And lynchings go on regardless

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In a reassuring message Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Man Ki Baat programme asserted that violence in the name of faith of any kind won’t be tolerated and the guilty would be punished. But within hours of his speech, two more Muslims  suspected to be cow thieves, were lynched by villagers near Dhupguri of Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal early on Sunday. The victims Hafizul Sheikh and Anwar Hussain hailed from Assam and and Coochbehar respectively. In a similar incident this June, three Muslim youths were lynched in Chopra, North Dinajpur. If anything it shows how little the PM’s advice and warnings matter and how lynching Muslims over the flimsiest reasons has become a sport in the country. In a sense, the successive lynchings of Muslims have forced little deterrent action from the top.  The PM’s occasional expression of displeasure has hardly been translated into action. No stern action has been taken against the perpetrators to prevent recurrence of such incidents. On the contrary, there seems an implicit governmental and social sanction for these brutal killings.

However, the PM’s disapproval this time is believed to have been more against the outbreak of the violence following the conviction of the Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim than against the growing incidence of the religious violence in the country.  Though the PM on a few occasions in the past has spoken against violence in the name of cows, his government has taken no demonstrative steps to ensure such incidents don’t recur. On the country, the attempt has been to rationalize these killings and sometimes a part of the blame has been foisted on the victims too. However, the religious violence and the lynchings are more the symptoms of a new India under Modi than disease itself. And the disease is the new political sensibility in the country. The new ruling intelligence is explicitly informed by the resolve to reclaim India for Hindus. Many outfits who claim to represent the exclusive interests of Hindus have felt empowered. And their leaders have felt free to issue communally-tinged statements which have vitiated the atmosphere. However, while Modi’s leadership has strengthened some fringe communal elements, the secularism in India has taken a mortal beating. That is, even though secularism in India wasn’t all that it professed to be before Modi arrived on the scene.

Three years have seen the Muslims become the targets of a ruthless right-wing Hindu violence, one that now seems to enjoy a degree of social sanction. Not only are Muslims and also Dalits 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 down’.. Ever since the situation has only gotten worse. We are confronted with a bigoted state of affairs. And it won’t go away unless the government starts seeing merit in India’s diversity and wants to preserve  it rather than continue with an all out push for the homogenization in the country.

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