By Salman Faheem:
If revolutionary Mangal Pandey would have been alive today, he would have wept an ocean of tears. The revolt of 1857 happens to be one of the epitomes of Hindu-Muslim unity in our country. But it is the adversity and misfortune of India that the very thing that kept our forefathers united against the British, that very Beef and Pork has now divided us into two halves. Now, there is an India that wants freedom to eat whatever they want without being subjected to questions and suspicions. There also exists an India where pork and beef has become a sacriligious cuisine, and eating beef may amount to harsh criticism or even death. This is evident from the recent lynching of a 50-year-old man in Bisada village of Uttar Pradesh adjoining the national capital.
An infuriated mob attacked the peaceful house of late Mohammad Akhlaq on the pretext of him storing and eating beef. He was beaten to death, while his son was beaten with bricks on the face and chest till he turned unconscious. This incident has sparked various debates across the country and on social media too. The murder of a person is a heinous act in itself but what is more disturbing is the murder of tolerance and freedom in the world’s largest democracy. It is ironic that in a country where millions of people sleep on an empty stomach without having even a morsel of food, where people even die of hunger sometimes, a man gets death for filling his stomach. Reports suggest that there were announcements in the nearby temple of beef being stored in Akhlaq’s house and by the onset of the night his house was sabotaged by some 200 men who killed him remorselessly. It is to be noted that one of Akhlaq’s sons is serving in the Indian Air force.
The police force as usual arrived late at the scene, did its moral duty of sending the confiscated meat for lab testing to ascertain whether it was beef or not. Even if the tests are positive, will it justify the killing of a human being, will it justify vigilantism that is slowly creeping into the country in the name of religion? Political parties too have started looking at this incident with their own spectacles. Samajwadi Party cries foul and blames the BJP, the BJP leaders have termed the incident as an accident and some are even considering it as reaction-worthy for killing the holy animal. A BJP leader purportedly has proposed yet another ‘Mahapanchayat‘, because it believes that the victims, Akhlaq and his son were guilty of murder of the holy cow. Amidst such political imbroglio the Muslims of the village have thought of leaving the village to a safer place, they only stopped after the district administration persuaded them not to do so. With his death Mr. Akhlaq has posed a series of questions before us, and the current government. Will his death stop Indians from eating beef? Will his death stop the Union of India from exporting beef? Will India act towards such incidents? Will the Prime Minister of India break his silence towards such horrible murders?
I don’t have any complaints towards the BJP and RSS, they do what they have been doing since time immemorial and their ideology isn’t hidden from anyone. But what is the so-called secular Samajwadi Party doing? Since it assumed office in 2012, there have been communal incidents, riots, lynching, etc. This clearly exposes the failure of the government to protect its citizens and to maintain law and order. The state has turned into a boiling cauldron, where communal incidents occur at the drop of a hat. The government’s ubiquitous claims of other parties such as the BJP and BSP causing these incidents can no longer be entertained. It is a common scenario where after every such incident, the ruling Samajwadi Party and the BJP start pointing fingers at each other while their own politicians further vitiate the atmosphere with their speeches. In the light of this incident, the claims of the Samajwadi Party being secular appears to be a sham. With this incident, the SP government’s secular credentials are at stake and they have to act in an unfazed and unbiased manner so that such incidents aren’t repeated or even envisaged.
The problem isn’t just political provocation and it isn’t about the failure of the executive machinery of a state. Problem is the slow death of tolerance amongst us Indians. It distresses me that our conscience has become so ineffectual that we disregard every human emotion and sentiment in the face of hatred, in the name of religion. If storing and eating beef amounts to death in India, then where exactly are we heading to? Freedom of all sorts is quintessential for a country’s progress, that freedom includes the freedom to eat according to one’s choice.
The thought that what happened to Akhlaq could happen to any of us, scares me to my core. If we shut our eyes to such incidents, we will be equally responsible for any such incident that may re-occur in future. It is time we unequivocally denounce such violence and advocate tolerance. Religion, be it any, promotes peace and tolerance, and sanctity of human life is vociferously professed in all religions. It is completely understandable that bovines are holy to a certain population of India in the same way pork is profane to another, but the problem arises when one forces their opinions, their likes and dislikes over another.
It is no secret to anybody that since the past few months the pluralism of this country has been affected with a series of bans, draconian legislations and acts. This poses a serious threat to our country’s security. There have been attempts to divide this country on communal lines and to some extent such communal forces have succeeded due to our negligence and complacency. The government must know that such bans and schemes have created a vaccum for fringe elements amongst all communities. If such fringe elements and their actions are entertained even in the slightest amount by the government, it would tarnish the image of our country. The country is at a very crucial stage or at crossroads I must say, and from here we can either go towards development and be the role model for other developing nations or we can go back to the times where India would be divided on religious grounds. Our Prime Minister is pitching for a permanent seat in the UN security council and he inexhaustibly speaks of ‘Make In India’ and ‘Digital India’ but his prolonged silence on these untoward incidents and killings is perturbing.