Rasheeda Bhagat

Not in my name – at long last

| Updated on: Jul 03, 2017
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Mob lynchings and targeting of minorities have gone too far. Hence the outpouring to civilise our public spaces all over again

Eid has come and gone, but 16-year-old Hafiz Junaid, who set out from his home in a Haryana village, with elder brother Hashim (19) and ₹1,500 in his pocket to buy new clothes and shoes for the festival, won’t return home. Ever. Because he has become one of the latest victims of mob violence or lynching in the name of ‘beef eating’.

The terrifying lynching of Muslims, all in the name of gau raksha , has finally got the condemnation it deserves, not only from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but from the citizens of India. The ‘Not in my Name” protests, begun entirely through social media and word of mouth, have at long last given a voice, however feeble it might appear in the face of its vituperative lambasting by the hate-filled Hindutva brigade, to such hateful mob violence.

Because if we remain silent when a minuscule minority of Indians is trying to destroy the rich social, cultural and secular fabric of this country, future generations are not going to forgive us. Not that this fabric is so fragile or frayed that it will crumble at the first assault. But the violence and murderous hatred unleashed by the so-called cow vigilantes has to be matched with a much stronger, more determined, and yet non-violent response.

More dangerous than riots

Because such lynching of Muslims, stray, one or a few at a time, and spread across various regions, is much more dangerous than a communal riot of any dimension, which gets consistent and focused media coverage.

Because the targeted killing of one, two or 10 citizens, for whatever reason, holds out the danger of gradually deadening our sensibilities and being accepted by our collective psyche. After all, don’t people die in road accidents? Or of cancer? Or of obesity brought about by negligence and over-indulgence? And a hundred other reasons?

The Indian media, already compromised in every which way, most of the time “crawling when they were asked to bend”, to recall the famous quote of BJP leader LK Advani after the Emergency, is fast losing the confidence of the general public, when it comes to reporting the truth without fear or favour. And hence more and more people, who are interested to know the truth, and non-biased coverage, are turning to foreign publications. And thanks to that great equaliser, the social media, these publications are no longer available only to the elite.

Inspiring image

But, thankfully, the ‘Not in my Name’ protests in the major Indian cities got wide coverage in the Indian media too. After all, it was an important movement, and it had to be reported. And so, when the image of the visibly ill 79-year-old celebrated playwright, actor and movie-maker Girish Karnad, leading the protest in Bangalore, hit the headlines, it made a huge impact. One voice on twitter voiced the feeling of many when it said: “This picture has broken my heart into a thousand pieces”.

But trolls lashed out at every such sympathetic or supportive voice. They condemned Karnad and other prominent social figures who participated, for all kinds of reasons. The main sentiment expressed was of incidents from the past when a Muslim had wronged/thrashed/killed a Hindu in the past.

Karnad said that any “kind of injustice against fellow Indians” had to be protested. “We have a Constitution, we have law and order and it is terrible that it is happening. We know why it is happening, it is happening for political purposes. It is not for religious purposes.”

This may not be entirely true, because religion is, of course, being used to demonise and terrorise an entire community.

If such lynching goes unchecked, anybody can use the excuse of cow slaughter or “beef eater” to kill a person to settle personal scores.

After all, the lynching of Junaid, the trigger for the ‘Not in my Name’ protests, is reported to have begun with a dispute over seats in the train.

As the fight started, he and his brother were dubbed “beef-eaters”, (reports say, ironically, that Junaid loved soyabean biryani) attacked by a group of bloodthirsty fellow travellers, thrashed and thrown out of the train. Junaid bled to death on Hashim’s lap.

What is petrifying is that those who killed Junaid did not even wear the label of professional or self-appointed gau rakshaks . The kind of encouragement and enthusiasm such a killing can give anybody who has a troublesome or “unlikable” Muslim neighbour, or a rival in matters of the heart, business and trade, or a keen competitor in school, college or the sports field, is terrifying.

Call him or her a beef eater, and do away with the rivalry/competition. As simple as that. Blood-curdling, isn’t it?

Prime Minister Modi has condemned such violence in the name of gau raksha .

He has done it earlier too, but without much impact. Unless his government acts decisively, and ruthlessly, to punish the perpetrators, his words will remain empty rhetoric.

Published on January 11, 2018

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