There has been a disturbing rise of a virulent strain of Hindu extremism in India, similar to the Muslim extremism we have seen in neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh and to Buddhist intolerance in Sri Lanka. In India, one form that this has taken is attacking those who eat beef, which observant Hindus do not do due to the cow having been raised to almost sacred status.
Teesta Setalvad writes about some recent events that seem to have at least the tacit backing of government authorities.
In the weeks leading up to this year’s festival of Eid ul Azha, a spate of attacks on Indians, almost all Muslim, dotted a political landscape already littered with incidents of lynching and bloodletting that have become more and more commonplace.
The first such incident that shook India out of her stupor took place on September 28, 2015, when Mohammad Akhlaq, a Muslim, was beaten to death after mob hysteria was stoked over his family storing beef. Since then, incidents across India reveal that, under the present political dispensation, “cow vigilante groups” have been empowered to take the law into their own hands by attacking, molesting, lynching and killing.
The attacks have taken place in states like Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh that are not ruled by the supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Attacks have also torn through Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkand and Punjab, which are dominated by the ruling dispensation. The list is long and gory. In one public lynching in Latehar, Jharkhand this March, two Muslim men—a young teenager and his uncle—were left hanging from trees.
Among the most recent is the beating death of 29-year-old Mohammad Ayub, who was carrying a calf along with Salim Shaikh in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. A vigilante mob set upon them, and while the police watched, beat the young man so mercilessly died two days later on Sept. 16, 2016. Under the law, he was committing an illegal act, as several states in India have enacted rules that ban the slaughter of cows and their progeny (excluding bulls and bullocks in some cases, but not others). But in a country that claims to be a modern and civilized state, the world’s largest democracy, did Mohammad Ayub deserve to be surrendered to the lynch mob?
People in the west have a somewhat romanticized view of Hinduism and Buddhism, seeing them as reflective and peaceful religions that have introduced them to meditation and yoga. While that is undoubtedly true of their philosophies, actual Hindus and Buddhists can be as violent and extreme and intolerant as any fundamentalist Muslim or Christian.