When the 17th Lok Sabha convened for the first time on 17 June, a curious and worrying phenomenon manifested itself in the House of People. The Members of Bharatiya Janata Party decided to celebrate their brute majority by heckling members of the Opposition, especially Muslims, with the slogan Jai Shri Ram.
The response from most quarters varied from that of mild indignation to passive ignorance, followed by appeals to not tarnish the secular nature of the very House which receives its powers from the Constitution and is bound by it. The sloganeering in the Parliament could have been brushed off as odd yet benign, but what was more disturbing was the coincidental timing when a spate mob violence, stamped with the use of the Hindu religious slogan, were being reported from various parts of India: Tabrez Ansari was lynched to death by a mob chanting the religious slogan the same day, while a madrassa teacher was pushed off a train in Kolkata three days later.
Cab driver beaten up in Thane
A 25-year-old Muslim cab driver was allegedly beaten, abused and forced to chant Jai Shri Ram in Diva area of Thane near Mumbai. According to the complainant, Faizal Usman Khan, who works as a driver for a cab aggregator company since December, 2018, took some passengers to Diva town in the district on Saturday night, when he got into a quarrel with four or five men, who were in an inebriated state, and they beat him up. When the accused realised that he was a Muslim, they asked him to say Jai Shri Ram.
"I switched on the parking lights and was trying to restart the car when three men on a scooter came from behind and started banging the windows," Faizal recounted, adding, "They were reeking of alcohol and wanted to know why I had stopped my vehicle in the middle of the road." Faizal claimed that his car keys were taken away and even one of the passengers was abused in the incident.
"They also started abusing me for my religion and said that if I chant Jai Shri Ram loudly, they will let me go," Faizal said. He also claimed that his mobile phone was forcibly taken away and the perpetrators fled the spot soon after a passenger called the police.
Meanwhile, all three accused, residents of Agasan village in Diva, were arrested under IPC sections 295 (hurting religious sentiments) and 392 (robbery) have been remanded in police custody.
Jharkhand: Tabrez Ansari's lynching and death
A group of people beat up a 24-year-old Muslim man on the suspicion of theft on 17 June. His family alleges that the mob thrashed him with batons and wires and forced him to say Jai Shri Ram and Jai Hanuman before handing him over to the police the next day. Reportedly, the beating left him unconscious. Four days later, on 22 June, he breathed his last at Saraikela Karsawan civil hospital, where he was being treated under judicial remand.
Tabrez's family alleges that the police ignored a complaint of mob violence on 17 June and reached the spot only the next day, until when the mob kept thrashing him. The family further accused the police of putting pressure on hospitals to fabricate Tabrez's fitness report, certifying him as fit even though he was badly beaten up.
Tabrez had come to his village a few days before Ramzan for his wedding. This tragedy happened barely a month and a half after that. He was to return to Pune with his wife and had booked a ticket for 24 June.
The usual procedural responses were in place, as the administration set up a Special Investigation Team to probe the incident. Tabrez's death made him important enough to find an indirect mention in the speeches of various MPs, including the prime minister, who condemned the violence and said the perpetrators should get the harshest punishments under law.
Madrassa teacher pushed off moving train in Kolkata
Two days after Tabrez was thrashed in Jharkhand, a madrasa teacher was allegedly pushed off a moving train for refusing to chant the same slogan in the heart of Kolkata. Hafeez Mohd Sahrukh Haldar, a 26-year-old Muslim man, had been travelling from Canning in the South 24 Parganas district in West Bengal to Hooghly in the Canning-Sealdah passenger train, reported The Indian Express. On the way, a group of people chanting “Jai Shri Ram” in his train compartment began heckling him to join in their chants. When he refused, the group began beating him.
Halder's incident did not turn into another ugly tragedy because of some good samaritans. Halder said the local people there rescued him and took him to a hospital for treatment following which he lodged a complaint at the Government Railway Police (GRP) station in Baliganj.
Assam man forces Muslim youth to chant Jai Shri Ram
Complaints were filed against a little-known right-wing organisation for allegedly assaulting a group of people from the minority community in Assam and forcing them to chant Jai Shi Ram and Pakistan Murdabad.
According to the police, the 18 June incident came to light four days later on 21 June after a video of the purported attack and the forcible utterance of slogans went viral on social media. The complaints stated that a group of men claiming to be members of the right-wing group stopped an autorickshaw in Barpeta town and beat up the youth travelling in it.
The victims, who were from a minority community, were then forced to utter slogans like 'Jai Shri Ram', 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' and 'Pakistan Murdabad'. Hurling abuses, the attackers themselves shot the video and uploaded it on social media.
Tribal men lynched in Jharkhand on suspicion of cow slaughter
While this incident is rather spread apart on the timeline, it manifests how a religious slogan is being tarnished by use in hate crimes.
A 50-year-old tribal man was killed by a mob in Jharkhand's Gumla district on 10 April on suspicion of cow slaughter, while three others were injured sustained serious injuries in the attack, The Wire reported. The matter, also picked up by The Times of India, came to light after a rights group Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha sent a fact-finding team the villages and revealed that the tribal people were carving a dead ox after being asked by the animal's owner when a mob of nearly 40 people surrounded them and thrashed them for three hours. The mob had chanted slogans like Jai Shri Ram and Jai Bajrang Bali while beating the Adivasis and forced them to chant the slogans too, The Wire reported.
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Updated Date: Jun 28, 2019 12:07:41 IST