Mohammad Akhlaq killing, Rohith Vemula suicide were used as pretexts to 'fix' Hindu right-wing ideology

Balbir Punj
A narrative built on half-truths and tainted with ideological blinkers can never help us create an inclusive and plural society.

"How crime is getting a communal spin", an article published by The Times of India on 16 June should have rather read, "How crime has been getting a communal spin", so as to reflect the reality. This "spin" is neither a recent phenomenon, nor is it confined only to social media. It is a hydra-headed monster that has played havoc with the inclusive and plural character of this ancient land.

In this context, one may remember the unfortunate killing of 52-year-old Mohammad Aklaq in Dadri (Uttar Pradesh) in September 2015. The local mob suspected that he had slaughtered a cow and attacked him. The usual police action followed, suspects were rounded up, and are facing trial.

India, with a burgeoning population of over 130 crore, has its own share of crimes of all possible varieties that are reported. But Aklaq's murder was not one of them. It was an occasion to fix the 'Hindu Right'. For the 'Left-illiberal' pack, it was an opportunity to demonise Hindus in general and the BJP and RSS in particular.

With hordes of 'secular' politicians and mediapersons descending on the late Aklaq's village, it virtually turned into a "secular" tourist destination. The victim's family was flooded with gifts, ranging from cash, jobs for family members and houses. "Award wapsi" became the norm. Suddenly, celebrities such as Naseeruddin Shah started feeling "insecure" and "intolerance" became the signature tune.

Was Akhlaq murdered because of his faith? The more likely explanation is that he was a victim of mob fury which suspected him of hurting their religious sentiments and breaking the law. Cows are sacred to Hindus and in most Indian states, including Uttar Pradesh, killing cows is unlawful. Neither his tragic lynching, nor the divisive politics that followed, are justified.

The uproar (both at home and abroad) that followed Aklaq's murder, was interestingly many times more than what one saw when half a million Kashmiri Hindus were forced to flee their ancestral homes following the murder of scores of Pandits and destruction of numerous temples. A human tragedy of Himalayan proportions was a non-event. Worse, the victims (Pandits) were blamed for their misfortunate. The Pandits were accused of migrating from the Valley en mass lured by better prospects, offered by a "communal" Governor of the state, Jagmohan!

Disputes and fights take place often in crowded Indian trains. Lumpen elements (of all communities) frequently resort to violence. In June, 2017, four men €" Junaid, Hashim, Moeen and Mohseen €" had boarded a local train from Delhi's Sadar Bazar station and were going back to their home in Haryana's Ballabhgarh. A large group of around 15 men boarded the train and asked Junaid and his cousins to vacate their seats. A fight followed in which Junaid sadly lost his life. It was a simple fracas, the likes of which happens on Indian trains all the time. The "secular-illiberal" pack communalised the tragedy in pursuit of its divisive agenda.

Who killed Rohith Vermula? The "secular-illiberal" gang built a narrative that he was a victim of "manuwadi" policies of the Sangh Parivar and the Modi government. The entire unfortunate episode was exploited to pit Dalits against the rest of the Hindu society. But what are the facts of the case?

An intelligent guess about what was going on in Rohith's restless mind can be made from his suicide note. There were articles galore €" of course, with a predetermined theme. Surprisingly, all such analysis of Rohith's death hardly referred to his suicide note €" without doubt the most important document in this grim episode. Why? Was it because his last words wouldn't fit into the "secular" narrative?

The note reads: "...the value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind." Now juxtapose this against the portion which has been struck off from the suicide note, where Rohith says: "ASA, SFI, anything and everything exist for their own sake (sic). Seldom the interest of a person and this organisation match (sic)."

Rohith may have been an angry young man, eager to undo the injustice done to Dalits over centuries. And a perusal of his note reveals a sensitive soul: "I have no complaints on anyone. It was always with myself I had problems. I feel a growing gap between my soul and my body. And I have become a monster."

Why was there a disconnect between his soul and body? What had he done that made him feel he'd become a "monster"? Who were the people and what was the ideology that pushed him into this vortex of hate politics in the name of social justice that eventually consumed him? Rather than looking for honest answers to these questions, the "Left-illiberals" sought to use this human calamity to promote their hate agenda.

In September 1998, 26 people, mostly tribals, raped four nuns at the Priti Sharan Mission at Naupara village in the predominantly tribal district of Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh.

At that time, the incident had caused a lot of outrage, with many prominent Christians and human rights activists appealing to the UK for sanctions against India. Many Hindu organisations (read BJP/RSS) were blamed without proof and the whole country was maligned. The incident captured much front page space in newspapers.

Later on, the rapists were found to be Christians themselves and tribals (whom Indian Christians don't consider as Hindus).

Fast forward to 2019. Recently doctors all over the country, were on strike following the attack on doctors at Nil Ratan Sircar (NRS) Medical College in Kolkata by a Muslim mob. What was the reaction of the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, a "secular" icon, to the situation? She communalised the sordid episode further. She said "The BJP is trying to create communal tension... that doctors should not see Muslim patients. They should only see BJP patients."

The Times of India is right when it says, in the article mentioned earlier in this piece, that "Islamophobia is not new". However, the statement is incomplete and is a half truth. The phenomenon is not confined to India. Most of the world, including several Islamic countries, are wary of one or the other brand of Islam. Islamophobia in India has its roots going back to the repeated Islamic invasions starting from the seventh century onwards. Mahmud Ghazni (early 11th century), during the solemn ceremony of receiving the Caliphate honours on his accession to the throne of Ghazni, took a vow to wage jihad (holy war) every year against idol-worshippers in India.

In the present times, behind the facade of `state autonomy' in Kashmir, is the radical Islamic ideology of a complete rejection of the "kafir". This divisive and hateful mindset reverberates on social media, as well as on television and print media. A narrative built on half-truths and tainted with ideological blinkers can never help us create an inclusive and plural society.

The author is a former BJP member of the Rajya Sabha.

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