Another Muslim lynched by Hindu mob in Modi’s India

24th Aug 2018

Sajeda Haider

The life of a Muslim is worth less than that of a cow in Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s ‘New’ India, a fact made more evident with the case of yet another horrific lynching in Alwar in the western state of Rajasthan.

Akbar Khan, a 31-year-old dairy farmer, was set upon by a mob of cow vigilantes as he took his newly bought cattle home to the bordering state of Haryana on July 20. Beaten within an inch of his life, Rakbar, as he is known to his family, was handed over to the police by one of the vigilantes, but the police took three hours to take him to the nearest hospital by which time Rakbar had died from his injuries. Instead of rushing the dying Rakbar to the hospital, only 5km away, the police felt it was more important to take his cows to a shelter about 16 km away first where they would be ‘safe’, then have a cup of tea and then go to the hospital.

Hindus consider cows sacred and killing them is illegal in several Indian states including Rajasthan and Haryana. However, ever since the right-wing nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power under Modi in 2014, cows acquired a more important status than humans, particularly if they happen to be Muslims or Dalits (low caste Hindus, formerly called Untouchables).

Around 45 people have been killed across India since 2014 and most of these killings were due to bovine related hate crimes where no evidence has been found of any illegal activities on the part of the victims. While the Government claims it has not collected any data, a journalism website called IndiaSpend says that 86 attacks were fuelled by the suspicion of cow slaughter or beef and consumption have been reported in the English media across India and 98 per cent of these incidents occurred after Modi assumed power.

Most of these attacks take place in BJP-ruled states because the vigilantes know that here they will be protected by the authorities. The fact that the Prime Minister does not condemn the violence and other ministers and leaders of the BJP openly support the vigilantes has emboldened them further as they know they can get away with murder.

The first ‘beef lynching’ took place in September 2015 in Dadri in northern Uttar Pradesh, and while people have been arrested, the investigation started, more often than not there are acquittals due to lack of evidence. In March this year, a fast-track local court in Jharkhand state for the first time sentenced 11 men to life in prison for lynching Muslim meat trader Alimuddin Ansari. However, on July 6, they were granted bail by the Jharkhand High Court, which is their first court of appeal. The court suspended the sentence and released the accused on bail saying their case will be reheard.

All the convicts were members of the BJP and their affiliated groups belonging to the parent-body RSS. To embolden the Hindu vigilantes further a minister in Modi’s Government felicitated the convicts when they were released on bail and another minister offered to pay all their legal costs.

The families of the victims have lost all hope of getting justice, particularly as the police are often in league with the murders, either by sharing the same right-wing ideology or because of orders from seniors to go easy on the perpetrators because of their political affiliations. All the gruesome lynchings are recorded and uploaded on social media almost like badges of honour, even then, the police are ‘unable’ to find the culprits nor collect ‘enough evidence’ against them.

A recent investigation by Indian TV channel NDTV showed an accused in the murder of another dairy farmer Pehlu Khan, bragging on camera to assaulting and killing the 55-year-old with others, and yet the police have taken no cognizance. Phelu like Rakbar was also killed in Alwar while transporting his newly bought dairy cows from Rajasthan to Haryana. Both were accused by the mobs of being cattle smugglers who were transporting cows to slaughter.

Nearly a year and a half after Pehlu’s murder, the accused in his case remain free on bail. They continue to plead their innocence before the authorities. But the 19-year-old Vipin Yadav, who has told the police he had no role in the killing, bragged to NDTV team posing as researchers from the US, that “he along with 10 others beat Pehlu for one and half hours, before they were joined by more and more people, and finally killed him”. Rakbar’s family do not expect justice.

A word of condemnation from the Prime Minister or strict punishment for one of the perpetrators would put a stop to the lynching epidemic, but neither is forthcoming as the victims are not Modi supporters. Congress Party President, Rahul Gandhi, put it succinctly when he described the latest lynching as “as an example of PM Modi’s ‘brutal New India’”.

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