Before they even read the first sentence of this article, there will be Hindutva trolls who will accuse me of being anti-Modi, anti-Hindu, anti-India, and an ISIS slave. As it happens, I am none of the above. Narendra Modi usually provokes more amusement than horror in me.
One does not need a label to be shocked, horrified, and ashamed by the fact that one's countryman was lynched by a mob. 50-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq was dragged out of his house, along with his son, and beaten to death on the allegation of having stored beef in his house, and being involved in cow slaughter.
Uttar Pradesh has become infamous for communal clashes and violence, but this is extreme even by the state's standards.
Even more frightening is the report that the attack was provoked by an announcement at a temple that Akhlaq's family had stored beef in their refrigerator.
One wonders whether these crazed Hindutva groups even realise how alike they are to the Islamic extremists they claim to hate – in their intolerance, in their desire to take law into their own hands, in their ridiculous misinterpretations of their religion.
All the reports on the lynching say that the meat has been taken for testing by the police, and quote Akhlaq's daughter asking whether her father could be brought back to life if the meat turned out to be mutton.
As heartbreaking as her question is, the point is moot – even if the meat in question were beef, Akhlaq would have been on the wrong side of the law, but should have been alive. He would have been fined and possibly given a prison term, as cow slaughter and the buying of beef is banned in UP, but he would not have been sentenced to death. Even if it were a capital crime (which it is not), he would not have been sentenced to lynching by a mob.
Whichever animal was killed for the meat to be procured, what has happened is a terrible crime, one for which the entire country should hang its head in shame.
It is true that Narendra Modi and his BJP government cannot be held responsible for the actions of fringe groups, unless they directly provoked them. But the statements of the government, and its unequivocal pro-Hindu, anti-Muslim, anti-secular stance have certainly emboldened these crazed Hindu extremist groups, if nothing else.
Every time it has come to power at the centre, the BJP has done its best to streamline the historical past of India with its own distorted notions of Hinduism. In 1999, Dina Nath Batra – the man who has gained infamy for his lawsuit against Wendy Doniger's The Hindus – was put in charge of censoring history textbooks in schools across India. He ensured that passages dealing with the beef-eating practices of Hindus were deleted. Romila Thapar, one of the world's most respected historians, was herself a victim of this censorship, as Batra took issue with her references to beef consumption in the Vedic period.
In his lawsuit against Doniger, he raged at an anecdote in The Hindus where she quotes Swami Vivekananda asking for beef when asked what he will eat. In an article for The New York Times, Doniger stated, “The objection is not that this quotation is false, or insufficiently documented; it is true, and well documented. The objection is simply that repeating that statement in the book defamed Vivekananda.”
The increasing saffronisation of our lives by the current government goes against the secular republic promised in our Constitution.
As someone who supports animal rights and as someone who does not use any animal product, including silk and leather, I'm all for the slaughter of animals and the sale of their flesh and skin being banned. But this cannot be selective, and it cannot be carried out in the name of religion.
There can be no greater desecration of a temple than for rabble to be roused from its pulpit, and encouraged to lynch a man.
If we hold the idea of India sacred, we must ensure that the mob that went out and lynched Mohammad Akhlaq is punished. Otherwise, we are no different from an anarchic state that is ruled by religious terrorists.
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Nandini is a journalist and humour writer based in Madras. She is the author of Hitched:
The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage. She sells herself and the book