Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared on June 29 at Sabarmati that nobody has the right to take law into his/her hands and killing people in the name of cow devotion is not acceptable. Hours after the PM made his statement, a man who was transporting meat in Ramgarh district of Jharkhand was killed by a mob. The Prime Minister had made strong statement of condemnation against the cow vigilantes after dalit youth were publically flogged for skinning a dead cow at Una in Gjuarat. Unfortunately, the strong statement of condemnation by a strong Prime Minister had no impact on the cow vigilantes. The number of lynching in the name of cow protection has been increasing ever since the PM’s condemnation. The cold blooded killing of 15 year old boy, Hafiz Junaid at Ballabhgarh, Haryana in a running train, accusing him of carrying meat evoked widespread protest all over India. As a result the PM was forced to make a statement.
The reason for the increase in the indiscriminate killing of Muslims and dalits in the name of cow protection seems to be absence of strong political will to take on the cow vigilantes who belong to the Sangh Parivar organizations. The Sangh Parivar had floated these organizations of cow protection with the objective of polarizing the Hindu votes and alienating the Muslims. As a large number of Muslims depends on meat trade and meat processing for their livelihood, these extremist organizations have been focusing more on depriving the Muslims of their livelihood than protecting the cows. If their main concern were cow protection they would have taken care of the cows wandering in the streets. Many cows die due to road accident and eating plastic. A series of cow protection legislations passed by the BJP state governments, the policy decisions of Yogi Adityanath government to close down slaughter houses in UP and the latest decision of the central government to ban the sale of cows and buffaloes in the markets for slaughter all over India have provided further impetus to the right wing extremists to indulge in violence against the Muslims and dalits. Aakar Patel in his article in The Times of India on July 2, “ BJP Summoned the gau raksha genie, now it must bottle it” writes, “I would hold the government personally responsible for these murders and any reasonable person would. The data journalism website Indiaspend has reported that 97% of lynching murders by gau rakshaks have come after 2014.They are the gift to us of the Modi”.
It appears that the Prime Minister is either helpless because of the pressure from the Sangh Parivar outfits to speed up the process of establishing a Hindu Rashtra or he is a part of the game played by the Sangh Parivar. It has been a strategy of the RSS to float different organizations to adopt different methods to achieve the one and the same goal of Hindu Rashtra. Whenever the extremist groups indulge in violence the BJP, the political arm of the Sangh Parivar, makes a statement that it has nothing to do with the violence perpetrated by the so called fringe elements. At the same time the parent organization keeps mum. In spite of a series of lynching of Muslims by the cow vigilantes, the RSS has not condemned the murder of innocent people in the name of cow. On the other hand, its leaders reiterate the demand for a law banning cow slaughter all over India and it gives further encouragement to the anti-social elements. The failure of the Prime minister either to reprimand publicly or to remove from the cabinet his own ministers who indulge in hate speech or justify violence in the name of religion gives the impression that he doesn’t want to displease the bosses in Nagpur.
Some fundamentalist organizations have succeeded in spreading the venom of hatred against the minorities. Years of indoctrination and hate propaganda have given birth to a generation who believe that eliminating the minorities is their religious duty. The politically ambitious individuals make use of this hate filled crowd to polarize people and that gives further encouragement to the hate mongers. Ever since the BJP got absolute majority in the Lok Sabha this brainwashed and indoctrinated crowd has become uncontrollable and the police, who are duty bound to protect the citizens, either become indifferent or complicit in many cases. Large number of common people also have become indifferent either because of fear or because they believe the lies spread by a section of the media that has become subservient to the fascist ideology.
How to face this dangerous situation? The time has come for every citizen of India, who believes in the pluralistic heritage of India and committed to safeguard the constitution of India, to act. Every crisis is also an opportunity and if the citizens of India do not rise up now, anyone could be targeted at any time by the mob. The accusation of eating beef or keeping beef or being anti-national could be made against any person, including the Hindus, as an excuse to settle scores with that person. The people, who remain like spectators when innocent people are being attacked and killed and do not act, are worse criminals than those who indulge in the act of killing.
It is very sad to note that the Catholic Church in India that prides to be the representative of Jesus Christ has not responded to this dangerous situation. Neither the spokesperson of the CBCI nor the president of the CBCI condemned the series of lynching of Muslims. If the Church is to be faithful to Jesus Christ it has to fulfil its prophetic role. Fearlessness, compassion and creativity are the characteristics of a prophet. If Jesus were alive today he would have definitely raised his voice against the crime against humanity and appealed to all people of good will to protest. In fact, the Catholic Church in India should have taken the leadership to mobilize all secular minded groups and all people of good will in the country to protest against the indiscriminate killing of Muslims and dalits. It should have told loudly that lynching people under any pretext is not acceptable. Keeping mum on the part of the official Church in India is nothing but siding with the lynching mob and becoming a partner in the crime.
After all, Church is not a conglomeration of institutions but community of persons who follow the teachings and ideals of Jesus. What is happening in India today under the name of cow protection and nationalism is diametrically opposed to the values and ideals of Jesus. Hence every follower of Jesus has the obligation to protest against it. Participation in long prayers and rituals is meaningless if the followers of Jesus are not empowered to perform their prophetic role. One wonders why the charismatic preachers, who motivate their target groups to perform penance for the sins committed by their forefathers, are not able to inspire people to protest against injustice and inhumanity and suffer for the cause of justice.
It is very heartening and highly encouraging to note that the initiative taken by one individual, filmmaker Saba Dewan, assumed the form of a major protest in thirteen cities of India on June 28 under the banner, “Not in My Name”. Through his Facebook post against the killing of Hafiz Juanid, Saba Devan sought “to reclaim the constitution” and “resist the onslaught” on the right to life and equality. Thousands of people across India participated in the “Not in My Name” protest against the violence perpetrated in the name of Hinduism and nationalism. Holding play cards that read: “Break the silence”, No place for Islamophobia, and “Shed Hate, not Blood”, the protesters said that they had gathered to send out a message that there was need to unite for a cause.
Saba Devan has set in motion a proactive response to the culture of hatred and violence promoted by the fascist forces. More and more groups of citizens have to come forward to protest against the violation of the constitutional values and rights, recalling the words of Napoleon, “The world suffers a lot not because of the violence of bad people, but because of the silence of the good people”. Let the song of love flow from the citizens of India, “We are many, who love ‘love’ and they are few who love ‘hate’. So let’s come together and stop this hate with love and tell them that these killings are ‘Not in My Name’ and we won’t keep quiet, we are fighting back”.
The experience so far clearly indicates that the minorities and the underprivileged groups in India cannot get justice from the BJP government controlled by the fascist forces. At the same time the opposition parties are moribund and not able to prevent the derailment of the constitution of India. Against this backdrop the only way out is protest and campaigns like “Not in My Name” throughout the country. These protests may give rise to an Indian ‘Macron’ and a new political formation wedded to the values and ideals of the Indian Constitution, which will be able to defeat the fascist forces.(Published on 10th July 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 28)