The story of shock and awe

By  Amood Gulzar

So they sent the piece of meat to a forensic laboratory to check whether it was mutton or beef? If the laboratory had said it is beef, the lynch mob that killed Akhlaq would have been justified to have killed a man for “hurting Hindu sentiments”. A BJP leader from UP Schrichand Sharma said, “the police should register a case against the victim’s family for possessing and consuming the beef”. Unlike Maharashtra, in UP and many other states in India, there is no ban on possession of beef. Remember, in Kerala, a Hindu-majority state, a majority of Hindus eat beef. In Goa and north-eastern states beef is eaten widely. A couple of days earlier retired Supreme Court judge Justice Katju publicly stated that he did not venerate cow to the “ status of mother”, though others could worship her.

Akhlaq’s family says they had prepared mutton for the Eid festival, not beef. Now, what if they had stored and cooked beef? Did they, or for that matter, any other individual, have to seek permission from others what they should eat and what not? Where does then go the much-touted unity in diversity and the secular Indian state? If it is a matter of faith for one community, it, by the same yardstick, is a matter of faith for the other. That, in fact, is the essence of secular values. As the Supreme Court has recently ruled the state “cannot force down” choice of eating something down somebody’s throat, as such choice exclusively belongs to the individual. It is a shame on the authorities to have sent the confiscated piece meat to forensic laboratory to look at from a faith angle at a time when India is aiming to reach the Mars and talking about a Digital India. The entire world must be laughing at our savagery. What saner voices from India at this time should demand is forensic investigation of the criminals who killed Akhlaq. Those who treat victims as accused should be quarantined to prevent further spread of their moral leprosy.

The attack on Akhlaq and his family, we firmly believe, was not because of their crime of alleged beef consumption. It was because of their religion which Hindutva goons oppose. Would the fanatic Hindu brigade do the same savagery to the Hindus in Kerala and elsewhere who eat beef? And pray tell us, if cow is the “mother”, then its veneration has not to be confined to a certain region. How come you trade with Europe, United States, Arab countries and the rest of the world where beef is eaten and you don’t bat an eyelid? You don’t deliver threats of imposing boycotts, as you give to people of Kashmir. You don’t count it a profanity to wear shoes, use bags, purses and scores of other articles made from hides of bovine animals. Even when you are in power and basking under the “pink revolution”, beef is exported to foreign countries.

Let us assume the Muslim family in Basara (Dadri) has, according to Hindutva enthusiasts, hurt the sentiments of worshippers of the sacred cow by consuming beef, was the lynching justifiable? And where shall it stop? Can a person’s life be taken just for eating something he is entitled to according to his choice and religious belief? The forbidden piece, even in states where ban on beef is in operation, entails imprisonment and fine, not death.

Reports suggest the murder was premeditated and it was not spontaneous eruption of violence as claimed by the local BJP leadership. Three days after the Eid, two men at the local temple, with the permission of the temple priest, at 10.40 pm announced: “ Remains of a cow on the road near the big transformer have been thrown. Everyone assemble on the street”. It was ridiculously unconvincing. How could a small group of 300 Muslims surrounded by 15,000 Hindu villagers that cringe dare to do that. The mob tore through the gates of Akhlaq’s house, dragged him and beat him to death. His son, 20-year Danish, is battling for life in a hospital. Danish’s mother told The Indian Express, “That day (Eid) some boys sitting near a shop, saw my son going to the mosque and called him “Pakistani”. “ Look a Pakistani is living in this village. We will not tolerate this. The incidents of Muzaffarnagar (riots in 2013) will be repeated”. Like the fear-struck Muslims did in the riot-affected Muzafarnagar when hundreds of them were killed and their houses set ablaze, Akhlak’s family and the rest of 300 Muslims in the village of 15,000 Hindus have decided to leave the village where  they were rooted for centuries. The devastated family felt “ betrayed and abandoned by neighbours and friends. On Eid day we would give them sewai and mutton”. But “when we cried for help, none turned up”.

Communal criminals have become stronger now and they are calling the shots. Those responsible for organising communal riots get them parliamentary and assembly tickets. The message goes, the more you excel in polarising society and targeting minorities, in particular Muslims, more opportunities open to you. It is hate politics that is being promoted by communalists in India against a particular community to preserve and protect its grip by exploiting the raw religious sentiments of Hindus. Sadly, the so-called secular parties are fast yielding space to them. India, it appears, is on way to becoming a banana republic. The Sabka Saath, SabKa Vikaas slogan has proved hollow.

The author is a founder-member of SOCH and a student of Commerce in Aligarh Muslim University. He has worked for rehabilitation of Muzaffarnagar riots victims. Feedback:

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 November 2015 on page no. 2

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