Stop mob lynching of minorities, leading Indians tell Prime Minister Modi

Indians protest in Ahmedabad, India, on June 26, 2019, against the lynching of Muslim man Tabrez Ansari by Hindu cow vigilantes. (REUTERS/Amit Dave/File Photo)
Updated 26 July 2019

Stop mob lynching of minorities, leading Indians tell Prime Minister Modi

  • Religious identity-based hate crimes have increased in the last 9 years, says letter
  • 62 percent of the victims belong to the Muslim community, petitioners tell PM Modi

NEW DELHI: Leading Indians have appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to prevent the mob lynching of Muslims and other minorities, claiming that rising violence “ is taking India back to the Middle Ages.”

A letter signed by 49 people — including popular names from the Indian film industry like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Aparna Sen, Shyam Benegal and Anurag Kashyap, celebrated vocalist Shubha Mudgal, historian Ramchandra Guha and sociologist Ashis Nandy — comes a week after the launch of a telephone helpline by an activist group to prevent incidents of lynching in several parts of the country.

“The lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately,” read the open letter to the prime minister.

“We, as peace-loving and proud Indians, are deeply concerned by the tragic events that have been happening in recent times in our beloved country,” the letter added.

The letter said that religious identity-based hate crimes have increased in the last nine years, with 62 percent of the victims belonging to the Muslim community.

“About 90 percent of these attacks were reported after May 2014, when your government assumed power,” the signatories told the prime minister.

The citizens also lamented the weaponizing of the Hindu religious greeting “‘Jai Shri Ram (Hail Ram)’ as a provocative war cry leading to unrest and lynchings.”

They warned the government against taking India back to the “Middle Ages where much violence should be perpetrated in the name of religion.

“What action has actually been taken against the perpetrators? We strongly feel that such offences should be declared non-bailable, and that exemplary punishment should be meted out swiftly and surely,” demanded the letter.

Aparna Sen, a prominent figure in the Bengali film industry and one of the signatories to the letter, said that “it was depressing to read about lynching across the country.”

She told the media in Kolkata on Wednesday that “it is sad that people are beaten to death either because they are accused of eating beef or trading cows.”

Reacting to the letter, the Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that “no one should communalize criminal incidents.”

“Dalits and minorities are safe in this country. Those who are yet to recover from the defeat of 2019 general elections are trying to do it,” said Naqvi, who is the sole Muslim face of the Modi regime.

"We have seen the same thing after 2014 elections in the name of 'award wapsi' or ‘return the award campaign,’ this is just part two of that,” said the minister.

G Kishan Reddy, junior minister for home affairs, refused to take responsibility for lynchings.

He told Parliament on Wednesday that “data shows that there is no common pattern in mob lynching incidents. Such incidents have happened in different states ruled by different political parties.”

The letter to the prime minister comes a week after the launch of a dedicated phoneline by a group called United Against Hate, a campaign by activists and lawyers to arrest the growing trend of lynching in India.

“Lynching is a serious issue. Every day we are getting reports of 10 to 12 cases of mob lynching,” said Nadeem Khan, one of the core committee members of the group.

“The government has failed in maintaining rule of law. Since no justice has been delivered in any of the mob lynching cases, you cannot deny the political angle to the incidents,” Khan added.

“Some of the ministers and leaders of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have been found providing legal support to the accused in different states,” Khan told Arab News.

He added that “minority community does not have any hope from the government. They have hope from the judiciary.”

Prof. Apoorvanand of Delhi University said: “To say that the situation is grim is to use a mild word. We don’t understand the anxiety among the minority communities today. It is not only Muslims but Christians also are under attack.”

He added that “the minorities seem to be giving up on the promise of Indian nationhood: The promise was that it would be a secular state.”

“The killing of one Muslim is not only a killing of one individual but a message to the whole community. People must understand that this is detrimental to the whole project of Indian nationhood.”

“Modi is expert on dog-whistle politics and during the election campaign he was found using the Hindu religious slogans to provoke people. The problem is that Modi also happens to be the prime minister and people have certain expectations. And those expectations must be registered. It should also be documented that Modi, whose intervention would have mattered, failed to be moved by the appeal of the concerned citizens.”

Social activist Harsh Mander has been leading a campaign called “carvan e mohbbat (a journey of love)” to provide a healing touch to victims of lynching. He has visited 29 places so far to reach out to the families.

“The principle target of mob violence is the Muslim community”, said Mander.

“It is terrifying to see the whole social atmosphere of the country. It is normalizing lynching. The mainstream media remains largely silent on the cases of mob violence,” Mander told Arab News.

He said that “most of the violence is the by-product of the hate speech indulged in by the BJP cadres and some ministers. The ruling party has created an atmosphere which encourages violence. Modi has to take direct responsibility for this.”

“It is a terrifying time to be a minority in the country today and propagate secular values. The only hope is the campaign by concerned citizens to create awareness about the danger of such hate crimes,” the activist added.

According to a Reuters report, 63 cow vigilante attacks occurred in India between 2010 and mid 2017, most since the Modi government came to power in 2014. In these attacks between 2010 and June 2017, “28 Indians – 24 of them Muslims – were killed and 124 injured.”

Pregnant mom, unborn child die in India

Updated 08 July 2020

Pregnant mom, unborn child die in India

  • Devastated family mourn latest victim of health system struggling to cope with outbreak

NEW DELHI: The death of an expectant mom and her unborn child after 13 hospitals in one day refused to treat her has put India’s strained health care system under the spotlight.

The devastated husband and 6-year-old child of eight-month pregnant Neelam Singh, 30, are still struggling to come to terms with the “unwarranted loss” a month after her agonizing death in an ambulance outside a hospital in New Delhi.

With more than 100,000 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the Indian capital, Singh became another victim of a health system battling to cope with patient demand due to a lack of bed space and infrastructure.

That, however, has been little comfort for her family members who said they would never be able to overcome the trauma.

“Those 12 hours were the most traumatic experience of our lives, and we have to live with that trauma,” Shailendra Kumar, Singh’s brother-in-law, told Arab News on Tuesday. Singh had developed complications with her pregnancy on June 5, and Kumar said she was rushed to the same hospital in Noida, Uttar Pradesh where she had been going for regular checkups, but was turned away.

“Shivalik (hospital) gave no reason for refusing to admit her. Despite our pleadings, the hospital did not budge from its stand,” Kumar added.

A day-long ordeal ensued, with one hospital after the other unable to treat her. Eventually, she died in an ambulance some 35 kilometers away from her home in Khoda.

“I took her to 13 hospitals, both government and private facilities, and every one refused to admit her. The image of her writhing in pain will always haunt me,” said Kumar, who was accompanied by Singh’s husband. He added that the reasons provided varied from “high costs” to a lack of facilities.

“One hospital told me that I could not pay the high cost so better try my luck somewhere else. At Sharda Hospital in Greater Noida, I was asked to buy a coupon for COVID-19 treatment for 4,500 rupees ($60), which I did, but still, they refused her entry. It was not the loss of one life but two lives,” he said, referring to her unborn child.

He pointed out that the entire family was in a state of shock following her death with her husband “the worst impacted.”

Kumar filed a complaint against Shivalik and other hospitals but said so far “no action has been taken.”

A day after Singh’s death, the district magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar, which Noida falls under, ordered an inquiry and issued instructions for all hospitals “to admit patients regardless of the nature of the case.”

However, 20 days later, on June 26, a similar incident was reported in the Dadri area of Noida.

On that occasion, 21-year-old Robin Bhati had developed a fever, and relatives had taken him to a nearby hospital where a week earlier he had been admitted suffering from influenza. However, the hospital refused to admit him and referred him to a different facility.

Five hours and four hospitals later, a city hospital agreed to take him in, but by then Bhati was already seriously ill and hours later he died after suffering a heart attack.

“We don’t know whether he was a COVID-19 patient or not, but why should hospitals refuse to admit a patient in need of immediate attention,” his uncle Jasveer Bhati told Arab News. A number of the Noida hospitals which allegedly denied admission to Singh and Bhati refused to comment on the cases.

In a statement on Monday, the office of Noida’s chief medical officer said: “Strict instructions have been given to all the private and government hospitals to admit all patients showing COVID-19 symptoms.”

Dr. Loveleen Mangla, a pulmonologist working with Noida-based Metro Hospital and Heart Institute, said: “The government did not prepare itself to face this situation. Now the government is trying to create extra beds and medical facilities, but it’s late. They should have done this three months ago when the nationwide lockdown started.

“With the entire medical infrastructure overstretched and not many quality health workers available in the government hospitals, it’s a grim scenario now,” Mangla added.

With more than 723,000 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, India is now the world’s third worst-affected country after the US and Brazil, with approaching 21,000 people losing their lives.

And the problem is not unique to northern India.

On Saturday, the southern Indian city of Bangalore reported the case of 50-year-old Vasantha, who was rejected by 13 hospitals before she was accepted by the K.C. General Hospital where she eventually died.

Lalitha, a relative of Vasantha, said: “Some hospitals said they didn’t have beds; some said they didn’t have COVID-19 testing facilities, and that way we lost critical hours. She died because of a problem with her respiratory system.”

Experts have questioned whether health care facilities in India are being overstretched purely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Anant Bhan, a Delhi-based independent researcher in global health, policy and bioethics, said: “Is there a real shortage of beds or is it the shortage caused by lack of efficient management? If the cases increase further, we might find it difficult to provide care.”