Beef Politics in India takes a dirty turn

It is a fact that since Narendra Modi guided Hindu nationalist BJP to victory and became India's PM, minorities in India, especially Muslims, have felt threatened by many policies adopted by ruling party

Beef Politics in India takes a dirty turn

Abu Zafar - India

After the barbaric lynching of a 52-year old Muslim man in a village near the national capital New Delhi, once again politics over the cow has become a hot debate in social and political circles across India. Amid accusations and allegations of parties playing politics over the horrific murder of a poor man, every political party had continued to exploit the issue. It is a fact that since Narendra Modi guided the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a landslide victory to become India's 15th Prime Minister, minorities in India, especially Muslims, have felt threatened by many policies adopted by the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP. And politics over cow is one of them.

It was the evening of September 28, three days after the Muslim festival of Bakraied of Eidul Adha in Bisara, a village near Dadri in Uttar Pradesh (UP). A mob comprising neighbours of Mohammad Akhlak (52) accused him of being in possession of beef. Armed with sticks, swords and pistols, they broke the main door of Akhlak’s house and dragged his family out. They lynched him, his son Danish (22) is fighting for his life at a hospital in Noida.

The BJP and its ideological patron Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) claim that the cow represents the mother. But the fact is many Hindus eat beef. After this attack, many prominent figures including journalists, intellectuals and former jurists openly declared that they ate beef and that it was their right. It is also important to note that despite beef being banned in many major Indian states, beef exports have gone up since the Modi government came to power. It is also interesting to note that many of the big exporters belong to the Hindu community.

But according to Mahesh Sharma, a Minister in the Modi government, this attack is a mere “accident”. Incidentally, Sharma represents the Gautam Budh Nagar constituency (home to Bisara village) in the Lower House of Parliament. He has described Akhlaq’s lynching by the mob as an accident that resulted from a misunderstanding and is unwilling to concede that the murder was in fact pre-planned. It was the same Sharma, who during a recent TV interview, made a malicious statement defaming India’s Muslim community. Shrewdly praising former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam, who passed away recently, Sharma said that despite being a Muslim, Kalam had been a nationalist and a humanist.

Modi and many other politicians in the government including Sharma are long-term volunteers of the RSS, a right-wing Hindu organization with no official members. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the first RSS volunteer to serve as Prime Minister. The RSS and the Indian state have a long complicated relationship. In 1948, one year after Independence, a Hindu radical named Nathuram Godse shot Mahatma Gandhi dead because Godse felt Gandhi was too soft on

Muslims. Though Godse claimed he had left the RSS prior to the assassination, his brother later said that he had only said that to protect the organisation. Since then, the RSS has been banned in India three times.

The Indian government repeatedly revoked the ban on the RSS because, allegedly, they are non-political. By the 1960s, the RSS had spawned the Sangh Parivar, an umbrella group that included about 50 member organisations. Their loose structure and no-official-member policy continues to provide them plausible deniability when radical affiliates like the Vishva Hindu Pariṣhad (VHP) stir up communal violence. This also allows the RSS to control the BJP while claiming to be a non-political entity.

Akhlak’s lynching is not the first communal incident. Tensions between Hindus and Muslims have flared up multiple times in India. But the exploitation of communal riots and conflicts for political gain is something that was comparatively less known before. Many believe that the riots in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh in 2013 were engineered to polarize voters on religious lines. And the following year, the BJP emerged as the single largest party in the general election.

PM Modi, who is very vocal and in the past had often accused former PM Manmohan Singh of being silent on important issues, is mum over this horrific attack. People from civil society and the Opposition have been demanding that he speak out. But even a week after the incident he remains silent.

It is true that many educated people are now opposing such attempts by Hindu radicals to communalise India. They are opposed to such politics and have condemned the barbaric attack on Akhlak and his family. It is also true that such attacks are targeted and well-planned. The perpetrators know all too well the impact such attacks have on elections. The communal riots in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli in 2013 and the impact it had on the general elections in UP and elsewhere is there for everyone to see. The riots which claimed dozens of lives and displaced thousands of people helped the BJP push a double narrative: they were both defenders of Hindus and a party that promised good governance. The BJP presented the riots as a law and order problem caused by the UP government’s incompetence.

Thirteen years before, on February 27, 2002, as Chief Minister of the western state of Gujarat, Modi had been accused of directing cops to stand down as Hindus carried out a three-day bloodbath, systematically raping, looting and killing over 1000 people, most of them Muslims. As a result, the international community had shunned Modi and the US had denied him a visa.

The Muzaffarnagar riots became an experiment for fascist forces and came to be known as the new laboratory of Hindutva forces. Rioters including BJP leaders spread rumours and used the social media, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Whatsapp, to foment violence. The same tactic was used in Bisara too. They put out inflammatory statements and comments on Facebook, Twitter and shared it via Whatsapp. They compelled a temple priest to announce that Akhlaq was in possession of beef and that his house should be attacked.

The fascist forces know that state elections are just around the corner in the neighbouring state of Bihar, followed by local body elections and then state elections in 2017 in UP. Is it any surprise then that since the Modi government came to power most of the campaigns with overt communal overtones like Love Jihad, Ghar Wapsi (home coming) have been launched in UP. What is more disturbing is that it is the educated youth armed with modern technologies who are indulging in communalism. The recent elections in the universities of Delhi are a case in point.

Last Mod: 09 Ekim 2015, 11:31
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