The fire of violence could singe us all

We are passing through an extraordinary phase when murders are becoming the favourite pursuit of the mobocracy

columns Updated: Jul 02, 2017 22:59 IST
Shashi Shekhar
Shashi Shekhar
Hindustan Times
Junaid, 16, was murdered while returning home after Eid shopping. Knife stabs were discovered on half of his body. This happens only when the killer is seething with obsessive rage. (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

This time the frightening news reports originated from Jharkhand. At a remote village in Giridih district, people saw a carcass of a large animal outside a person’s house. The rumour spread like wildfire that it was a cow-killing. Around a thousand people surrounded the house and mercilessly beat up the ageing home-owner. The police reached the spot and tried to save his life but he succumbed to injuries at the hospital. Before the ink could dry up on this shameful story, another tragic incident in Ramgarh came to light. Here again a vehicle driver was beaten up so badly on allegation of transporting banned meat that he breathed his last on reaching the hospital.

Don’t you think we are passing through an extraordinary phase when murders are becoming the favourite pursuit of the mobocracy?

If this wasn’t the case, why was a group of young men beaten up near Ballabhgarh on the eve of Eid? In this tragic incident, 16-year-old Junaid was murdered while returning home after Eid shopping. Knife stabs were discovered on half of Junaid’s body. This happens only when the murderer is seething with obsessive rage.

Before this too people have been beaten to death in Assam, Alwar and Dadri. Many other people have been beaten up at other places.

Looking at these incidents, you shouldn’t jump to the hasty conclusion that the victims of violence are only from minorities.

In Srinagar, DSP Ayub Pandith was killed by ‘his own’ people. Senior officers of the Kashmir police had deputed him to keep a watch on proceedings during special prayers outside the Jamia Mosque to commemorate the holy night of piety. The mob reportedly attacked him after tearing his clothes.

What did the mob want to see by taking his clothes off? Unconfirmed reports say that his nameplate bore his name A Pandith. Did the word ‘Pandith’ lead to his death? Was that the motive behind tearing off his clothes? Despite this he was not saved, but killed. The surnames Pandith, Pundir and Chauhan don’t symbolise a caste or religion: They are a symbol of our tradition. How can our tradition be a murderer?

Spreading hatred in the name of religion is the easy option, but when the fire of violence begins to rage, it doesn’t singe you after asking you your caste or religion. The bloodshed in Saharanpur is its biggest example. The clash here wasn’t religious but was on the basis of caste. As a result three people had to lose their lives and the time that the government machinery would have spent on development projects was instead spent restoring law and order.

Certain intellectuals want to push their selfish interests by blaming these incidents on the ruling dispensation. I want to make it clear that it isn’t a transgression committed by a particular government. The history of the misdeeds carried out in the name of mob justice goes back decades. According to a BBC article, numerous incidents of mob lynchings came to light during the long Left Front rule in West Bengal. Between 1982 and 1984 alone, more than 300 people became victims of angry mobs in different parts of the country.

This long and bloodied history makes it obvious that our politicians enjoy encouraging the malaise rather than fighting it. The statement made by former Uttar Pradesh minister Azam Khan about the armed forces shows how serious our politicians are about such incidents. He is not alone. Every party and political outfit has people who are keen to promote this mud-slinging. Just read a few statements by ‘maharajs’ and ‘sadhvis.’ You will realise that the same people who were given the responsibility of emotionally strengthening a people divided by Partition betrayed their own supporters.

Is this happening only in India? No, the entire world has been afflicted by this. Most European nations and the United States have been split wide open owing to social tensions. Even a Buddhist country like Myanmar where social harmony should prevail is seeing a regime of torture unleashed on the Rohingya Muslims. It is having an impact on the Indian subcontinent too.

Has the 21st century brought in the danger of strife and distrust along with unprecedented technological progress?

It is a matter of relief that on Thursday Prime Minister Narendra Modi strongly condemned the violence and killings carried out in the name of cow protection. He has done it before but it didn’t have any effect on the hardliners. One hopes they’ll be dealt with strictly when required.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief Hindustan

First Published: Jul 02, 2017 22:58 IST