In the recently concluded debate on No Confidence Motion in Indian parliament, opposition leader Mr. Rahul Gandhi moved across the floor and dramatically embraced prime minister. Mr. Gandhi said despite so much abuse thrown at him, he still has it in him to love his opponent. One may criticise the move as childish. In my mind, the move was an astute move for two reasons. First, it grabbed media time while everyone discussed the hug. Second, it set the narrative of inclusivity for upcoming battle. And believe me, a picture conveys a message better than thousand words.
Despite government claim of serving people of India without fear, favour and prejudice, one cannot deny several high visibility cases of lynching of members of minority community have come to light in states ruled by BJP, the ruling party at the center. In many cases complicity of politicians and law enforcement agencies were apparent:
- Akhlaq was killed under suspicion of storing beef in his refrigerator. He was killed by a group of people who happened to live in the same village. One of the accused died in jail. His body was draped in Indian tricolour. Not only murder of a middle aged man outrageous, wrapping tricolour around body of his killers was outrageous.
- Pehlu Khan, a cattle trader, was beaten up. Pehlu Khan died in hospital. Men he named, as part of his dying declaration, were all released on bail. Prosecutor could not establish a case despite having a video evidence.
- Mohammad Afrazul a daily wage laborer from West Bengal, was killed by Shambhu Negar. Shambhu burnt Afrazul’s body and had it filmed. Later on, from high security Jodhpur jail, Shambhu had access to mobile phone to upload WhatsApp message to his supporters.
- Alimuddin Ansari, a meat trader, was lynched. Alimuddin died in hospital. What is disturbing that a suave central minister garlanded the convicted accused when they came out on bail.
- Recently, Rakbar Khan was beaten up for transporting cows. He was brought dead in hospital. As it emerged, police men gave more importance to safely transporting cows to a shelter 17 km away, but did not take Rakbar Khan to hospital on priority which was just 6 km away. To top that, police men decided to have a cup of tea before they brought Rakbar Khan to police station and later to hospital.
Incidences mentioned above are some of the prominent ones, but not the only ones. There have been several such instances in different BJP ruled states against members of minority muslim community.
It is plausible that anti-Modi mainstream media had picked up issues that can embarrass ruling party and its leaders. But an image of a middle aged man being beaten up brutally cannot be wished away. Neither can it be ignored that police men that are expected to bring victim to hospital, preferred to protect cows over a human being. To top it all, a home minister tried to protect lynchers and passed the blame onto his force.
There is no denying that media has been silent when atrocity is committed on a member of majority community. For example in many instances when a BJP cadre is killed in opposition ruled West Bengal and Kerala, we have not seen much outrage in media. It has been reasoned that one cannot equate a hate killing with that of a political murder.
In a vast country like India with a billion strong population, the number of cases of lynching may not be very large, but these incidences have happened at regular interval. The sheer unpredictability of the situation makes the situation very uncertain. Question arises that are we slowly but steadily becoming a state where members of minority community have to live as a second class citizen? Will life an liberty of a member of minority community be decided by majority view point? Will a muslim be always told to go to Pakistan, if their lifestyle do not conform to liking of majority Hindu community? In our search for an assertive Hindu identity, are we in a spree to homogenise everything be it eating beef, practicing yoga or singing vandematram?
Biggest weakness of Modi government, according to me, is inability to put a stop to lynching of innocent muslims. Mr. Modi who is very active on twitter, has remained mostly silent, barring a few generic statements, on the topic of lynching, be it of a minority muslim or that of a majority hindu. Many have argued that silence of prime minister has emboldened those who participate in mob lynching, specially in BJP ruled states.
I think, this opposition parties will use this narrative of lack of inclusion of all sections of society into Indian mainstream as an election plank. I was listening to an interview of Prof. Amartya Sen on India Today TV. Prof Sen mentioned that India has taken a leap backward after 2014. Prof. Sen also said that he does not consider Modi to be his prime ministers. Embrace of Rahul Gandhi to Prime Minister Modi is most likely to send this message of love and inclusivity to the nation.