As reported in the Indian Express, the organizer, Jamiat Ulema, the umbrella NGO, called for a silent and a peaceful protest urging the government to take some proactive steps to curb the rampant increase in lynching cases, which has now reached Maharashtra, after a Muslim cab driver was assaulted in Diva, Thane. The recent fatal attack on Tabrez Ansari in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand over the suspicion of theft is said to be the “final trigger” for this rally to take place. Notably, the rally organised on Monday, coincided with an important and painful historic event. that had happened 97 years ago, when seven freedom fighters were hanged by the British, giving it the name “Shahido ki Yaadgaar.”
The protest march started from the historic Qela, passed through Khayaban-e-Nishat Chowk, Ashrafia Chowk, Maulana Azad Road, Mushawerat Chowk and Mohammad Ali Road before culminating at Shahido Ki Yaadgaar. The organisers received support from all social, religious and political organisations of the city with Hindu and Dalit community leaders and thousand other members joining the protest. Most of the powerloom units and textile mills in the city remained shut due to the protest march. Shops downed their shutters and routine trade activities in major parts of the city came to normalcy only late in the afternoon.
Clerics of Jamiat Ulema urged governments to take note that on a “weak call” the entire textile town had “come out to safeguard the Constitution”. They said, “We do not seek revenge, and don’t believe in violence. We believe in the rule of law.” The leaders of the community gave fiery and emotional speeches and appealed to the Muslims, specifically the lynching victims, to “not show helplessness in chanting Jai Shri Ram; instead, they should die by taking the Sahadat.” Appeals were also made to the police administration, State and Central governments to pay heed to the Constitution.
Maulana Umrain Mahfouz Rahmani, secretary, All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), told The Indian Express, “The issue (mob lynching) has pierced our hearts; there seems to be no end. Ab bardaash ke bhi bahar hai (now it’s unbearable)…. Muslims are unlike other communities. If any other community was the target, they would have responded by now. Largely, the entire faith responds to the elders and clerics.”
Further expressing concern over the apathetic and lackadaisical approach by the police and the state alike, Rahman said, “We are doing our best and holding them together, convincing them, asking them to show restraint, praying with them. But now even we are being tested. In Pehlu Khan’s case, the way the government machinery behaved was heart-breaking —- in most cases there are no FIRs and then our community has to watch photographs and videos of the lynching; then see the accused being garlanded by ministers..”
In a letter submitted to the Maharashtra administration, the community has urged the President to write to all state governments and Union Territories about lynchings and remind the state heads of their constitutional duties. There is also a demand for Rs 50 lakh compensation to the family of each victim of mob lynching.
Stating that mob lynchings are nothing but a political murder of Muslims, Rahmani in his fervent speech said, “Today’s historical rally is enough to tell the entire country that Muslims will not tolerate oppression for long. We say it clearly: mob lynching is a mobilised murder and is being spread according to a well-devised plan. This is state and non-state terrorism, and it is obligatory on all citizens to stop terrorism. In the pure land of Sita, we can (now) hear footsteps of Ravan, and it is our collective responsibility to stop this.”
Accusing the current ruling dispensation of inaction over the rising menace of lynchings, former MLA and President of Jamiat Ulema, Mufti Ismael, said “The mob lynching has the support of the present dispensation…Modi’s promise of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vishwas’ is hollow and a mere slogan on a piece of paper.”
Local MLA Asif Shaikh raised the issue during the ongoing session of Maharashtra Assembly and demanded a law to curb mob lynching. “As I stand here to speak there are hundreds of thousands of people who are protesting in Malegaon against mob lynching,” he said.
Earlier, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, had expressed concern over the attacks on Muslims by mobs and self-appointed gau rakshaks. “In ‘Old India’, there was no hatred, anger or lynching. ‘New India’ is one where humans are enemies of each other. You won’t be scared of animals in a jungle, but you’ll be scared of humans in a colony. Give us an India where Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians live for each other,” Azad said in the Upper House. Notably, the creation of a ‘New India’ found frequent mention in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election rallies in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Although this is the first time that such a rally has been organised, probably due to an increasing threat to the minorities, particularly the Muslims, the demand made through the maiden protests is nothing new or unusual. The Supreme Court (SC), in July 2008, had condemned the rising incidents of mob lynching across the nation and had given a list of directives including preventive, remedial and punitive steps, to deal with the crime. However, the State as well as the Central government has entirely ignored this directive and we do not even have a lynching definition in place till date, let alone any stern action.
In December 2018, Manipur became the first and the only state to formulate an anti-lynching law based on the SC directive. Just recently, Madhya Pradesh cabinet cleared an amendment to its anti-cow slaughter law which, if passed by the assembly, will bring the cow vigilantes under the scanner and those found guilty of violence shall be imprisoned for six months to three years, and a fine of Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000. It is pertinent to note that allegations and/or rumours of cow related violence have been one of the most common forms of triggers or the supposed rationale for the brutal lynching attacks.
The current ruling dispensation, both at the State and the Centre, is infamous for its Hindutva ideology with its members blatantly showcasing their communal leanings. Inaction on the part of the government, despite the growing threats on minorities leading to such rallies as in Malegaon, will just reiterate what the controversial figures of the BJP have been saying against the Muslims.
Our social fabric is under severe threat and the perpetrators are getting protection and backing from the powerful machinery encouraging them to further take the law into their hands. It’s time that immediate action is taken before our foundational basis are further eroded.
A detailed analysis of mob lynching cases across the nation over the past one year can be read here.