No, the Mob Lynchings of Ayub in Kashmir & Junaid in Haryana are Not the Same: Some Posers

On the night of June 22, when Muslims across Kashmir were observing Shab-e-Qadr (night of power), DySP Mohammed Ayub Pandith was lynched in Nowhatta, outside the Jamia Masjid, Srinagar. Ayub, dressed in civilian clothes, was on night duty at Jamia according to his cousin (Why Ayub was in civilian clothes while on duty/ the contours of this duty, are both unclear).An altercation broke out between him and some youths after they spotted him taking videos/ pictures of locals pelting stones at Indian security forces, hence compromising the anonymity of the stone-pelters. The youth allegedly suspected Ayub to be a spy/ mukhbir (informer). An altercation ensued, in which Ayub opened fire (the direction/target of this shooting is also unclear) inside the crowded Jamia Masjid, injuring three people. The crowd, enraged at the shootings, brutally lynched Ayub.

Ayub and Junaid

15-year-old Junaid Khan, a bright student at a madrasa in Nuh, Haryana had returned home (Khandawali, Haryana) for the holy month of Ramzan. On the same day, June 22, he was stabbed to death on a local train enroute to Asaoti, Haryana. Junaid was returning home with his two brothers after Eid shopping at Jama Masjid, Delhi. All three were visibly Muslim, with Junaid wearing a skull cap. After crowds got on at Okhla, Junaid reportedly offered his seat to an old man. A group of approximately 15 men proceeded to harass the other two brothers for their seats. Upon their refusal to cede seats, the group slapped and beat the three brothers, pulled the beards of the older brothers, threw their skull caps, and hurled abuses at their faith, derogatorily calling them circumcised, Pakistanis and beef-eaters.

As the train reached Ballabhgarh station, where the brothers were to disembark, and where they had, in distress, summoned their siblings from the village for help, the frenzied group pulled those who had come to rescue Junaid and his brothers into the train as well. Then, between Ballabhgarh and Asaoti, the brothers were stabbed and thrown out, on to the Asaoti station platform. Despite the Asaoti station being extremely crowded at the time of the incident, nobody came to the assistance of the bleeding brothers. Junaid succumbed to his injuries, while his oldest brother is still hospitalised. Everybody present at the station, including tea stall owners et al, have pleaded ‘no knowledge’ of the crime, saying they saw neither the incident nor recognise the perpetrators.
Junaid’s murder is not the first – his brute lynching is one in a series of lynchings of Indian Muslims across Northern India, particularly in BJP ruled states.

The Media Reaction
The media has broadly taken two approaches in reporting these two incidents. Large partsof the media have used Ayub’s lynching to reinforce the narrative that depicts Kashmiris as a society riden with violent, intolerant Muslims by attributing the lynching to a rumour that Ayub was a non-Muslim. The incident has also been used to whip up a false sense of victimisation among Hindus. For instance, India Today television put out a segment protesting the “selective outrage” around Junaid’s death, arguing that the “secular” people leading this outrage should also protest Ayub’s death.

Liberal  pundits like respected scholar Pratap Bhanu Mehta have spoken about the core “commonality [between] those who lynch in the name of cows and those lynching in the name of azadi in Kashmir”.This approach, while a significant improvement on the approach using the Nowhatta incident to paint Kashmiris as intrinsically violent and murderous, too has its limitation. I argue that drawing an equivalence between the lynchings of Ayub and Junaid ignores the vastly different structural contexts in which these incidents occurred. While both are condemnable, failing to understand their differences would be a mistake.

State Reaction
The first difference is the reaction of the Indian State to the lynchings. CCTV footage from a community centre outside the Asaoti railway station shows three men fleeing on a motorcycle soon after the fateful train halted at the station. Despite the footage, the police have not identified the person(s) who stabbed Junaid. The DSP of Haryana Railway Police cited the “dull and unclear” nature of footage as a stumbling block. The National Commission of Minorities (NCM), in the context of Junaid’s lynching has “expressed satisfaction on the action taken by the district authorities and police to nab the culprits and handle the situation peacefully”.

While the Indian State has patted itself on the back for dragging its feet concerning Junaid’s murder, in Kashmir, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) had been formed by June 24, to investigate the lynching, and five people had been arrested. The DG of J&K Police, Shesh Paul Vaid stated, “We have identified 12 persons in connection with the case and five of them have been arrested”. The BJP President for J&K has emphatically demanded “setting up of fast-track special court to punish the culprits involved in the heinous crime against humanity and murder of the DSP”. So, while there is de facto State sponsored impunity for one crime, the perpetrators of the other are being held accountable.

Reaction of the Political Elite
The reaction of the Indian political elite to Junaid’s lynching has ranged from lukewarm condemnation to defensiveness invoking “Indian tolerance”. Following the “Not in my Name” protests across several cities, in India, Pakistan, USA, Canada and England against systematic lynching of Indian Muslims, PM Modi invoked Gandhi’s non-violent doctrine stating that, “killing people in the name of Gau Bhakti is not acceptable”.Echoing Modi’s thoughts, BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav said that while, “Cow protection is sacred…there is nothing sacred in lynching or taking life in the name of cow protection”. BJP President Amit Shah in a bid to deflect blame from the NDA regime, said “there have been more lynchings in 2011, 2012 and 2013 [during the UPA-IIregime]”.

Following the lynching of another Muslim man in Jharkhand, Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu said, “Let us not give it [lynchings of Muslims] a religious colour”. Similarly, Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi emphasised, “Tolerance is in the DNA of our country and its culture…such incidents [being reported as cases of lynching] are purely criminal ones. If you paint the criminal incidents with communal colour, it is akin to helping criminals”. He went on to say, “I do not think there is fear or insecurity among minorities”. Sanitising the lynchings of Indian Muslims by Hindu (often upper-caste) mobs of their clear religious motivations unleashes a structural violence upon Indian Muslims by invisiblising their experience of marginalisation and existential fear.

In stark contrast, the Kashmiri political leadership has unequivocally condemned Ayub’s lynching.Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference and prominent Kashmiri leader and cleric, stated that he was “Deeply disturbed and condemned the brutal act at Nowhatta [the lynching]”. He went on to appeal to Kashmiris that “We [Kashmiris] can’t allow state [Indian State] brutality to snatch our humanity and values”. A delegation of the Hurriyat Conference and Awami Action Committee also visited Ayub’s family to extend their compassion. The BJP sending a delegation to Junaid’s family to share in the family’s grief and outrage is as unimaginable as it is unlikely. J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti also condemned the “sad and unfortunate incident”, saying the perpetrators “will have to face the law”. However, one must remember that institutional politicians like CM Mufti are seen by large sections of Kashmiris as collaborators of the oppressiveIndian State, and hence do not enjoy popular legitimacy.

Contexts of Indian State Behaviour and Majoritarian Hindu Assertion
The most important difference between the lynchings of Junaid and Ayub lies in the structural contexts in which the lynchings occurred. Junaid’s lynching is part of a long trajectory of public killings of Indian Muslims by Hindu (often upper-caste) mobs for failing to be assimilated and existing in the public space on the terms of the majoritarian Hindu since the ruling BJP government assumed office in 2014.

Junaid’s crime was being visibly Muslim on a public train. His mother Saira Begum summed it up, “My son Junaid was too young to understand that he should not have worn a skull cap”. In India, wearing a skull cap and embracing your “Muslimness” in the public space amounts to being a “Bad Muslim”. The choice being posed to Indian Muslims by the assertive Hindu is simple: either exist on our terms or else. The lynchings are the method of communicating this binary to all Indian Muslims, and warning them of the consequences of non-compliance. Impunity for the perpetrators of these lynchings shows that the State actively endorses this project of violent assimilation.

On the other hand, the motivations for Ayub’s lynching are clearly more complicated than an alleged rumour that he was a non-Muslim. He took videos of stone-pelters, thereby compromising their anonymity and safety, fired his gun inside the mosque injuring three people and was a police officer. Police officers in Kashmir are often seen as traitors for facilitating the occupation of their own people. Of course, none of these factors justify the gruesome crime committed against him. However, they are important to understand the causes of the lynching.

We must remember the systematic violence of torture, rapes and enforced disappearances that the Indian State has unleashed upon the Kashmiri people since 1947, with a sharp increase in this violence in the last 28 years of Kashmiri Tehreek (struggle). Through this violence, the State has brutalised and dehumanised Kashmiris, creating a burning rage among them against agents of the State. The day before Ayub’s lynching, the military had charred the body of 3 LeT militants, thus denying Kashmiris the chance to mourn and bury their Shaheed, a process sacrosanct to Kashmiri subjectivity. As a result, emotions were running high among Kashmiris. Lastly, we must remember that in the Kashmiri context, Ayub’s lynching is an aberration. No such incident of mob violence has occurred earlier.

Hence, for liberals to assimilate Ayub’s lynching into the context of lynchings of Indian Muslims by assertive Hindu mobs is to superimpose India’s communal problems onto Kashmir (which is not to say that Kashmir does not have communal problems at all). Ayub’s lynching is deeply inhumane and abhorrent. However, the causes and effects of the DySP’s lynching cannot be understood abstracted from the context of India’s brutal treatment of Kashmir. It is this colonial backdrop in Kashmir, as opposed to a violent majoritarian context in India, which results in the vast differences in both the reasons for and consequences of Junaid’s and Ayub’s lynchings.
(The writer is student of Jindal Global Law School)



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