January 16, 2016

India: Stench of intolerance rises afresh (Radhika Ramaseshan)

The Telegraph, January 16, 2016

Stench of intolerance rises afresh
Radhika Ramaseshan

The Dadri house of Mohammed Akhlaque, who was lynched by a mob on September 28 on suspicion
of eating and storing beef

New Delhi, Jan. 15: The intolerance that drove a mob to lynch Mohammed Akhlaque in Dadri last September has reared its ugly head again in the New Year, with a couple travelling by train being subjected to a search by another mob that sniffed beef and the state president of the ruling BJP defending the hunt.

Madhya Pradesh BJP president Nandkumar Singh Chouhan told The Telegraph from Bhopal: "Everyone knows it is unlawful to carry raw meat, alcohol and cigarettes in a train. This couple was carrying chunks of uncooked meat."

Chouhan said an "illegal deed" should not be cloaked in "communal colours". "Even if a Hindu is discovered carrying raw meat, he should be punished," he argued.

But the BJP leader had nothing to say about the "illegal" act of the local Gauraskha Samiti (Cow Protection Committee) in searching people's baggage. If at all a search for an "unlawful" substance was necessary, only police were authorised to conduct it. The search did not yield beef.

Seven members of the Gauraskha Samiti had demanded to search the luggage of Mohammed Hussain and his wife Naseema Bano at Khirkiya railway station in Madhya Pradesh's Harda district on January 13, a report in The Indian Express said. The couple were travelling by Kushinagar Express.

Naseema was pushed around when she objected to their bags being flung on the platform. The "cow protection" activists produced a black bag containing meat but even though the couple insisted the bag was not theirs, Hussain was beaten up until a constable intervened. The meat in the bag was found to be that of buffalo, not cow.

In Delhi, neither the BJP nor anyone from the Narendra Modi government would comment on the incident that brought back memories of the lynching of Mohammed Akhlaque on suspicion that he had consumed and stored beef. The meat found in his home was later determined to be that of goat.

The lynching, which came after the killings of several rationalists, had triggered outrage in the country and prompted an unprecedented protest by writers, artists, historians, scientists, filmmakers and others that the BJP has tried to dismiss with the tag "award wapsi".

The party and its government at the Centre claimed the campaign against intolerance was motivated by politics and had no basis on the ground. The Prime Minister has not yet condemned the Dadri lynching.

Yesterday, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav hit out at actor Aamir Khan who had said in November that his wife Kiran Rao had wondered if the family should leave the country because of the atmosphere of intolerance.

Madhav did not name Aamir, but said people should preach to their wives about the country's prestige before preaching to auto drivers. As brand ambassador of the Incredible India campaign - he has now been dropped from the role - Aamir had featured in an ad that showed him telling off a rogue auto driver.

In Fatehpur in Uttar Pradesh, a communal clash erupted after a Makar Sankranti procession was taken out. Union minister and Fatehpur MP Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti was present in the town and Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Pravin Togadia was about to arrive when the clash erupted.

Sadhvi Jyoti, who had said after the Dadri lynching that there are many things you can eat other than the cow, said: "This procession is taken out each year for the past 50 years or so peacefully. This year, only 50,000 persons participated, not the lakhs that show up each year. So there was no provocation except that the ruling Samajwadi Party" had fuelled an attack on the processionists.

Samajwadi spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said: "A probe is on and we will nail the culprits soon. Togadia made an inflammatory speech.... The BJP is using the communal card in a big way before the elections."

Jyoti denied that Togadia was around.

BJP general secretary Bhupendra Yadav rejected the suggestion that these incidents were part of the next phase of the Hindutva project. "Every one of them is an isolated incident and should not be viewed in totality," said Yadav.