The Big Story: More than words

For the first time this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has broken his silence on the rash of lynchings that have taken place across the country, mostly of Muslims and mostly by mobs claiming to protect the cow. His remarks on Thursday came a day after thousands protested against the lynchings in 11 different cities under the tagline “Not In My Name”, a week after a 15-year-old boy was beaten to death on a train on the outskirts of Delhi and not long after the international media voiced concerns about the tide of violence in India. Killing in the name of the cow was unacceptable, the prime minister said, Gandhi would not approve. Upon closer inspection, Modi’s message is found to be inadequate.

It was delivered from the safe harbour of a function at the Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat, invoking the well-worn the pieties of ahmisa and Gandhian philosophy. Modi went on to an anecdote about Vinobha Bhave, who had told him to die for the cow, and a story from his childhood, where a cow had apparently given up its life after accidentally trampling a child to death. Besides, citizens could not take the law into their own hands, the prime minister said. This was a remarkably mild gloss on the brutalities unfolding daily.

Where is the recognition that these murders were hate crimes? That they did not just violate Hindu values but also basic morality? Needless to say, the prime minister saw nothing wrong with the laws that citizens were taking into their hands, laws which privilege the beliefs of the majority over the food habits and practices of the minority, which go against the framework of a secular constitution. Missing in his speech were the victims of violence: Pehlu Khan, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Akhlaq, members of a community that the Bharatiya Janata Party has decided to unsee in its politics and its policies.

Besides, the most thorough condemnation will not deter crimes if words are not followed up by action. It must be remembered that the prime minister had also murmured words of regret after Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched in Dadri in 2015, and the home ministry had issued an advisory to states, asking them to take strict action against anyone “trying to weaken the secular fabric of the country”. The crimes continued, and the perpetrators committed them with a sense of impunity. This week, as the prime minister chose to speak against lynchings, a man in Jharkhand was killed for allegedly carrying beef in his van. Government apathy and failure to act against such crimes has set such a low bar that much is made of the prime minister “breaking his silence”. It may be a start. But it is not enough.

The Big Scroll

Nishita Jha visits Junaid’s village, where youth are afraid of looking “too Muslim”.

Ajaz Ashraf argues that Indians who still believe in morality should have worn black bands this Eid.

Samar Halarnkar examines reactions to two different lynchings: of a boy on a train Faridabad and a policeman outside a mosque in Kashmir.


  1. In the Hindu, Sanjay Hegde reexamines the privacy challenge to Aadhaar.
  2. In the Indian Express, Kanti Bajpai argues the India has drawn too close to the United States and become too aggressive with China.
  3. In the Economic Times, Amitabh Kant bats for reforms to India’s outdated administrative system.


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