primarily responsible for catapulting BJP to the centre stage. And in case of Modi who adds to the Hindu nationalism the ambivalent allure of his polarizing personality, the chances of a larger polarization are even stronger, reinforced by a lacklustre Congress which lacks a parallel towering leader who can articulate its secular outlook.

But this kind of politics confronts Muslims in the country with a serious existential dilemma. First time since it was conceived and espoused in the country, the politics of Hindutva is in full flow and become the reigning ideology of the country. And true to its word, it has turned on the full heat on the minorities. Ikhlaq, Noman, Zahid are its initial hapless victims. And with any fundamental ideological course correction in India unlikely to happen anytime soon, the number of minority victims is likely to rise further.

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