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BRP Bhaskar: Lynch mobs on the loose
June 27, 2017
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

On the night of Laylat al-Qadr, while the devout were listening to Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s words in Srinagar’s Juma Masjid, a few metres away a group of youths lynched to death Mohammed Ayub Pandith, a deputy superintendent of police. Six hours earlier Junaid, a teenager from Ballabhgarh in Haryana, who was returning home with his brothers after a shopping trip to Delhi, was stabbed to death in a train.

The two incidents are symptomatic of the culture of violence which has spread across India in the recent past and assumed menacing proportions in some states.

The Srinagar incident was part of the renewed violence in trouble-torn Kashmir. The youths raising pro-Pakistan slogans apparently mistook Ayub Pandith, who was in civilian clothes, for an informer.

The holy month of Ramadan was a deadly one for the valley with official reports putting the death toll at 42-27 militants, eight policemen, six civilians and one army man.

Junaid was a hapless victim of the violence unleashed by Hindutva groups created or inspired by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s ideological parent, after Narendra Modi led the party to power in May 2014.

The Hindutva elements have targeted three categories of people: students of institutions of higher learning where Left-wing and Ambedkarite organisations have held the BJP-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad at bay, members of minority communities, particularly Muslims, and Dalits.

The ABVP stirred up trouble in the campuses accusing rival student bodies of anti-national activities. The Hindutva outfits began hounding Muslims and Dalits alleging cow slaughter, beef eating etc.

Organised Hindutva violence actually began before the 2014 elections. The victims included three prominent rationalists, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, both of Maharashtra, and MM Kalburgi, of Karnataka, who were killed between 2013 and 2015.

Violence directed against Muslims in the Meerut area of Uttar Pradesh led to communal polarisation in the state and benefited the BJP in the 2014 parliamentary elections as well as this year’s assembly elections. Quite recently there was targeted violence against Dalits in the Saharanpur area.

The RSS, which was under ban thrice after Independence – after Gandhi’s assassination in 1948, during the Emergency in 1975-77 and after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 – has now assumed an active role in matters of governance. Modi and the new crop of BJP chief ministers like Yogi Adityanath of UP, are erstwhile RSS pracharaks (promoters). Their presence in the citadels of power has emboldened communal outfits to take the law into their own hands. The police force has been slow in acting against the Hindutva elements even in non-BJP states.

Under Modi’s rule, lynching has emerged as Hindutva’s favourite modus operandi. There is no official data on the incidence of this horrendous form of violence. One of the early lynchings which attracted national attention was that of Mohammed Akhlaq, at Dadri in UP, just about 40 kilometres from Delhi, in 2015 on a false charge of cow slaughter. Unofficial tabulations indicate there has been at least a score of such incidents since then. Barring three Hindus who were among seven cattle traders killed in Jharkhand, all known lynch victims are Muslims or Dalits.

Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi claimed that lynchings were over-hyped and over-reported. However, he gave no figures to substantiate the claim.

Official figures do not bear out the popular impression that there has been a spurt in violence since Modi took over. In fact, the National Crime Records Bureau’s reports show that fewer crimes were registered in 2015, the first full year of Modi rule for which data is available, than in 2014. Cases of murder dropped from 33,981 to 32,127, rape from 36,735 to 34,651, rioting from 66,042 to 65,255, atrocities against Dalits from 47,064 to 45,003 and atrocities against Adivasis from 11,451 to 10,914.

There are two possible explanations for the divergence between the popular perception and the government data. One is that while the Hindutva gangs went on a rampage other miscreants were unusually quiet, leading to an overall decline in crime. The other is that just as production figures are fudged to present a rosy picture of the economy the crime data may be tweaked to yield a bright picture of the law and order situation.

Modi, who is a tireless social media campaigner, has not written one word against the lynchings. The RSS, which has a reputation for maintaining high discipline, too has not said anything. Their silence and the police’s passivity are tending to aggravate the situation.

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