There are things I wish I could not see. Among them is a recent viral video on social media from the tea-producing Indian state of Assam, where the ruling Bharatiya Janata party has staged an expulsion campaign against Muslims it considers “settlers.” illegal ”.
In the deeply disturbing pictures, the heavily armed state police, ordered to demolish huts built mainly by impoverished Muslims on public land, opened fire on a villager running towards them armed only with a bamboo stick. The man, later identified as Moinul Haque, a 30-year-old father of three, falls to the ground and is beaten by police with batons. He is still, blood from an apparent gunshot wound to his chest spilling onto his white vest.
Next, a burly civilian, later identified as a photographer hired by local officials to document the demolition campaign, runs and stamps the dying man, hits him and backs up. Moments later, he does another running jump, lands on Haque, and hits him again. Finally, the cops pull him away and the video ends.
It is tempting to see such brutality as a reflection of poor police training and the aberrant behavior of an unbalanced individual. But just as the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop reflected the deeply rooted issues of racial inequality and police violence in America, the barbarism in Assam is a window into the growing culture of hatred, violence and violence. impunity in India.
India never fully recovered from the 1947 partition along religious lines, and community prejudices run deep. In the past, political leaders have sought to alleviate animosities, with public campaigns emphasizing community harmony and unity in diversity. But the ruling Bharatiya Janata party – and the right-wing Hindu nationalist organizations at its base – stoke old hatreds, demonize the Muslim minority as a threat to the Hindu majority, and suggest violent remedies.
In recent years, he has called interfaith relations between Muslim men and Hindu women a “jihad of love,” a conspiracy aimed at eroding the numerical superiority of Hinduism. The slightly higher fertility rate of Muslims is described as ‘demographic jihad’, while the spread of Covid-19 was initially blamed on Muslim ‘jihad corona’. Even when touting their welfare programs, BJP leaders use common dog whistles. Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of the State of Uttar Pradesh, said subsidized food was previously monopolized by ‘those who say’abba jaan ‘,a sneaky reference to Muslims.
In recent months, right-wing Hindu extremists have inflammatory anti-Muslim rallies in and around the capital, calling for the elimination of Islam from India. With Covid’s hindsight, verbal hostilities threaten to spill over, as they did during the deadly riots in Delhi in February 2020. In Chhattisgarh state this week, several thousand right-wing Hindus, armed with swords , lathis and other weapons, marched in a Muslim quarter, attacking people and vandalizing cars and homes.
Chronicle of the worsening climate of hatred in India can come at a high price, especially for Muslim journalists. Delhi-based Muslim journalist Siddique Kappan has been in jail for a year on charges of sedition, terrorism and “incitement to Muslims” after writing about police brutality and other sensitive issues for media outlets. his home state, Kerala. The media see Kappan’s arrest as a sign of the criminalization of journalism.
Muslims are not the only victims of the culture of impunity. Sunday, a vehicle that would belong to a young Minister of the Interior hit the farmers protest the government’s controversial farm laws. Four farmers were killed – another shocking video – while four others, including the minister’s driver, were subsequently killed in a furious melee. A few days before the deadly incident, the minister had warned the farmers in a viral video that he would “discipline them in two minutes” if they did not succeed in “changing [their] acts “.
Violence begets violence. In ailing Muslim-majority Kashmir, under New Delhi’s direct control since June 2018, five civilians, mostly Hindus, were shot dead by unidentified assailants in the capital, Srinagar, last week. India’s devastating cycle of hatred, bloodshed and heartache shows no signs of abating.