Mus­lim lynch­ing un­der Modi

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - AZAD ESSA

Azad Essa is a jour­nal­ist at Al Jazeera. He is also co-founder of The Daily Vox

LAST week 15-year-old Ju­naid was travelling back home with his three broth­ers on a train after com­plet­ing some Eid shop­ping in the In­dian cap­i­tal of Delhi. Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, the boys were asked to va­cate their seats. When they re­fused, a mob be­gan beat­ing the boys, stab­bing them and fling­ing them from the train. Ju­naid was killed.

In Naren­dra Modi’s In­dia, public lynch­ing has be­come a na­tional sport.

The vic­tims are usu­ally Mus­lim or Dalit, two com­mu­ni­ties forced to live on the mar­gins of In­dian so­ci­ety. The is­sue is osten­si­bly over cows with beef con­sump­tion now banned in 21 of 29 states across the coun­try.

A lynch­ing of a Mus­lim man in 2015 near Delhi over a ru­mour he ate beef,a public flog­ging and lynch­ing of seven Dalit fam­ily mem­bers for skin­ning a dead cow in Gu­jarat in 2016, and the lynch­ing of a man in April in Ra­jasthan for trans­port­ing cows in a truck are some of 17 cases of lynch­ing over the past two years.

This grow­ing list does not in­clude other forms of phys­i­cal and ver­bal abuse and dis­crim­i­na­tion faced by Mus­lims and Dal­its.

Un­der Modi, the rul­ing-BJP gov­ern­ment has looked to in­sti­tute dis­pro­por­tion­ate mea­sures such as life im­pris­on­ment and the death penalty for eat­ing beef.

How­ever, cow pro­tec­tion is mere sym­bol­ism in a state and so­ci­ety that is in­creas­ingly seek­ing to assert its Hindu iden­tity – at the ex­clu­sion of In­dia’s size­able mi­nori­ties.

When Ju­naid and his broth­ers were at­tacked, their at­tack­ers felt em­bold­ened enough to call them “beef-eaters” while hack­ing at them over seats in a train.

Ju­naid’s sense­less mur­der raised less than a whim­per in In­dia. The young man who wanted to be­come an Imam is now just an­other foot­note in the nor­mal­i­sa­tion of fas­cism and au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism in In­dia.

It is time for In­dia to face up to a ma­jor prob­lem.

As its PM con­demns acts of ter­ror around the world, he re­mains silent over the in­crease in at­tacks against mi­nori­ties un­der his ad­min­is­tra­tion. When mem­bers of his ad­min­is­tra­tion have spo­ken up, it has been with dis­dain to the vic­tims.

For in­stance, when ac­tivist Za­far Hus­sein was lynched after he tried to pre­vent a group of men from tak­ing pho­tos of women defe­cat­ing in public, Va­sund­hara Raje, the chief min­is­ter of Ra­jasthan, de­scribed his mur­der as “a demise”.

In­ci­den­tally, the men who killed him were part of “Swachh Bharat” (Clean

Sense­less mur­der raised less than a whim­per in In­dia. The young man wanted to be­come an Imam

In­dia) cam­paign, who look to shame peo­ple into us­ing public toi­lets. Modi’s poli­cies – geared to­wards Am­ba­nis and Bir­las and their ver­sion of the Gup­tas – den­i­grates the poor to have them “get with his agenda”.

And for this, the In­dian main­stream me­dia needs to ac­cept blame.

There is lit­tle in­ter­ro­ga­tion or op­po­si­tion to a de­vel­op­ing theme of nor­malised fas­cism.

If any­thing, the main­stream me­dia is part of the en­sem­ble.

To crit­i­cise Modi’s In­dia is to risk be­ing la­belled “anti-na­tional” and to be charged with sedi­tion.

Mean­while, the in­creas­ingly au­thor­i­tar­ian and fas­cist in­tol­er­ance of the Hindu right, ev­i­denced by lynch­ings, beat­ings and ram­pant jin­go­is­tic nar­ra­tives that take of­fence at the slight­est crit­i­cism of the In­dian state, is un­der­played in com­par­i­son.

By sen­sa­tion­al­is­ing Mus­lim “bar­bar­ity”, and run­ning cam­paigns of fake news, ac­tions against the lat­ter are there­fore jus­ti­fied or “put into con­text”. In the un­holy al­liance of cap­i­tal and re­pres­sion – the usual spaces that are meant to ques­tion and cri­tique – be it in academia or in the me­dia – are be­ing used to fur­ther this project.

While In­dia has been long touted as a bas­tion of unity and di­ver­sity, lynch­ing has come to rep­re­sent the fes­ter­ing un­der­belly of a faux-sec­u­lar democ­racy; the salt wa­ter could only be kept down for that long.

In In­dia, the col­lec­tive con­science is done with the pre­tence of con­cern.

Un­der Modi, In­dia has taken sig­nif­i­cant strides to­wards ce­ment­ing it­self as a ma­jori­tar­ian repub­lic, where mi­nori­ties are not ci­ti­zens in a so­cial com­pact with the state, but rather un­wanted guests in a sys­tem that marginalises those who do not “fit in”. This, de­spite the fact that the ma­jor­ity of Mus­lims chose to re­main in In­dia over Pak­istan, the state cre­ated for Mus­lims.

But not a day passes when they are asked to prove their loy­alty to the na­tion.

When In­dia lost the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy cricket fi­nal against Pak­istan in mid­month, 15 Mus­lims were ar­rested for cheer­ing for Pak­istan.

It turned out the po­lice forced a man to make false claims against the com­mu­nity.The sen­sa­tion­al­ist me­dia at­ten­tion given to triple ta­laq (or in­stant di­vorce, which by­passes cus­tom­ary Is­lamic rul­ings on di­vorce) or other is­sues such as “love ji­had”, in which young Mus­lims are said to tar­get non-Mus­lim girls, con­tin­ues to de­pict and frame Mus­lims as the threat to In­dia’s so­cial fab­ric.

Across the coun­try, there is a grow­ing anx­i­ety among Mus­lims.

SILENT ON AT­TACK OF MI­NORI­TIES: In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi leads the In­dian del­e­ga­tion at a meet­ing with US President Don­ald Trump at the White House.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.