The Big Story: Shameful silence
Even though it follows a spate of beef-linked hate crimes, the gruesome murder of a Bengali migrant worker named Afrazul in Rajasthan’s Rajsamand town on December 6 is especially chilling. The killer, Shambhulal Regar, seems to have fed off Hindutva campaigns against Muslims, such as the “love jihad” conspiracy theory that Muslim men have joined a campaign to marry Hindu women in order to convert them to Islam. This led Regar to pick on a random Muslim man, hack him with a pickaxe, attempt to decapitate him and then set him on fire. The murder was videotaped and uploaded on the Internet.
That Regar was driven to such extreme brutality is only one part of the tragedy. The other is the reaction to the crime. The killing was hailed by WhatsApp groups that had BJP MP and an MLA as members. Across India, supporters actually donated money to Regar, collecting Rs 3 lakh. Hindutva groups organised rallies at which they justified Afrazul’s murder.
In shocking contrast is the lack of response from India’s secular parties. The Afrazul murder occured in the middle of the campaign for the Gujarat Assembly elections. In most circumstances, an incident of this significance would immediately have been picked up by politicians on the campaign trail. But the Congress kept mum. This silence has been extended to Parliament, where the Congress has chosen to concentrate on Narendra Modi’s personal attacks on Manmohan Singh instead of questioning the Rajsamand killing.
The political silence isn’t just a national phenomenon. A civil society fact-finding team found that there has been no effort to reassure Muslims in Rajsamand: no meetings, no rallies and no statements. In fact, a small protest rally by the Muslim community is now being blamed by Hindutva groups for sparking tension.
This is troubling. Not only are the anti-Constitutional forces of Hindutva attacking members of minority communities,they are also creating an environment where even speaking against a gruesome crime has become politically unviable.
The Big Scroll
- “How can they shout slogans like that?”: Protests against Rajasthan hate crime spark fresh tensions, reports Abhishek Dey.
- Rajasthan hate crime: With the gruesome murder forgotten, a protest rally by Muslims in Udaipur is the villain now, Abhishek Dey writes.
- A fact-finding team visited Rajasmand only to find a famine of compassion.
- Rural anti-incumbency is the key takeaway from the Gujarat results, argues this editorial in the Hindustan Times.
- Five years after a gangrape in the capital sparked widespread protests on the issue of sexual assault, stringent laws have not proved to be a deterrent, or created safe spaces for women, points out Flavia Agnes in the Indian Express.
- The Union government needs to remove the bail-in clause for retail depositors below a certain threshold, but if it does stay in the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, a consent clause should be incorporated as well, argues Monika Hala in Mint.
Amnesty for stone pelters: In Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti government tries to regain lost ground, reports Rayan Naqash.
“The confidence-building measures seem to be serving two purposes: laying the ground for talks with the Centre and helping the People’s Democratic Party regain lost ground in the Valley. Mufti’s government has been on the back foot ever since the unrest of 2016, which broke out after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, and left about 100 civilians dead and thousands injured. The loss of faith in electoral politics was evident during the bye-elections for two Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir this year. While voter turnout hovered around 7%, at least eight civilians were killed after security forces opened fire.”