Crime and context

Lynchings draw upon the master narrative of cow protection promoted by the current political elites

Written by Ashutosh Varshney | Updated: July 7, 2017 12:46 pm
muslims in india, india lynching, india hindutva agenda, faridabad lynching, hindu muslim issue, india news What form hate crimes would take was unclear, but I certainly did not anticipate lynchings. It was too ugly and alarming a prospect

Is India’s past, so marked by communal riots, transmuting itself into an era of lynching? Of immense political significance, this question is now squarely in front of us all. How should we answer it? Let us start with some background.

When the NDA regime came to power in 2014, many asked if Hindu-Muslim riots would return. Since Independence, especially during 1977-1993, as I statistically demonstrated in my book, Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India, communal riots, though unevenly spread geographically, had become a common feature of India’s national life. But after 1993, though small incidents continued, big riots declined, a pattern broken only twice, first in 2002 in Gujarat and next in September 2013 in Muzaffarnagar. Because of its size and destruction, the latter raised alarms in 2013-14. Moreover, even as it exhilarated many quarters, the rise of Narendra Modi to power aroused anxiety in other circles.

Responding to the anxiety and using probabilistic reasoning, I argued that big riots were unlikely to come back (IE, October 30, 2014). Of the various reasons, two deserved registration. First, worldwide data show that at higher levels of income, which India has relative to 1993, rioting becomes highly episodic, as opposed to occurring repeatedly. Central tendencies, of course, don’t apply to each case, but they are worth noting as correlations.

Second, while Hindu-Muslim polarisation would be in the political interest of the BJP, widespread rioting was not. Riots would be too disruptive of order, likely to upset those who voted for the BJP for economics, governance and Modi’s leadership, not for its Hindu nationalist ideology. According to Lokniti data, as much as a fourth of all BJP voters in 2014 did not vote for Hindu nationalism. That was too big an electoral bloc to antagonise via riots.

Thus, instead of riots, I argued, one should expect a standard transmutation of prejudice witnessed elsewhere, too: In particular, communalisation of the state’s everyday practices on the one hand and hate crimes committed by citizens on the other. What form hate crimes would take was unclear, but I certainly did not anticipate lynchings. It was too ugly and alarming a prospect. Social science defines hate crimes as mostly one-on-one hate-driven violence; lynchings represent perpetration of mob violence against one person or a few. There are countries where lynching, as a form of collective violence, is common, and has been studied. India was not one such country.

The larger literature points to two categories of lynching. The first aims at restoring routine order via mob violence. Studies of lynching in Indonesia show that until recently, most of it was aimed at punishing theft, hit-and-run accidents, rape, adultery and witchcraft (Bridget Welsh, Journal of East Asian Studies, September 2008). Instead of using the police, many Indonesians used mob violence as a disciplining mechanism. It had no ethnic or religious core.

The second category of lynching aims at enforcing a majoritarian ethnic/racial/religious political order. During 1880-1930, especially in the American South, white mobs lynched black Americans if they crossed a certain historically embedded hierarchical boundary (Marilyn K. Howard in Encyclopedia of American Race Riots, 2007). In her song, Strange Fruit, Billie Holiday immortalised the crushing pain of such violence. Its haunting opening verse was: “Southern trees bear a strange fruit/ Blood on the leaves and blood at the root/ Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze/ Strange fruit hanging from the poplar tree.”

Is India going the Indonesian, or the late 19th century American, way? It is unquestionably the latter. To be sure, Muslims are not the only target of lynching. But they are its primary object. Recently constructed datasets on lynching show a qualitative increase in the incidence of lynching after the BJP’s rise to power in 2014. The big new issue is not anomic, ordinary criminality, built around traffic deaths, robbery and theft, which India has certainly witnessed, though not as much as Indonesia. The new issue is beef and cattle trade, both explicitly connected to the Hindu nationalist project.

Unlike blacks and whites, Muslims are not racially different from the Hindus. But the more observant Muslims can be easily identified by their dress, as in the case of Junaid Khan; intimate knowledge of where they live can also make mob attacks on Muslims precise, as in Dadri; and while beef eating or cattle trade in India is not confined to Muslims, they are among the biggest practitioners of both, and can be easily targeted as such, as the killings in Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Haryana show.

Some commentators suggest that routine criminals are the instigators, not Hindu nationalists. This statement may be partly right on the surface, but is awfully wrong at a deeper analytical level. Over the last two decades, the vast research on riots, to which I have been a contributor, and civil wars, whose best interpreter is Stathis N. Kalyvas (Yale University), has repeatedly argued that routine criminality, calculations and jealousies have often been inserted into the master narrative of riots and civil wars.

Correspondingly, if the master narrative of cow protection were not so systematically promoted by the current Indian political elite, regular criminals would not have that narrative to plug into. The larger ideological ecosystem enables them to go rampant.

Prime Minister Modi has spoken against lynchings only twice thus far. His social base also knows that he picked Yogi Adityanath as UP’s chief minister. Adityanath created the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a vigilante force; led the campaign against “love jihad”; and formed “anti Romeo” youth squads. How would, then, Modi’s base read his recent anti-lynching statement? The answers would be available soon.

The writer is director, Centre for Contemporary South Asia, Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies and the Social Sciences, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University

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    Antony
    Jul 8, 2017 at 4:34 am
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      Antony
      Jul 8, 2017 at 4:33 am
      ChristianChurch minister jailed for raping daughter A christian church minister has been jailed after assaulting his own daughter twice. Woolwich Crown Court was told Mark Anderson, 54, abused his status as a Christian minister to hide the abuse. 22-year-old Rebekah Anderson has waived her right to anonymity to try to encourage other survivors of secxual violence to come forward. Mr Anderson has been jailed for 19 years after being convicted of two charges of rape at Woolwich Crown Court. He has been convicted of one assault by penetration and one assault occasioning actual bodily harm when she was aged 12 and 14 respectively. Rebekah told The Times newspaper: I couldn't take it anymore, it was too much of a build-up, it was holding me back and I couldn't take it. Mr Anderson abused his daughter Rebekah between 2003 and 2009. She said: "He would use his position to hide what he's done. [He would say] 'I couldn't have possibly done that, I'm so high up in the church
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        Antony
        Jul 8, 2017 at 4:31 am
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          Antony
          Jul 8, 2017 at 4:26 am
          There is something terribly wrong with Christianity and it has been wrong for a very long time. In my growing up, I was taught about Christian God who sent his son Jesus to be the Christ. This God sent his son to mix and mingle with all whom the dominant society shunned. Because of Jesus the Christ, his life, death and resurrection, the Good News became eternal. But the message I was taught missed much of humanity. Instead of adhering to and accepting this message of egalitarianism, humanity, even in the days of the Roman Empire, opted to displace God’s message and replace it with the message, the ideology and the belief system of those who ardently believed in the concept of white supremacy.
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            Antony
            Jul 8, 2017 at 4:29 am
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            Antony
            Jul 8, 2017 at 4:22 am
            White supremacism is a Christian racist ideology based upon the belief that white Christians are superior to people of other races and religions and that therefore white people should be dominant over other races. Christian white supremacy has roots in racism and often relies on pseudoscientific arguments. Like most similar Christian movements such as Christian neo sm, white supremacists oppose people of color brown and black and non-Christians. The term is also typically used to describe a political church that perpetuates and maintains the social, political, historical or industrial domination by white people (as evidenced by historical and contemporary sociopolitical structures such as the Atlantic slave trade, Jim Crow laws in the United States, and apartheid in South Africa). Different forms of white supremacism put forth different conceptions of who is considered white, and different white supremacists identify various racial and cultural groups as their primary enem
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              Antony
              Jul 8, 2017 at 4:05 am
              So here's the method of madness of BJP-RSS to communaly divide people and get votes of hindu majority in non BJP ruled states Step 1: Get someone to put up a provocative (often morphed) picture on Facebook Step 2: Amplify the rumour-mongering through digital media and word-of-mouth -RSS paid trolls like L. bhadra devi, geroge cruz, rishi, kris etc are used for this action Step 3: Spread propaganda through mouthpieces masquerading as news channels and independent journalists Step 4: Get party politicians to jump in and validate the digital dirt as if it were really happening so the communal riot is created and create fear among the hindu community so that they vote for BJP for their protection from muslims ! They couldnt do it yet in educated state like kerala even though they tried their best to use all the tricks in Sanghi crooked book !! My advise to muslims is not react to any face book post and rumours and jump into street to take revenge which inturn will back fire on you!!
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                Antony
                Jul 8, 2017 at 4:14 am
                The First Christians Were Incestuous Cannibals. by davidrsmith Anyone believing this may be surprised to hear, then, that one of the biggest reasons the church was cuted by the Romans because Christians belonged to the most immoral cult in existence! There were two main reasons the Romans had for labeling the church “immoral.” First, the church hosted weekly “love feasts,” joyous meals shared together in which the church also celebrated the Supper (Communion). What’s the big deal about that? Well, since these love feasts were usually done in private these love feasts were nothing more than secxsual orgies. Putting all this together Romans saw Christian worship services: orgies in which Christians eat and drink their fill, and then after they’re completely drunk, parti te in indiscriminate and incestuous affairs.
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                Anoop
                Jul 8, 2017 at 3:56 am
                Good one sir but partially. But dont say Muslims are the prime target. I bring to you the list of Hindus Lynching. Seems Indian express on a daily basis wants to provide articles that support the minority cause of lynching. May be the pay masters idea. 1) Ayub Pandit - DCP Kashmir. 2) Savan Rathos Teenager. 3) Arun Kumar Mahaur, a VHP Dalit leader killed for stopping Cow slaughter. 4) Fisherman Gurupada Biswas 5) Sanju Rathore a boy killed in Cow grazing 6) Twinkle Kumari Shaw 10th class raped and murdered 7) Rahul 21 years killed since his mom asked not to take drugs 8) Nagakathana from Chittor AP for refusing marriage. 9) Kashmiri Pandits. So, lynching is not targetting muslims sir which you must understand. Then, the lynching has started in India from the first mughal invader came and when Goa Inqusition happened. hence, sir pls do bear in mind killings are happening yesterday, today and will happen tomorrow unless you realize this Loka Samastha Sukino Bavanthu and not Jihad
                Reply
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                  Ram
                  Jul 8, 2017 at 3:03 am
                  Another lefty parasite crying over missed opportunity of freeloading on Indian tax money, as UPA is totally defeated and no chance for congress/commies ever to come back to shower funds, awards and positions on likes of this clown! Even that old senile fellow with wrongly awarded economics nobel also keep blabbering now and then after losing chancellorship of Ashoka University. All these Nehru dynasty servents want life long appointments, awards, money and house/positions at Indian tax payers expense and are angry that such thing wont happen again! Almost all type of adversaries, Lallu-congresss,JD or Momota-co CPM, Akilesh-Maya etc. and clown kejirwal with anyone against Indian interests, and even corrupt anti-national media like NDTV all joining hands as they are scared to death that for the first time there is a popular PM with no corruption baggage and absolute majority who tolerates no corruption and loot and is determined to unearth and jail all looters of the past!
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