Ten years of Narendra Modi’s leadership since 2014 witnessed the steady metamorphosis of India into a republic of hate and fear. Lynching, genocidal hate speech and bulldozers became the chilling leitmotifs of the regime. Hate became a normalised staple of social intercourse and of state engagement with its Muslim citizens. Fear for them became an essential element of daily living.

The humbling of Modi and his party in the midsummer general elections of 2024 therefore brought with it an almost dizzying sense of relief and hope. For a brief interlude, we believed that the country had left firmly behind the nightmare of the last ten years.

After all, the people of India had delivered an unambiguous message that the politics of hate did not compensate for failures of the state to improve the daily lives of working people, with jobs and affordable food, fuel and healthcare, schools and fair examinations. Besides, Modi alone could not form a government: he depended on the support of parties that opposed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s ideology of denying equal citizenship to India’s Muslims.

But within days of the election results, these new shoots of reprieve and hope were smashed. It is as though the ideologues of the Sangh, both within and outside the government, wanted to compress in just the first four weeks of the new government a rapid-fire repetition of all the stoked fear and hate in the first Modi decade.

In not even a month after the announcement of the outcome of the elections, the country has been wrenched with a series of brutal hate attacks, mainly targeting Muslims but also on occasion Christians. The bulldozers have also made a rattling reappearance as they lawlessly target the properties mainly of Muslims.

The nightmare has commenced again. A nightmare in a loop.

The first of the post-election hate killings was the gruesome lynching of three men near Raipur in Chhattisgarh just three days after the results were announced.

The men, 35-year-old Chand Miya Khan, Guddu Khan, 23, and Saddam Qureshi, 23, were cattle traders from Saharanpur and Shamli districts in western Uttar Pradesh. They had purchased buffaloes from a village in Mahasamand near Raipur to transport to Odisha. From reports, it appears that vigilantes had strewn nails on the Mahanadi bridge that punctured the tyres of their truck. Once the truck halted, a group of men descended on the cattle traders in the dead of the night.

Qureshi desperately called his relatives after the mob attacked them, in agony as his limbs had been broken. He left his phone on in his pocket and for 47 excruciating minutes, his family could hear him and his colleagues pleading for their life as they cried out with agony.

Before the men finally lost consciousness, they begged their attackers for water to drink, which the mob triumphally denied them. This is a recurring pattern that we in the journeys of the Karwan e Mohabbat have encountered in most cases of lynching. Perhaps it is the massive loss of blood that drives men after they have been beaten almost to death to implore their attackers each time for water. Each time, they are denied.

The vigilantes then threw them from the bridge onto the rocks in the bed of the river Mahanadi far below.

A day later, a cleric named Maulana Farooq was killed by his tenant Chandramani Tiwari in a village in Pratapgarh in Uttar Pradesh. The cleric’s son later recalled that his father had always helped his tenant financially whenever they were in hard times. There never was ill-will between them. His son could not understand what had provoked this sudden murderous attack with an axe to slice his father’s head.

Another imam of a mosque was shot dead at point-blank range on the outskirts of Moradabad, again in Uttar Pradesh.

Less than a week later, in a busy market in Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh, on the night of June 18, 35-year-old daily worker Mohd Fareed was lynched by a mob. A fact-finding report by the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation and the All India Central Council of Trade Unions found that “Fareed was a 35-year-old casual worker who used to carry a portable tandoor and cook rotis in parties around the city. Fareed was dependent on his daily wages and would earn around Rs 400 a day. He was the sole earner of his household. His mother, a survivor of paralysis… was dependent on him for her treatment. All of Fareed’s neighbours described him to be a hardworking and well-intentioned individual”.

A video shows that around 15 men, some with lathis, corner and beat to death Fareed, who pleads with the mob to spare him. The mob is reported to have pulled down his trousers to confirm first that he was Muslim. A man in the mob shouts, “Break his knees.”

“The incident took place in front of a tailor’s shop…. (The tailor) is a Muslim man. Two men from the house above the same shop came out in an attempt to save Fareed…. Even they were beaten up for trying to save Fareed”.

After the mob attack, some people rushed him to the Malkhan Singh Hospital. There the doctors – according to the post-mortem report – found 22 injuries from beatings with a baton, three broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a cracked skull. He died soon from profuse bleeding. Later, local Bajrang Dal workers claimed that Fareed was a thief.

The same day, in Nahan in Himachal Pradesh, the police stood by as a mob of activists from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidya Parishad and the local traders’ association looted a garment shop owned by a man named Javed, who had migrated from Uttar Pradesh. The provocation, according to the mob, was a picture of animal sacrifice posted by Javed as his WhatsApp status. The police later confirmed that the animal he had sacrificed on the festival of Eid al Adha was a buffalo, not a cow, and that the slaughter of buffaloes is not banned in the state.

As the mob ransacked his shop, they raised slogans like “Ek hi naara, ek hi naam, Jai Shri Ram – Only one slogan, one name, Victory to Lord Ram”. Sundry Hindutva groups also called upon locals to refuse to rent their properties to Muslims. More than eleven people were reportedly forced to flee Nahan after this violence. The Congress that is in power in Himachal Pradesh.

Relatives of Mohammad Akhlaq mourn after he was killed by a mob on Monday night, at his residence in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh in September 2015. Credit: Reuters.

Just four days later, on June 22, this time in Gujarat, a young man of 23, Salman Vohra, newlywed with a pregnant wife, was beaten to death on the sidelines of a local cricket match. The provocation was that Muslim cricketers were playing better than their non-Muslim colleagues. This enraged some young viewers, who heckled the Muslim players with the slogan Jai Shri Ram. This erupted into violence against Salman and a couple of other young Muslim men. A viral video displays a crowd onlookers goading on the attackers with the call “Maro, maro! Hit him, hit him!” Their assault, with sticks and knives, left Salman bleeding badly, with cuts in his kidney and under his eye. He died after he was taken to a local hospital.

Next, the target was a young Christian woman, 22-year-old Bindu Sodhi, in a village again in Chhattisgarh. Recently converted to Christianity, a mob descended on her mother, her siblings and her when they were sowing paddy saplings in their fields.

The police gave the distraught family no help. Instead, Bindu’s body was held in the morgue, because the family wanted her burial by Christian rites while the mass of villagers, supported tacitly by the police, insisted on a Hindu cremation. The attack on Bindu was not the first in the area. Seven Christian families in a neighbouring village had been attacked a few days earlier, on June 12.

Even as I sat down to write this sombre account of India’s further descent into the darkness of hate violence after the election results, my colleagues of the Karwan e Mohabbat from Jharkhand reported yet another hate killing.

Maulana Shahbuddin served as an imam in a village in Hazaribagh district. He was driving his motorcycle to a religious school where he taught on June 30. On the way, his motorcycle swerved as he tried to avoid hitting a woman who was walking on the road. Both fell. Some young men quickly gathered and they thrashed the maulana pitilessly until he died.

But more worrying even than this fresh spread of feverish public hate were the actions of the police in a village in a tribal district of Mandla in Madhya Pradesh. This was eerily reminiscent of a lynching in 2015, when in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh local villagers had claimed to locate cow meat in the fridge in the kitchen of Mohammad Akhlaq. For this alleged crime, the villagers beat him to death with sticks and stones.

Now, nine years later, it is the police force that searched the kitchens and fridges of 11 Muslim families. They too claim to have detected what they were certain was cow meat, even before the meat samples were sent for specialised DNA analysis to Hyderabad. But the state government, headed by a dedicated Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh worker Mohan Yadav, thought it fit to not even to await the findings of the Hyderabad laboratory. Instead, the eleven families were summarily punished by razing their homes.

This signalled a renewed resort to lawless “bulldozer justice”. No law in the land empowers the executive to demolish the homes of a person who has committed a crime. And both constitutional rights and due process mandate the presumption of the person’s innocence until the machinery of the state is able to prove his guilt in an impartial court of law.

As I have written elsewhere, the frequent resort to “bulldozer justice” during Modi’s second term as prime minister in many BJP-ruled states had portended defiance, even contempt, for the constitution and the rule of law.

Once again, the hope raised by the June 4 election outcome was that a chastened BJP leadership would hold back from crossing this red line of effectively throwing the Constitution to the winds. But clearly this is not to be. The bulldozers in Madhya Pradesh announce that defiant and unconstitutional state lawlessness, weaponised to target a section of Indian citizens based on their religious identity, will continue in this third phase of a country led by Modi.

Then, on June 25, bulldozers with both municipal and police officials converged on a mosque in Delhi’s Mongolpuri and brought down 20 metres of its wall before protestors formed a human chain to halt the further advance of the bulldozer. The Delhi municipal government is of the Aam Aadmi Party while the Delhi police is controlled by the BJP-led Union government.

The message from the newly installed government to the people of India is unambiguous. For them, emphatically nothing has changed. Their ideological project of targeting Muslims citizens with lawless hate violence – both civilian and directly by the state – will continue, unleashed with even greater resolve.

Why the election results had also stirred optimism was the expectation that a rejuvenated opposition would stand tall at last in open and robust defence of India’s Muslim citizens, when they face hate violence and state discrimination. But as the first month of the new Parliament ends these hopes, too, remain substantially unrealised, at least so far.

The political opposition has indeed found its voice as it resoundingly picks up the gauntlet both in parliament and outside it, in combatting for jobs, farmers, fair examinations and the repair of the economy.

However, its leaders have not joined hands and raised their clenched fists in the resolute battle to restore and uphold the right to equal citizenship of Indian Muslims, their rights to safety, equality, justice and – in the last resort – to fraternity.

The portents therefore for Modi’s third term are still not so hopeful. The clouds of hate and fear that had begun to clear on June 4 are fast gathering again. This is a time of critical test for the political opposition, of the mettle of their political and moral courage to defend the soul of India’s constitution.

But even more on test are we, the people of India.

Harsh Mander, writer, peace and rights worker, researcher and teacher, leads the campaign Karwan e Mohabbat for justice and solidarity with survivors of hate violence. His latest book Fatal Accidents of Birth is in book stores.