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.”

Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

Updated 12 July 2020

Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

  • Exercise being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory

HONG KONG: Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers turned up over the weekend to vote in an unofficial two-day primary election held by the city’s pro-democracy camp as it gears up to field candidates for an upcoming legislative poll.
The exercise is being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory in a move widely seen as chipping away at the “one country, two systems” framework under which Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. It was passed in response to last year’s massive protests calling for greater democracy and more police accountability.
Throngs of people lined up at polling booths in the summer heat to cast their vote despite a warning by Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister, Eric Tsang last week that the primaries could be in breach of the new national security law, because it outlaws interference and disruption of duties by the local government.
Organizers have dismissed the comments, saying they just want to hold the government accountable by gaining a majority in the legislature.
The legislation prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs. Under the law, police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order Internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
On Friday, police raided the office of the Public Opinion Research Institute, a co-organizer of the primary elections. The computer system was suspected of being hacked, causing a data leak, police said in a statement, and an investigation is ongoing.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, which includes multiple parties, is attempting to join forces and use the primaries as a guide to field the best candidates in the official legislative election in September. Its goal is to win a majority in the legislature, which is typically skewed toward the pro-Beijing camp.
To hold the primary elections, pro-democracy activists had raised money via crowd funding. They pledged to veto the government’s budget if they clinch a majority in the legislature. Under the Basic Law, under which Hong Kong is governed, city leader Carrie Lam must resign if an important bill such as the budget is vetoed twice.
On Saturday alone, nearly 230,000 people voted at polling booths set up across the city, exceeding organizers’ estimates of a 170,000 turnout over the weekend.