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Communal cauldron boils

The gruesome incident in <g data-gr-id="55">Bisara</g> village is a wake-up call for India, as it seeks to move into a modern and digital age. On Monday night, a mob instigated by some young villagers in Western Uttar Pradesh lynched a 50-year-old man to death with bricks, on mere suspicion that he had killed a calf and ate its meat with the family. The victim’s son, meanwhile, was  severely assaulted. The son is currently in a state of coma after undergoing two brain surgeries. The police had initially arrested a temple priest and his assistant for questioning. A first information report (FIR) was filed naming ten of the attackers based on the testimony of the family members.  The temple priest, however, denied any involvement. He said that he was forced to make the announcement by some youngsters. The priest said that he had only announced that a cow had been killed and asked people to gather near the temple. On October 3, a man named Vishal, the son of a local BJP leader Sanjay Rana, was arrested in connection with the case. Local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders have accused the Samajwadi Party-led Uttar Pradesh government of wrongful incarceration of the accused and minority appeasement for providing succour to the victim’s family. On Sunday, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh called the Dadri lynching “unfortunate” but warned that it should not be “politicised”. Earlier, his party colleague, Mahesh Sharma, had said the killing was an accident and should not be given a “communal twist”. For the uninitiated, the cow is a sacred animal among certain sections of the Hindu community. 

Despite the pleas of certain Union Ministers, it is clear that the gruesome incident has taken a communal and political turn. BJP district president Thakur Singh told a leading news daily, “The locals gave samples of meat to the police, but they (the cops) did not take it seriously. Then some people got agitated.” Another BJP leader, <g data-gr-id="60">Vichtra</g> Tomar said, “We also demand legal action against those people, who are engaged in cow slaughter as it is hurting Hindu sentiments”. Unfortunately for the likes of Union Minister Rajnath Singh, the BJP’s rank and file has already communalised the event. Denying that this was murder, Shrichand Sharma, vice-president of BJP’s western UP unit, said, “The man did not die because of the injuries but because of shock when someone (wrongly) told him his son was dead. This happens every day. When we hurt people’s sentiments, such clashes take place. This was not a communal riot. The Hindu community worships cows. Whose blood won’t boil if they see cow slaughter?” What these politicians do not seem to understand is that under no circumstances are lynchings justified. Moreover, the police are yet to conclude their investigation into the case. However, it is apparent that these politicians have spared no words to sow the seeds of communal polarisation. Not to be left behind, AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi, said, “This murder was pre-meditated. He has been killed in the name of religion. It is an attack on our community. It cannot be an accident. All of this is being propagated by the state and central governments.” Again, communally divisive statements have come to the fore before the police have even concluded their investigation into the case.

However, what should worry one more than anything else are the comments coming out of the ruling establishment at the Centre and the relative silence of self-styled “secular” parties. No one from the upper echelons of the Congress has sent a fact-finding mission to the village, which is just a 40-minute drive from Delhi. Regional satraps like Lalu and Nitish seem hesitant of saying anything surrounding an issue involving the cow. Meanwhile, Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma, who is also the region’s Parliamentary representative, called the incident “an accident”. His party colleague and Rajya Sabha MP Tarun Vijay wrote a column trying to sanitise the sheer brutality of the event. Vijay said that lynching a man “merely on suspicion” was abhorrent to the spirit of Hinduism. Is the parliamentarian implying that if the man had indeed eaten beef and the mob had clear evidence of it, would such retribution be justified? One is not sure what to make of such a comment, except that it seeks to sanitise the brutal nature of the incident. Moreover, the state of Uttar Pradesh has banned cow slaughter, although consumption of its meat does not come under the ambit of the law.  The rest of Vijay’s piece is a series of diversionary non-sequiturs.

The only solace from the entire sequence of events was Indian Air Force chief Arup Raha, who said on Sunday that the family of an airman, whose father was lynched, would be moved to an air force station for safe keeping. Without getting into the gutter politics ignited by the incident, Raha said the tragedy was “unacceptable” in a country like India, especially over issues of eating beef. The armed forces, unlike our political system, seems to be the only true bastion of secularism and in this case upholder of constitutional values.
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