While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked newly-elected parliamentarians from the National Democratic Alliance to win the trust of minority communities, at least five incidents of violence against minorities have come to light in the five days since the Bharatiya Janata Party-led front won a thumping majority in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
On May 23, the NDA won 352 out of 542 Lok Sabha seats, with the BJP sweeping up 303 seats on its own – 21 seats more than it won in the 2014 election. Across most of North and Central India, BJP candidates also won with bigger vote shares and wider victory margins than in 2014.
Modi’s first five years as the Prime Minister were marked by a rise in cow protection vigilantism and violent attacks on Muslims and Dalits. However, as Modi was named as the leader of the NDA for a second time on Saturday, he claimed that minority communities had been exploited and made to live in fear by those who practice vote-bank politics.
“The way the poor have been cheated, the minorities have been deceived the same way,” he told new MPs from the National Democratic Alliance in his speech. “We have to earn their trust.”
But in the week of the election results alone, news reports have highlighted at least four different cases in which Muslims or Dalits were violently targeted for reasons as varied as allegedly possessing beef, protesting against caste-based discrimination or simply being Muslim.
In a fifth incident, a Santhali teacher in Jharkhand was arrested for a two-year-old Facebook post defending the right of Adivasi communities to eat beef.
Bihar: Man shot at for having a Muslim name
In Begusarai district, where Hindutva hardliner Giriraj Singh won the 2019 Lok Sabha seat by a margin of 4.5 lakh votes, a Muslim youth was shot at on May 26 after his attacker discovered his religious identity. The youth, Mohammed Qasim, is a detergent salesman who was travelling through the district on his motorbike for work. In Kumbhi village, he was allegedly stopped by a man named Rajiv Yadav who asked Qasim his name and then fired a shot at him and asked him to “go to Pakistan”.
Qasim was shot in the back and claims he pushed Yadav and fled the spot when he saw Yadav loading another cartridge. In a video that has been widely shared on social media, an injured Qasim lying in a hospital can be heard saying that none of the people witnessing the attack came to his aid. Qasim had been taken to the hospital by the local police, who have registered a first information report against Yadav but are yet to arrest him.
Haryana: Muslim man forced to say ‘Bharat mata ki jai’
On Saturday night, soon after Modi’s speech about winning the trust of minorities, 25-year-old Mohammad Barkat from Gurugram in Haryana was accosted by a group of men who ordered him to take off his skullcap. According to a report in The Hindu, the group of men abused Barkat and told him that skullcaps were “not allowed” in that area.
When Barkat told them that he was returning from the mosque after prayers, one of the men allegedly slapped him. “He also asked me to chant Bharat mata ki jai and Jai Shri Ram,” Barkat told The Hindu. “When I refused, he threatened to feed me pork.”
The men also allegedly beat Barkat with a stick and tore his shirt before driving away on a motorbike.
The Gurugram police has filed a case against the unidentified men, booking them for criminal intimidation, promoting religious hatred and other charges.
Gujarat: Dalit couple beaten by 200 upper-caste people
In a police complaint filed on May 23, a Dalit couple in Vadodara district’s Mahuvad village alleged that they had been beaten by a mob of 200 to 300 upper caste people after the husband put up a Facebook post about alleged caste-based discrimination at the village temple. In his Facebook post on May 21, the man, Pravin Makwana, had complained that local authorities did not allow Dalits to use the temple for their weddings.
According to the police complaint filed by his wife, Tarulata Makwana, the couple was attacked soon afterwards by a the upper caste mob, which allegedly pelted stones at their house, broke in, thrashed Pravin Makwana with sticks and pipes and also slapped Tarulata Makwana. The couple approached the police after failing in their attempts to settle a compromise with the upper caste group.
The police have booked 11 Mahuvad residents as well as a larger group of unidentified people for rioting, unlawful assembly, criminal intimidation, causing hurt and other charges.
Madhya Pradesh: Muslims beaten by cow protection vigilantes
On May 24, a group of five cow protection vigilantes in Seoni district allegedly attacked three Muslims – two men and a woman – on the suspicion that they were carrying beef. A video of the incident was widely shared on social media. It shows the attackers tying the men to a tree and beating them up, after which they untied the men, thrashed one of them with a stick and forced him to hit the woman with a slipper while chanting “Jai Shri Ram”.
The police in Seoni arrested the five self-proclaimed cow vigilantes, and one of them has been identified as Shubham Baghel, the leader of a right-wing outfit called Ram Sena. But the police also arrested the three assault victims for alleged possession of beef, which is illegal in Madhya Pradesh. The samples of the meat have been sent for laboratory testing.
Jharkhand: Teacher arrested for defending right to eat beef
Two years after his Facebook post about beef eating sparked outrage among right-wing groups, theatre artiste and drama teacher Jeetrai Hansda was arrested by the Jamshedpur police on May 25. Hansda, who belongs to the Santhal indigenous group, had written a Facebook post in June 2017 expressing his angst about the growing hysteria against beef eating that had taken over Jharkhand and the rest of the country. “As a Santhali, eating beef is part of my culture,” he said in his post. “If Santhalis are Indian, there should be no laws which force us to adopt Hindu customs. I reject that.”
Hansda’s post drew the ire of right-wing students from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad – the BJP’s student wing – at Jamshedpur’s Graduate School College for Women, where he teaches drama. A first information report was filed against Hansda for hurting religious sentiments and promoting enmity between religions, but was not arrested at the time. In June 2018, Hansda filed for anticipatory bail after a non-bailable arrest warrant was issued against him. His bail application was rejected at the time, but he was arrested only on Saturday.
According to a report in Huffington Post, Hansda’s lawyer suspects that the drama teacher was arrested only after the 2019 election was over, so that the BJP would not lose the support of Adivasi voters in the region.