10, Dec 2017 | Teesta Setalvad
Sometimes words lose their meaning, outrage its impact and a strange numbness and chilling acceptance prevails. India is today shattering apart, bitterly impacted at its core, as incident after incident of calculated, brutal cruelty, almost all against poor, working class Muslims dot its landscape. These incidents occur with orchestrated regularity in some regions more than others. As each one overtakes the other in its sheer barbarism, the silence from the men, and women at the top, accord this gladiatorial violence, sanction.
From business scion, Anand Mahindra to others from the ground, outrage has been felt all around. Few can find the stomach to even describe what the hatred in the mind of this Hindutvawadi and what it did to a Bengali – origin Muslim labourer, 48 year old, Mohammad Afrazul –regularly working for him — for no reason other than the fact that he was a poor, defenseless Muslim man.
The incident took place three days ago in Rajsamand, Rajasthan and the video of this most gruesome murder by Shambhu Lal sent chills down India’s backbone. What is as bad as the act itself, is the fact is that the murderer even got a 14 year old relative to film the attack: he hacked him brutally even as the poor man cried out for mercy. Lal then went back to burn the still alive body. He then uploaded the recording on Facebook and social media where it went viral. Who were among those who watched this violent voyeurism? Did they gloat or were they horrified? We shall never really know. This is the state that the worldview of the current dispensation has
reduced our country to.
“I first turned my eyes away from the video and was about to scroll away from it. And then I realised that by not acknowledging the reality of the video, I would share the collective guilt of a society that does not battle its own demons,” wrote Anand Mahindra on Twitter. He went further and wrote, “Turning cold-blooded murder into a televised drama shows a diseased mind of unimaginable magnitude. If we are to lay any claim to being a civilised society, then justice for this act must be delivered decisively & swiftly.”
The day this latest horror was perpetrated is also of some significance. December 6. Twenty five years ago a crime was committed in full public view in 1992 when a 400 year old Mosque was demolished. Attacks on minority rights and property had accompanied the movement for the destruction of a minority place of worship. For peace loving Indians, (the majority at 69 per cent) the day remains one of national shame where India’s constitution and the rule of law were attacked in full public view. For the hate-mongers who rule India, December 6 is Shaurya Divas (a Day of ‘Valour’ sic) that is celebrated.
This latest killing of Mohammed Afrazul from West Bengal is not just revolting. The public proclamation of the murderer Shambhu Lal Regar, when he appealed to the people of Mewar are as disturbing. He said, “…..that the people with Islamic Vichardhara are all over in black clothes outside Masjids, in public places and around, they are a threat to our cultural heritage and destroying it. Just like Maharana Pratap had decided to fight Islamic Jehad, So do we, have to eliminate the present Islamic Jehad. So I have done it, it may be good or bad, but I have done it. Because I felt that I have to do it. I am a law abiding citizen, but you die only once, so why not eliminate them and then die. Why should we be killed them. That is why I did it. 25 years ago the Babri Masjid was demolished but even that has not changed anything, So I am going to surrender tomorrow in the Rajsamand Mahadev temple. All the Bhai and Behen, the people of Mewar support me, I am surrendering in front of you. Jai Mewar, Jai Bharat, Jai Hind”. In the video where he is seen to kill the man, he is also talking of ending ‘love jehad’ (inter-community marriages that are dubbed as a ‘conspiracy’ of the Muslims)
How does a poor, helpless labourer who is a Muslim satisfy this majoritarian blood lust? How different are these perpetrators from those of the ISIS who with chilling regularity celebrate be-headings, abductions and cruelty? An astute commentator on social media remarked on the fact that black clothed ISIS men cloak their faces and identity while celebrating the crime. But here, in Modi’s India, the killers proudly display their identity. They celebrate their sense of complete immunity.
This is not the first time that such killing has happened. On the day of this crime, in Alwar, the district police reportedly shot at Talim Hussain, a resident of Nuh village. The allegation was ‘cow smuggling’. Hussain died shortly after in an incident that has not even been recorded by the mainstream media.
This is the fifth such killing in Rajasthan over the past nine months, if we include Talim Hussain. Both before and after in Jharkand, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat similar attacks have shamed the landscape. Just the day after Mohammad Afrazul’s brute murder, an Imam (chief priest) of a Mosque in Aligarh was also sought to be burnt alive in similar fashion in UP. Fortunately he survived.
In Rajasthan alone, 2017 began with the lynching to death of Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer and cattle rearer who died on the April 3, after being attacked by a crowd of so called Gau Rakshaks (cow vigilantes) in Behror, Alwar on April 1. The killers named by him were not even arrested. Instead seven others were held who are currently out on bail. Recently one of the eye witnesses to the murder was killed in an “accident.”
The second killing happened on June 16, in the name of the much touted ‘Swach Bharat Abhiyan’ (Clean India campaign) launched by prime minister Modi. The murder of comrade Zafar Khan, was shamelessly instigated by an official of the administration, the chairperson of the municipality (town administration) along with other sanitation workers. They simply decided to beat him to death in Pratapgarh town, because he was opposing their humiliating practice of naming and shaming women who were forced to defecate in the open due to caste exclusions and economic deprivation. The target driven policy was part of making Pratapgarh open defecation
free has been roundly criticised by development experts. The police have not yet arrested anybody though the crime was committed in daylight and the evidence is there for all to see. The authorities continue with their claim that Zafar Khan died of a heart attack. The police is clearly sheltering the officials who were responsible for the murder.
The third killing happened on the November 10, 2017, in the early hours of the morning, when Umair Khan and his colleagues, who were transporting cows and were shot at by so called ‘Gau Rakshaks’ (cow vigilantes) in Govindgarh Tehsil, Alwar district of the state. The killers carried the body to a railway track 15 kms away and tried to destroy all evidence of the gun shots from his face and body. Out of the seven killers, only two were arrested. Instead, the victims of the firing, Tahir and Javed have been further victimised by being jailed. Sections from among the locals were also allegedly complicit in this attack. The attack at Rajsamand on December 6,
therefore, displays a pattern. The question is whether it is also the new Indian norm.
Organisations from Rajasthan have demanded the resignation of the chief minister, Vasundhara Raje over this latest attack. While she has verbally condemned the killing, prime minister, Narendra Modi, voluble and shrill at his best, has not uttered a word of condemnation. The silence from men and women in high constitutional posts signals a nod of approval to perpetrators. Silence means complicit consent.
What happened in Rajsamand is the result of a deep corrosion and poisoning of the hearts and minds of our people through organised indoctrination. If the brainwashing of ISIS squads outrage civilized sensibilities, the worldview and thinking that can lead Shambhu Lal Regar to utter the words he did, must anger us all. We are creating men and women with mindsets that are armed with hatred who are unleashing our own brand of home-grown terror. A terror that burns, maims, destroys and kills. And sweeps all shred of civilization and decency
away in its wake.
Feature Image: Amir Rizvi