Of lynch mobs, hate-campaigns and rumour mongering: the rising tide of communal-fascism

Anubhuti Agnes Bara

Anubhuti is a PhD scholar at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her research interests ranges from the conceptual issues related to the tribal identities in the central Indian tribal belt to the colonial and post-colonial strategies of development partitcularly in terms of the Indian State.

It is said that India is a ‘secular and democratic republic’ characterised by ‘peaceful’ coexistence of diverse religious, caste and cultural identites. However, history has always been fraught with communal tensions, riots, lynch mobs. Ever since the partition the idea of ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ has been toyed with by the sangh parivar and its stooges for their own ulterior political motives. Interestingly, back in 1995 on the eve of the 75th foundation year of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), K.S. Sudershan called upon the Christians and Muslims to ‘prove’ their ‘patriotism’. The RSS along with the rest of the Sangh Parivar has atrociously been posing as an authority of patriotism, despite being banned twice for anti-national activities by the Government of India post independence. How can anyone forget that these traitors became the agents of the British colonialism, while terming anti-colonial movement as ‘reactionary and ‘disastrous'(M. S. Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, Bangalore, 1996, p. 138)? How can anybody forget Gandhi’s assasination by Nathuram Godse, the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the Godhra riots?

Communal violence, continues unabated, albeit in more subtle terms. There is a mounting indication that the Sangh Parivar has expanded its repertoire from mass communal politics to convert terror attacks, misdirecting the responsibility onto the Muslim community and even the lower castes and distinct cultural groups. The spate of lynch mob attacks in Dadri, Kanpur, Hamirpur, Mainpuri (UP) and Udhampur(J&K) and the is a clear manifestation of it. Recently, Zahid Ahmad along with another truck driver was set ablaze by a mob on the Srinagar Jammu national highway at Udhampur on 9 October 2015.

The Dance of Death; Dadri and its Aftermath:

Ever since the heinous killing of Mohammad Akhlaq, a resident of Bisahda village of Dadri in western Uttar Pradesh, this trajectory of communal lynch mob attacks on the minorities have been on the rise. This gruesome murder took place over a rumour that Akhlaq and his family had ‘stolen and slaughtered a calf’ and ‘eaten beef’ and consequenquently ‘hurt Hindu sentiments’. In this context the rumour spread from announcement by a priest of the local temple. It must be pointed out that rumour-mongering has been always used an instrument by the saffron forces to spread communal hatred. On the night of 28 September 2015, a mob comprising of men from the dominant agrarian Jat-Gujjar community, forcefully barged into Akhlaq’s residence in Bisahda village, few hours away from Delhi, beat his 80 year old mother, molested his wife and daughter, while Akhlaq and his son Danish were ruthlessly dragged out on the street and beaten with bricks and stones. Akhlaq succumbed to his injuries while Danish’s condition remains critical despite of two brain surgeries.

Even, Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party Government in UP, that boasts of its ‘secular fabric’, shamelessly remained a mute spectator to entire episode with the police failing to prevent the lynching. The sub-divisional magistrate of Dadri told the family members of the deceased to accept whatever is being given by the government and remain quiet! In the name of ‘investigation’ the meat stored in Akhlaq’s fridge was sent for forensic examination (to check whether or not it was beef!), thereby turning the victim into the accused!

The spate of shameful comments on Dadri and similar issues aptly exposes the intentions and political designs of the Sangh Parivar. Just when the BJP leadership asked its leaders to refrain from remarks that could further vitiate the atmosphere in the wake of the Dadri killing over rumours of cow slaughter, the Party MP Sakshi Maharaj warned that ‘insults’ to one’s ‘biological mother’, ‘Bharat mata’ and ‘gau mata’ would continue to evoke strong reactions. BJP MP Yogi Adityanath has further said that we will provide weapons to all Hindus in that area. VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi has warned that all those eating beef will meet the same fate as Akhlaq. Local BJP leaders have demanded that a case of cow slaughter be registered against the survivors of the lynching! BJP’s Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma has called the lynching a mere ‘accident’ for which ‘no one should be punished’. BJP MP and former editor of the RSS mouthpiece Organiser Tarun Vijay wrote a piece playing down the Dadri lynching. Such spewing of venom has vitiated the atmosphere even further and paved way for several organised communal attacks which unfolded in Udhampur, Mainpuri.

A Well-Knit Communal Conspiracy?:

This particular incident of lynching should not be seen in isolation merely because it happened for the first time in Bisahda Village. Rather, there are many pointers to an orgainsed communal mobilisation and conspiracy. Interestingly a concerted campaign around ban on cow slaughter in India but more specifically in Uttar Pradesh. The ‘Samadhan Sena’, for instance, headed by Govind Chaudhary, has been spewing venom across Dadri for quite sometime by holding meetings to ‘discuss issues on cow slaughter’ and the ‘declining population of Hindus’, which interestingly has never bothered the local populace until now.

Moreover, just prior to the Dadri lynching, a Muslim man rumoured for being a ‘Pakistani terrorist’ was lynched to death in Kanpur. In a recent event one person (from the Sangh Parivar) has been caught red-handed in Azamgarh while he was throwing cow meat in a temple. The recent Ranchi riot is another manifestation of it. Besides, there have been many recent incidents in various parts of India where Muslim youth have been stripped, beaten or lynched to death on the allegation of ‘love jihad’. The recent Gulail.com sting operation video exposes how the top BJP leaders made fake cases of rape and extortion against inter-religion couples. It features all the hate-mongers from Muzaffarnagar accused BJP MP Sangeet Som to BJP MLA Suresh Rana.

Politics of Rumour-Mongering and Hate-Campaigns:

Thus, the rumour of ‘cow slaughter’ became the most feasible vehicle to mobilise a certain dominant agrarian caste on a Hindu plank against Muslims, dalits and all other oppressed identities. The 2002 dalit killings in Jhajjar, Haryana on the pretext of ‘cow slaughter’ being justifed by Giriraj Kishore, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader, by saying that ‘cows are more precious’ (than Dalits)! The recent Hamirpur episode wherein a ninety year old Dalit man, Chimma Ahirwar, was denied entry in a temple by a certain Sanjay Tiwari belonging from a dominant caste. These occurences speak volumes about the fact that the Sangh Parivar is solely an instrument by and for the powerful upper castes. Of course, virulent anti-minority hate campaigns remain the cornerstone of their ideology and tactics. But equally, they stand opposed to a democratic, equal society. These fascist communal forces are anti-dalit, anti-poor and anti-women. In Maharashtra, they target migrant labourers from north India, in the North-East they target all Muslims and brand them as ‘illegal Bangladeshis’, they shamelessly defend the worst brahminical and patriarchal notions in soiety, and are of couse arch-defenders of neo-liberal policies which are wrecking havoc on the millions of marginalised, poor in the country.

The Politics Sham and Theatrics Stands Exposed:

Prime Minster, Narendra Modi also shamelessly turned a blind eye to the whole issue until very recently when he broke his silence by ‘appealing’ to the people to ‘not listen to the hate speeches’! While emphasising on the ‘path shown by President Pranab’, he highlighted the need for the ‘core values of India’s civilisation to be protected’. It is ironical that Modi, who himself has been spewing venom through his inflammatory speeches, is now vouching for secularism, religious tolerance and democracy! It must be pointed out that his speech at the Khandwa rally in November 2013 was directly in line with the Sangh’s communal propaganda on ‘cow slaughter,’ (labelling it as ‘hatya’ or muder) demonising the minority communities by associating them with ‘slaughtering cows and other animals’ and calling the meat industry as ‘pink revolution’. No wonder, after these speeches on 4 April there was a similar flare-up in Pilibhit, UP. Farmers’ groups demand subsidies for their products without pitting this against subsidies for meat producers.

Moreover, very recently, in a sham meeting, BJP chief Amit Shah summoned Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan, MP Sakshi Maharaj and Uttar Pradesh MLA Sangeet Som to the party office in the morning and pulled them up for ‘making unnecessary inflammatory remarks’. It must be noted that such theatrics is coming in the backdrop of the ongoing Bihar Assembly elections and BJP’s poor electoral performance in the same. The communal remarks by several BJP MPs and MLAs at various junctures post Dadri episode are being seen to have acted as a dampener on the party’s chances in the high-voltage Bihar elections. The first phase of Bihar assembly polls evidently affirmPrime Minister’s flowery speeches’ failure to woo the voters. It seems that the people of Bihar, on behalf of the democratic and progressive sections of the society, are now questioning Modi (who calls the eating of beef and non-vegetarian food ‘murder’), whether he considers the lynching to death of a human being, murder?

The Way Forward:

The situation remains tense. Deaths of Akhlaq, Chimma and Zahid attest the death of democracy and secularism orchestrated by the saffron forces for spreading communal hatred. It becomes crystal clear that real issue here is not beef as it is being made out to be. Rather, it is the trajectory of communal polarisation and politics of hatred by the Sangh Parivar for their own ulterior motive of polarisation of votes during the time of elections. It has assumed various overtones at different junctures. At times it takes on the guise myth of ‘dying hindu numbers as against the muslims’, and ‘love jihad’; and at times fake encounters and ‘Ram Janmbhoomi’ and the so-called ‘protection’ of the ‘holy cow’. Aggressive majority communalism poses a fascist threat to the very existence of democracy and cultural pluralism in India. Darker times lie ahead. A nuanced understanding of the communal-casteist character of the saffron forces needs becomes very crucial in the present context. It is an urgent and fervent appeal to all the people of this country to unite against, recognise and reject the dangerous divisive politics mushrooming under the aegis of the Sangh parivar. The need of the hour is that progressive and democratic sections should come together against the rising tide of communal fascism. The struggle for democracy and secularism along with scientificity and rationality have to be fought in a more streamlined manner as has been envisaged by people like Narendra Dhabolkar and Govind Pansare who died fighting for these very ideas.

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