The cold-blooded murder of Mohammed Akhlaq by fanatical Hindu bigots is only the beginning
The end came suddenly and unexpectedly on the night of September 27 for Mohammed Akhlaq, aged 50, an Indian Muslim residing in Bisara village on the outskirts of New Delhi. He did not die by his own hand, suicide being expressly forbidden in Islam, though many Muslims are desperately opting for this ‘emergency exit’ out of unbearable poverty and injustice. He did not die ‘peacefully in his sleep’ as some smug, complacent families like to put it in the newspaper obituaries, partly out of a desire for self-exoneration and partly from what they fondly believe might actually be the case, ignoring the last grim, painful struggle for breathing and for life that must have taken place: people ‘do not go gentle in into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light’, said the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas of his dying father. Nor did Mohammed Akhlaq give up the ghost after suffering from a terrible and humanly degrading terminal disease. Or, for that matter, from a simple case of everyday ‘mortality’, because after all we go ‘like flies in summer’ due to this universal and unavoidable malady.
No, Mohammed Akhlaq was murdered, premeditatedly and pitilessly, by a vigilante band of hate-filled Hindu extremists, on the basis of an idle rumour that he had slaughtered and devoured a calf that had gone missing from the village. This, as well as the alleged ‘blood trail’ leading from the site of the calf killing to the Akhlaq house and of beef being found in the family refrigerator, were all rejected by the police and dismissed by the family. Bizarrely, the ‘accused’ meat was sent for a forensic examination, indicating that if it did turn out to be beef, the cruel act would somehow be justified or vindicated. Such are the workings of religious and racial bigotry and the political philosophy of fascism, when in power. In the end, the meat on analysis reportedly turned out to be goat meat after all, but for the innocent victim of a BJP licence to kill, it was too late in the day. It was Night, dark and everlasting night.
Religion and emotionally charged rumours are indeed an explosive mix. They lead to acts of unspeakable savagery against the weak and voiceless by unthinking and frenzied mobs out on a killing spree, and especially so if the local police look the other way or even stand behind the miscreants. We too have seen and experienced such deplorable abominations in the sometimes blatant abuse of the blasphemy laws in cases involving the mostly backward Christians and our bright, well-educated but alienated fellow citizens, the Ahmedis, who cannot hit back in the same coin, or consciously refrain from doing so.
Poor Mohammed Akhlaq’s head was bludgeoned by a sewing machine in his first floor bedroom, his body was dragged down the stairs into the street and left lying there, the BJP equivalent of the al Qaeda and now Da’ish pastime of publicly beheading and then leaving their victims dangling in public squares as an unmistakable warning to others
Poor Mohammed Akhlaq’s head was bludgeoned by a sewing machine in his first floor bedroom, his body was dragged down the stairs into the street and left lying there, the BJP equivalent of the al Qaeda and now Da’ish pastime of publicly beheading and then leaving their victims dangling in public squares as an unmistakable warning to others. The murdered man’s 22 year old younger son was also severely injured by blows to the head with bricks, and after undergoing two brain operations, still remains in a critical condition. The mother and wife of Mohammed Akhlaq were manhandled and left bruised and battered by the barbarian mob driven by blood-lust and a brain-washed hatred of Muslims.
But what followed the gruesome deed, no doubt a harbinger of more gory things to come in India, was even more shocking and scary.
The first was the deafening silence on the issue of the lower-caste and uncouth Narendra Modi, otherwise an all too vocal voice on social media, that was widely interpreted as a sign of his tacit approval of the BJP vigilantes’ mob violence and an open invitation for more of the same in future. ‘Those who spread this poison enjoy his patronage’, wrote a critic. And silence means consent, as the cliché goes. The hugely successful ‘economic model’ of Gujarat under Modi was also the ‘laboratory of Hindu fascism’, an embarrassing aspect that the gluttonous foreign businesses and the slavish (when it concerns India) western media have conveniently overlooked.
This incident shows what happens to otherwise ordinary, peaceful and decent folk when an extremist government itself glorifies violence. It fills one groups’ mind with hate based on religion, race or ideology against an allegedly ‘alien’ presence within the community. Then, inevitably, the fear of the law and of justice vanish, the thin veneer of civilisation cracks and ‘the snout of the human beast reappears and howls the death cry of ancient, forbidden ages’. Hubris, an overweening pride in one’s own ‘master race’ misconception and rightness, and an all-consuming hatred of and lack of any pity for the targeted or persecuted (inferior) party, class or minority, is the very essence of Fascism. ‘My pedagogy is hard. All weakness must be hammered away. I want to see the animal spirit gleam in their eyes’, thus spoke Adolph Hitler of his Storm Troops (Sturmabteilung), the murderers army (demurely named as the ‘Sports and Gymnastics Wing’ in the early days), and likewise spake (or rather kept mum in the Mohammed Akhlaq murder) his contemporary acolyte Narendra Modi of his Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (Voluntary Army Corps), the mirror image of the SA in its criminal mindset.
The second frightening fact was the absence of the slightest feelings of remorse or repentance among the perpetrators. The local BJP youth wing leader ironically maintained that it was all the dead man’s fault for killing and eating the holy ‘cow mother’ (a charge since disproved), and thereby ‘inciting the fury of the mob’
The second frightening fact was the absence of the slightest feelings of remorse or repentance among the perpetrators. The local BJP youth wing leader ironically maintained that it was all the dead man’s fault for killing and eating the holy ‘cow mother’ (a charge since disproved), and thereby ‘inciting the fury of the mob’. In another twist to the tragedy, he held that ‘he (Mohammed Akhlaq) slipped and his head hit the road and he died. These things happen. It’s a mob!’ So, hardly any sign of contrition, regret or sorrow here. On the contrary, he was planning a protest movement against the police for the release of those arrested for leading and actively participating in the gruesome murder! The Union minister for culture, also a BJP member of parliament from the same area where the incident took place, while visiting the aggrieved family, termed it as an ‘accident’ or a ‘misunderstanding’. The Uttar Pradesh BJP president remarked, ‘the blame for this incident lies squarely with the State’s administration and the law and order machinery, its police. Had the administration done their job at protecting our cows well, these men would not have been forced to take the law in their hands’. Thus he gave a deliberate political slant to the whole affair by shifting responsibility on the shoulders of the ruling Samajwadi Party of Utter Pradesh, which the BJP is desperate to replace in what is India’s biggest state with 200 million residents. The implication was that the ruling socialist party in the UP protected those who secretly slaughtered cows because it depended on the vast Muslim vote bank for its electoral success. It was also a ‘terror warning’ to the ‘errant’ Muslim voters of the state: they had better beware and behave or be prepared for more of the same. Of what constitutes the Indian opposition, the less said the better, as it acted as a ‘friendly opposition’ to the BJP in this particular instance. But while the Indian Muslims have been cowed (so to speak) into inaction (except in the Kashmir valley) some elements of Indian society, especially the artistic and the literary, have reacted sharply, and returned their state awards and medals in protest against this heinous crime. And the world now knows the origin and the true significance of the phrase, ‘sacred cows’.
Justice Robert H. Jackson the Chief US Prosecutor at the 1946 Nuremberg trials remarked, ‘these people (the Nazis) say they are not guilty. If they are not guilty, then who is? And if they are guilty, then who is not’. For there are exceptional situations, circumstances, issues and matters that touch all humanity and transcend the concept of time and place. The daughter of Mohammed Akhlaq tersely asked, ‘if they suspected we had slaughtered a cow, why did they not file a police complaint against us? Who gave them the right to kill my father’?
To this day, Narendra Modi maintains a discreet and studied silence over this painful question. When will the world, and especially his present gurus, the Americans, realise the true nature of the beast that they are diligently nurturing for their geo-political, commercial and regional ambitions, and wake up to the threat that he (or it) poses not only to the region but to the whole world? The modern-day appeasers will not be able to escape the consequences of their actions, in one form or the other. Their chickens too will come home to roost, in time. Make no mistake about it.