World View: Thousands in Cities Across India Protest Lynchings of Muslims and Dalits by Cow Vigilantes

An Indian member of the Dalit caste community holds a placard reading, "In Gujarat, Cow Slaughter is a Sin while Killing Dalits is pardonable" (L) as he participates in a protest rally against an attack on Dalit caste members on July 31, 2016
AFP/Sam Panthaky

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Thousands in cities across India protest lynchings of Muslims and Dalits by cow vigilantes
  • Concerns grow over communal violence between Hindus and Muslims

Thousands in cities across India protest lynchings of Muslims and Dalits by cow vigilantes

A protester in Hyderabad, India, on Wednesday holds up a sign saying 'Stop Lynching' (AP)
A protester in Hyderabad, India, on Wednesday holds up a sign saying ‘Stop Lynching’ (AP)

Thousands of Indians demonstrated in cities across India on Wednesday against lynchings and attacks on men and boys by cow vigilantes. Cows are held sacred in the Hindu religion. The protests took place in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Lucknow, and other cities.

The slogan for the protests was “Not in my name,” because some people justified the lynchings in the name of the Hindu religion. Other banners read “Stop Cow Terrorism,” “stand up to Hindu terrorism” and “say no to Brahminism.” Some protesters referred to India as “Lynchistan.”

Last Friday, in a train on the outskirts of New Delhi, a mob of 20 people fatally stabbed 16-year-old Muslim Junaid Khan after an argument over seats that turned into a lynching when the mob accused him and three others of being “beef-eaters.” Khan was thrown off the train, where he bled to death.

Although the train was packed with commuters, witnesses have refused to come forward. However, four people, including two employees of the government of Delhi, have been identified and arrested as perpetrators.

There have been five cow vigilante killings in the last three months, almost all of them in broad daylight.

On April 1, Pehlu Khan, a Muslim cattle trader, was lynched by a mob in the western state of Rajasthan as he transported cattle he had bought at an animal fair back to his home state of Haryana. Khan and his family were small dairy farmers.

In May, two Muslim men were beaten to death over allegations of cattle theft in India’s northeast.

However, Muslims are not the only ones being targeted by cow vigilantes. There have also been lynchings of people in the “untouchable” caste Dalit, many of whom have jobs related to cows, such as disposing of dead cows. Four Dalits in Gujarat were brutally beaten by cow vigilantes in August of last year for allegedly killing a cow, which later investigation revealed to have been killed by a lion.

Many Indians are pointing the finger at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling BJP party (Bharatiya Janata Party), which are strongly supportive of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism). They point out that BJP politicians are silent when a Muslim is lynched by cow vigilantes, but they were outraged over the recent public slaughter of a calf by Youth Congress activists in Kerala. They say that the silence of Modi and the BJP are, in effect, inciting violence against Muslims and Dalits by cow vigilantes. New Delhi TV and Daily Sabah (Turkey) and Al Jazeera (Doha) and Free Press Journal (India)

Concerns grow over communal violence between Hindus and Muslims

According to a study by the IndiaSpend organization, cow vigilante attacks began in 2010, but have gotten much worse since Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP party came to power in 2014.

According to the IndiaSpend report, since 2010, cow vigilantes have targeted Muslims 51% of the time. 86% of the Indians killed in 63 incidents were Muslims. As many as 124 people were also injured in these attacks. More than half (52%) of these attacks were based on unsubstantiated rumors.

2017 has been the worst year so far over slaughtering of cattle or possessing cattle meat, with twenty cow-terror attacks reported.

The targets were Muslim in 51% of the cases, Hindus of Dalit caste in 8% of the cases, 15% Hindu of undetermined caste, 5% Sikh, and 1.6% Christian.

Hindu veneration of cows is an extremely emotional issue in India and has played an important part in India’s last two generational crisis wars. The bloody 1857 rebellion against British colonists was triggered when Indian soldiers serving under the command of the British army were ordered to use a new kind of gun cartridge greased with tallow, which was allegedly made of beef and pork fat. Rumors spread rapidly that the British defiling the bodies of the soldiers by breaking their castes, which was the punishment for eating beef.

The next generational crisis war was the Partition war of 1947, which followed the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan. The debate over whether to create one or two countries was settled by the argument that Hindus and Muslims can’t live together because Muslims can’t stand pigs and Hindus can’t eat cows.

The rise of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) and cow veneration in the last few years, combined with the rapidly growing violence in Kashmir, signals that the fault line between Hindus and Muslims in India is growing again, and that the old passions that led to the bloody 1857 Rebellion and the even more bloody 1947 Partition war are reviving again. DNA India and IndiaSpend and India Times and Washington Post

Related Articles

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, India, Narendra Modi, Hindutva, Cow vigilantes, Junaid Khan, Pehlu Khan, Dalits, Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP, IndiaSpend, Kashmir
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