Call It By Its Name

India needs to legally reclassify hate crimes as acts of terror.

Written by Tanika Sarkar | Published:June 28, 2017 12:06 am
faridabad, lynching, police, haryana railway police, faridabad lynching news, india news, indian express news This should lead to serious soul-searching in India where Junaid, a young man, looking forward to Eid , was first abused and then brutally knifed to death while his brother lies wounded in a hospital.

Last week, Makram Khan, a British Muslim, was stabbed to death in a vicious hate crime in London. Immediately, the entire political class condemned it in the strongest words and a probe was launched into similar crimes at the highest levels. Significant sections of the mainstream media focused on the brutality and on the bereaved family, sensitively, and at considerable length. Horrible as it was, the event received the attention it deserves.

Two things stand out especially. First, such responses came in the wake of a series of severe Islamist terror attacks on London, and a large-scale one at Manchester, in very quick succession. Each was followed with calls for harmony — from religious organisations, from police forces and politicians, from large sections of urban publics. Second, and more important, the attack by a lone individual was immediately classified as terrorism, and is now being investigated within that format. Admittedly, this is a new departure in British civic and political life, partly shaped by the larger matrix of changes brought about by a marked leftist turn in Labour politics that Jeremy Corbyn, a long time anti-racist activist, has recently initiated.

This should lead to serious soul-searching in India where Junaid, a young man, looking forward to Eid , was first abused and then brutally knifed to death while his brother lies wounded in a hospital. The cause? They are Muslims, hence beef eaters, hence Pakistanis, and hence easy and natural target for butchery. Note the logic: All beef eaters and all Pakistanis — and by extension, therefore, all Muslims — are meant for slaughter.

Nor is it the logic of a few drunken oddballs, as it is made out to be. The killing has been preceded by so many others, of Dalits and Muslims, accused of cow slaughter or beef consumption, that we have simply lost count and memory of them. If they were calibrated by Far Right Hindu outfits in the past — nobody enquired into their possible organisational or mobilisational links — such bloodlust has now pervaded very large numbers of ordinary people, drunk or sober. It is a part of a broader pattern where a certain group proclaims something as punishable by death and torture — be it in the name of Bharat Mata, or cow or temple, or nationalism — and violence ensues. Atrocities have been naturalised in the past few years, they are a far too familiar landscape, part of the new normal.

Do we dare draw a contrast between political responses to the two deaths? At an NDTV debate, BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli remarked that our prime minister does occasionally condemn such violence. That no corrective action follows from his observations seemed, after all, a small matter to him. An exalted figure like the PM cannot possibly react to such daily trivialities. We live in strange times. Modiji embraced President Trump in the US, and we do not know that Trump abstains from beef. The Swachh Bharat campaign does not provide poor women with toilets, but when they are forced to relieve themselves in public places they are photographed by civil servants who allegedly beat another Muslim man to death when he objected to the gross abuse.

Have we had enough? Even some of us, even a few of us? Could we initiate a movement, asking that hate crimes be legally reclassified as acts of terror and be treated on par with them? May we demand that the entire Opposition — if it still deserves that name — unite under this demand immediately? After all, we have a useful precedent in a country which has, in recent times, suffered many more terror attacks than we have, and which has refused to discriminate between terror and terror.

The writer retired as professor, Centre for Historical Studies, JNU

For all the latest Opinion News, download Indian Express App

  1. A
    Jun 29, 2017 at 7:56 am
    Omg Stfu all of you...both for and against the article/author and understand one thing...this is not 20 years ago this is not 1947 this is not about Kashmiri pundits or the Muslim rulers, this is also not about Gujarat riots or the train burning nor it is about the atrocities done to the Sikhs and tbh it’s not about anything in the past. Clearly what is happening in the country is a mess (dont start by saying it was always the case...not required). What this is inevitably going to result in is a backlash from Muslims, if not today then tomorrow, you push a dog to a corner (I am not calling Muslims that, merely using an analogy) the dog is bound to snap back...and you may be big and strong to kill it anyways, but it will hurt you. You may escape unscathed or you may have to cut off a limb...point is why people are justifying anything today with what happened in the past, is something I don’t understand? If you want India to succeed, you need to move on – hopefully towards something btr.
    1. A
      Jun 29, 2017 at 8:15 am
      Additionally, I disagree with the author, because this is never going to become the law. More often than not, In India laws are meant to be broken, sidelined or worst abused by certain individuals/sectors of the society for their own gain. What is stopping certain s in the minority - Muslims or Christians to misuse this law for their personal or fanatical vendetta? There has to be a better way to put some sense into people what that is I do not know. Shame on what's happening these days and before you say - leave if you don't like it. Thanks I have. Still read the newspapers and still have deep vested interest in the new face of India. Also I am not only a minority, I am very much still an Indian.
    2. H
      Jun 29, 2017 at 7:08 am
      To this writer . Given how pathetically benign the punishment( even that is not carried out in most cases ) is for crime against women , it is the fear of public lynching that is preventing ual assaults against women on the streets . Do you know that on new years eve this year as they were celebrating , thousands of european girls were groped , humileated , assaulted , molested , man handled and some even raped by groups of migrant muslim middle eastern youths . The legal system neither prevented it nor did any justice to the perpetrators . It is lack of fear of public lynching which made this possible . Do you think that is possible in India ? No . FEAR OF PUBLIC LYNCHING , AND NOT JUDICIAL PUNISHMENT PREVENTS LOT OF CRIMES AGAINST WOMEN .
      1. S
        Jun 29, 2017 at 5:41 am
        SHAME! No protests for Ayub Pundith lynching. SICKularists stand exposed!
        1. M
          Jun 29, 2017 at 2:47 am
          Spot on Ms. Sarkar, you owe that to the nation!. The current trends are alarmingly divisive both socially and politically, but visionary intellectuals like you and your like minded colleagues using your persuasive powers can expose any dysfunctional political elite and simultaneously guide masses to see the millions of attributes that unite the nation rather than the few that divide. The political far right elite (BJP, VHP and RSS) have no interest in the welfare of neither Muslims nor Hindus but the lynching of innocent Indians is justified as they cannot see beyond the vote dividends from their engineered political and social polarization. However, wrestling the political and social narrative from the divisive forces needs united and concerted counter arguments from all walks of life dislodging the current hazardous political ideology. Alienation of any Indian regardless of caste and creed should be opposed as a disservice to India. Unity and harmony is key to success for all.
          1. J
            Jun 29, 2017 at 2:17 am
            Please stop spreading rumours and communalising the environment by presenting onse sided grossly communal story using phrases like "The cause? They are Muslims, hence beef eaters, hence Pakistanis, and hence easy and natural target for butchery" Your version is muslim version of story while other side says it was a conflcit on seat in the train and unfortunate event occured. Same way your biased ness is clear by including "Bharat Mata, or cow or temple, or nationalism" and not including major cause "Kafir , jehad, and Communists" responsible for lynching in larger numbers.Obviously your views are myopic and aimed at spreading poisnous communalism by polarising Muslims.
            1. N
              Jun 29, 2017 at 1:07 am
              Whatever your reasons - no mob or individual should be handing out "justice" to anyone. Killing people (no matter how justified in your mind) is not nationalism. This is not the kind of country we need. Eating beef does not make anyone anti-national. Nor does writing an op-ed. Killing people, taking the law in your own hands, and inciting violence - that's anti-national.
              1. M
                Jun 29, 2017 at 12:25 am
                Hey dumbo, even the acts of terror in our laws not called as such since we have repealed POTA and TADA. So first write an article pleading for calling the acts of terror by their name, and the offer us your moralizing sob story.
                1. K
                  Jun 28, 2017 at 11:51 pm
                  Tanika, I applaud you for the article as it endeavours to show two opposing views (one in London, and the other in India) to the same issue. The problem you have is that you're presenting this to a majority of population who have seen things only from within India, and never had the opportunity to experience what it truly means to be tolerant in a society... and understand true meaning of society. Cambridge dictionary states 'Society' as :- a large group of people who live together in an organized way. Are we organised? Yes... but as a mob! There will NEVER be a revolution in India!!
                  1. T
                    Thrinethran T
                    Jun 29, 2017 at 3:47 am
                    Which only means you haven't studied the history of the British Isles, or the history of the European Jews, of Western and Eastern Europe of only the last 150 years. How indeed has India lived with its cultural and philosophical and religious diversity, how did all this evolve over several millennia? Now just search for Political Violence in W Bengal, 1967-2017, and seek your favourite columnist's contribution to its understanding. Oh, maybe you know all that already!
                  2. Load More Comments