Narendra Modi spoke at a rally in Gujarat. A few hours later, cow vigilantes lynched to death another Muslim in Jharkhand. Eight-six per cent of nationalist murders are against Muslims; 97 per cent since the prime minister took office. Protest against Modi go online #NotInMyName".
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that killing in the name of cow protection is "unacceptable".
After months of silence, which led many to believe he was be complicit and guilty, India’s Prime Minister spoke yesterday at a rally in Gujarat on the issue that is dividing Indian society more than anything else, namely the acts of violence, including lynching and murders, by Hindu nationalist cow vigilantes, especially against Muslims who eat beef and are involved in the cattle industry.
In fact, a few hours after Modi's statement, a Muslim man was reportedly dragged out of his car in Jharkhand on suspicion of carrying beef and beaten in public (see video). He was taken to hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.
Speaking to AsiaNews Ram Puniyani, chairperson of the Center for Study and Secularism in Mumbai, said that whilst the prime minister's statement pays “lip service” to the problem, “his ministers pay honour to those who are allegedly involved in lynching.”
In his view, the prime minister “spoke so late compelled by national protests”, like the ‘#NotInMyName, campaign launched in some fifteen Indian cities (as well as some foreign capitals like London).
On Wednesday, the day before Modi's speech, thousands of people had taken to the streets to reiterate their opposition to the widespread climate of religious intolerance in the country.
The protesters denounced the long series of religiously motivated murders perpetrated by Hindu extremists, increasingly encouraged by policies that support Hindutva to harm minorities. One of these policies is the Union-wide ban on beef.
Officially, the step is designed to protect Hinduism’s sacred animal. Unofficially, it is a government move to "terrorise" minorities and "divide society along confession lines", depriving Muslims and Christians of their main source of income and nourishment. India’s parliament is even debating a bill that would impose the death penalty for killing cattle.
Protesters believe that violence has increased since Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power, a claim confirmed by the first comprehensive study on the topic published by IndiaSpend on Tuesday.
According to the survey, which covers the 2010-2017 period, 96.8 per cent of all attacks against Muslims (61 out of 63 total episodes) took place since the Modi government came to power in May 2014. Half of the attacks (32 out of 63) took place in states governed by the BJP.
The study shows that most attacks (51 per cent) were against Muslims and that Muslims paid the highest price in terms of human lives. Of the 28 people killed, 24 or 86 per cent were Muslims. As many 124 people were wounded in the attacks, more than half of the incidents (52 per cent) were based on rumours.
Puniyani backs the study's data and noted that "when Modi took over, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (a Hindu paramilitary group) cheered. Now one of theirs was prime minister so that they could implement their anti-minority agenda.”
“They know they will not be punished for their acts. They got more restrictive laws on cattle and have made it a big issue. The result is that their soldiers have a free hand to attack minorities and Dalits."
Nationalists "have created hundreds of cow squadrons that wave the saffron flags, and take the law into their own hands. They operate under the (tacit or manifest) protection of the state and the ruling party and have increase the insecurity of Dalits and religious minorities."