17, Oct 2017 | CJP Team
Hate inspired violence against minorities has become increasingly common across India over the last few years and the audacity with which they are conducted suggests a complete absence of fear of consequences. These hate crimes range from lynching and mob violence to violence inflicted by vigilantes, sexual assault and even outright murder. Muslims and Dalits have borne the brunt of a large chunk of this violence. The trigger is either the suspected consumption of beef or even the whiff of an interfaith or inter-caste relationship.
This prompted Citizens Against Hate, a Delhi based group dedicated to fostering cordial relations between people from diverse backgrounds, to conduct a detailed study of these acts of violence. The study titled Lynching Without End: Report of Fact Finding into Religiously Motivated Vigilante Violence in India, looks at the circumstances leading to the violence, tries to identify the perpetrators and their network as well as delves into the aftermath of each crime, examining the first response of law enforcement authorities, subsequent investigation and prosecution of the case. The report examines 24 recent cases of Vigilante violence spread predominantly across Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and West Bengal. This covers the death of 34 people and the rape of two. Their findings are disturbing.
Increase in Violence against Muslims
The study found that victims of cow vigilantism are predominantly backward caste Muslims identifying as Qureishi, Meo, Gujjar and Ansari i.e people from communities traditionally engaged in animal husbandry, dairy farming and meat supply. Cases examined include Mohammed Akhlaq who was killed on suspicion of consuming beef, Alimuddin Ansari who was mercilessly beaten to death on a busy road in Ramgarh town in Jharkhand and Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer who was lynched by a mob in Alwar in Rajasthan on suspicion of being a cattle smuggler.
But Muslims have also been targeted for reasons not related to cow vigilantism. These include cases like that of 16 year old Junaid who was stabbed to death on a Delhi-Mathura train and Pune techie MohsinShaikh who was allegedly killed by members of a right wing extremist group for allegedly circulating derogatory pictures of Shivaji and Bal Thackeray on social media.
Allegations of Complicity by the Police
The report alleges that the police often emboldened the perpetrators by acts of omission and commission during investigation. On some occasions they failed to provide security to people whose lives were at risk despite being specifically made aware of the threat and pleas for help from the aggrieved parties. It also alleges that in some case the police colluded actively with the perpetrators.
he study also discovered that sometimes murders were not even recorded by the police who instead filed cross complaints against the victims and their families. In some cases named accused have not been arrested, in some others the accused are out on bail.Most cases are yet to reach the trial stage due to slow or shoddy investigation, delays in filing charge-sheets and threat or harassment of complainants and witnesses.
Clear Pattern of Violence
The close inspection of individual cases however throws up a rather sinister pattern of violence. In a majority of the cases, the primary perpetrators of the hate crime are private gangs that then instigate and invite onlookers to participate in the violence. The crime is committed with impunity in full public view and many perpetrators even take pictures and record videos of themselves engaging in the act of violence. Sometimes they even share it proudly on social media and messaging platforms.
Sources of Datasets and Findings
While there is no official count of hate crimes in India, the study has relied on datasets provided by independent initiatives such as Hindustan Times Hate Tracker, the content analysis of English media by researchers Abraham and Rao as well as records from the India Spend portal, among others.
The study analyzed 63 accounts of bovine related attacks over an eight year period (2010 to 2017) as per India Spend records.32 of the 63 attacks took place in states that were governed by the BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP) at the time of the attacks. Infact, the study by Abraham and Rao, found that 97 percent of the cases took place after May 2014 when BJP came to power in the center.
Muslims were the target of 51 percent of the violence but accounted for 86 percent of those killed. Dalits were targeted in 8 percent of the cases, Hindus 14 percent, Sikhs 5 percent and Christians 1 percent. Bovine related attacks were reported from 19 Indian states including Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Guajarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan reporting the highest numbers.
According to Abraham and Rao, more than half (52 percent) of the crimes were based on rumours and false allegations. Often, therumours are about the victims or survivors being meat eaters, alleged members of terrorist sleeper cells or an alleged threat to women from the majority community. This is done in a bidto stir up anti-minority sentiments.
Post attack statements by people in positions of authority and power that ask members of the victim’s community to change their ways instead of chastising the perpetrators of the crimes, appear to add legitimacy to the acts of violence.
In 23 attacks, it is alleged that the attackers or mobs had links to right wing extremist groups and cow protection organizations. According to the Hindustan Times Hate Tracker, police registered cases against the survivors in 46 percent of the cases.
Government support to Cow ‘Protectors’
Some states have given incentives and rewards to so called cow protectors. The Gauseva and GaucharVikas Board of Gujarat offers cash rewards to those who report cases of cattle being transported or sold for slaughter. The reward is given for each FIR filed.
Haryana has created a GauRakshaAyog to for proper implementation of laws related to prohibition of slaughter and/or cruelty to cows. The Haryana Government has also set up a 24 hour helpline for people to report cases of cow slaughter and smuggling.
When there was a clamp down on what the government insisted were illegal slaughter houses and meat shops in Uttar Pradesh, there were instances where members of right wing religious organizations and cow protection groups aiding the police in shutting down such establishments.
This collusion and collaboration between vigilantes, anti-minority groups and state authorities appears to legitimize violence and hate crimes.
The entire report may be read here