Fear and loathing in new India: Dadri, Alwar lynchings leave us unmoved | columns | Hindustan Times
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Fear and loathing in new India: Dadri, Alwar lynchings leave us unmoved

Nothing exemplifies the moral slide from Dadri to Alwar as much as the indifference on display

columns Updated: Apr 29, 2017 18:34 IST
Pehlu Khan
Anguri Begum, mother of Pehlu Khan sitting on dharna at Jatnar Mantar in New Delhi. (Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

A family counts itself blessed that the 85-year-old mother is blind and is ,therefore, spared from having to watch the video of her son being told to escape – then chased and lynched.

We shrug at a bride’s disappointment at a curtailed wedding feast because her family is too scared to serve buffalo biryani (legal but risky), opting for chicken korma (expensive but safe). You can understand the caution. The bride’s hometown, Dadri is a landmark in India’s recent lynching history.

Young Hindu men run amok in Uttar Pradesh, identifying Muslim-run butcher shops and force their closure. “Muslims will feel the pain,” Pankaj Singh of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, the organisation founded by Adityanath Yogi, UP’s new chief minister, tells Reuters.

Nothing exemplifies the moral slide from Dadri to Alwar as much as the indifference by us citizens to the medieval-style lynching of dairy farmer Pehlu Khan. In Parliament, minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi flat-out denied that such an incident had taken place. In BJP-ruled Rajasthan, the state home minister, blithely stated: “He must have transported the cows illegally, hence he was penalised.” I guess we’re lucky that chief minister Vasundhara Raje has not deigned to speak.

There’s silence too from the courts that otherwise jump in to demand attention to the national anthem. This lynching, this erosion of right to life, this whittling down of civil liberties where marauding mobs in Meerut can barge into the house of a citizen without fear or consequence does not seem to move our justices.

So far, none of the six men named by Pehlu Khan in his dying statement has been arrested. Those who have, include a college president and a passerby who joined the mob whilst on his way to buy cremation material for his father’s funeral. A ‘sadhvi’ Kamal has compared these men to Bhagat Singh and Azad.

The four who survived the beating also face charges of illegally transporting cattle.

Earlier this week, Pehlu’s family came to Delhi seeking what is fast becoming elusive to some: justice.

Apart from a clutch of reporters, the family’s protest went unnoticed and uncovered. The lead story of the day: coverage of a publicity savvy singer who took up an obscure cleric’s challenge to shave his head. Channels couldn’t get enough of that story, TRPs were through the roof and citizens, immune to the routine violence in a new India, were guaranteed a day’s free entertainment.

At Jantar Mantar, Khan’s family hung around till the early evening. An exhausted Angoori Begum, the 85-year-old mother, lay back on a now empty podium. The taxi driver hired to bring them grew impatient. The family urged him to wait. They had heard that a TV crew was on its way.

Namita Bhandare writes on social issues and gender. She has edited books; and features in a documentary on sexual violence

@namitabhandare