When the nation is charged up, for vengeance

Cow vigilantes and self-proclaimed ghazis don’t need state legitimacy to carry out the violent actions that they engage in. The problem starts when the state itself remains silent against such heinous crimes

Written by Anam Zakaria | Updated: July 8, 2017 6:32 am
Not In My Name, #NotInMyName, India protests, beef ban, cow slaughter, Cow vigilantes, lynching, india lynching, Junaid Khan, Junaid Khan, communal violence, riots, death, india news It is not as if cow vigilantes and self-proclaimed ghazis need state legitimacy to carry out the violent actions that they engage in. (PTI Photo by R Senthil Kumar)

What happens when the state gives moral sanction to violence? When through its silence, it validates target killings? When through its actions, it penalizes the victim and pardons the accused? When instead of outright action against those who lynch, torture and brutally kill in broad daylight and among dozens of eyewitnesses, it starts a police or judicial inquiry to question the innocence of the dead?

A couple of months ago, when Mashal Khan was lynched on alleged blasphemy charges in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, chief minister Pervez Khattak confidentially issued a statement saying that a judicial inquiry should be held as there was no evidence that Khan had committed blasphemy.

Perhaps, if the deceased had been found guilty by the inquiry, the actions of the mob that killed him would have been deemed appropriate. Just like Mumtaz Qadri, the man who shot Punjab governor Salman Taseer 28 times in 2011, in an upscale neighbourhood of Islamabad. He was hailed as a ghazi, a Muslim fighter who fights non-Muslims, by thousands of his supporters, including dozens of educated lawyers.

Qadri believed that Taseer’s efforts to amend the controversial blasphemy law in the country were blasphemous in itself. Today, a shrine built on the outskirts of Islamabad welcomes his followers and encourages them to seek his blessings and commend his bravado. Earlier this year, an ‘urs’ to commemorate his death anniversary was held. After all, he had performed the ultimate selfless act of giving up his life in the name of Islam.

On the other side of the border, in India, the story of Mohammad Akhlaq, killed at the hands of a mob in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh in 2015, still resonates strongly. An FIR was registered against Akhlaq’s brother and other relatives for cow slaughter. The meat that was found in Akhlaq’s freezer was sent for testing- to verify whether it was beef or not; in other words, to verify whether his ruthless murder was justified or not.

According to the police, ‘The meat was sent for forensic test following the demands of the agitating villagers,’ many of whom were probably directly responsible for Akhlaq’s death, marching to his house after hearing rumors of cow-slaughter, blood-thirsty and seeking vengeance as self-proclaimed vanguards of religious beliefs.

It is not as if cow vigilantes and self-proclaimed ghazis need state legitimacy to carry out the violent actions that they engage in. However, when the state itself remains silent against such heinous crimes, when the state itself begins to question whether it was beef in the freezer and whether blasphemy was indeed committed or not, it sends a clear signal to the public that their acts are justified if the accused are found guilty, that they can take the law in their hands if their religious beliefs are offended.

In face of this, isolated statements issued by both prime ministers condemning the acts hold little value. It is often a case of too little, too late. The nation is already charged up, the fire for revenge and vengeance ignited and unwilling to be quenched by grand statements in between the deafening silence exercised by state representatives.

In an atmosphere where religious nationalism is on the rise on both sides of the border, a clear line is drawn between the sacred and the patriotic and the profane and treacherous. Beefeaters, blasphemers and anti-nationals are becoming synonymous terms. More often that not, religious minorities find themselves on the wrong end of this division.

In India, 70 years after Partition, the debate between cow-eaters and the cow-worshippers has once again emerged. Muslims are being targeted on suspicion of eating or possessing beef. The latest victim is Alimuddin Ansari of Jharkhand, beaten up by a mob on the suspicion that he was carrying beef. It is believed that 86% of the victims since 2010 are Muslim, that 97% of the reported cow-related attacks have taken place since the Modi government came to power.

On this side of the border, the number of blasphemy accused, both Muslim and non-Muslim have starkly risen over the past few decades. Religious minorities particularly find themselves in a precarious position.

A couple of years ago I visited Shanti Nagar in Pakistani Punjab, where a mob burnt hundreds of Christian homes on blasphemy allegations. An FIR was filed against the villagers for allegedly tearing up pieces of the Quran.

When I visited a school in the vicinity, one of the Christian teachers who had survived talked about the horror she had witnessed in 1997 when her own Muslim students charged towards her and others in the village to burn them alive.

Another Christian man that I interviewed in Lahore, shook his head at the state of affairs of the country and remarked, ‘Do you know how much power you wield as a Muslim? If you go out now and yell in the streets that I have commit blasphemy, a mob will descend upon my house and I would have no chances of surviving.’

I left his house that day, embarrassed by the very power that had been thrust upon me at birth, with no doing of my known, and frightened of the vulnerability he constantly lived with, simply because he believed in a different faith.

Question is, haven’t these decades of separation taught us anything? The self-righteous vanguards of patriotism and religious belief have invoked cow slaughter and blasphemy allegations to bloody the streets and alleys on both sides of the divide. Religious fanaticism is not limited to any one faith or nationality; it has become a toxic web devouring both nation-states.

Anam Zakaria is the author ofFootprints of Partition: Narratives of four generations of Pakistanis and Indians’

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  1. K
    Kamran
    Jul 10, 2017 at 2:50 pm
    Seems to be written by an amateur looking for fame. No coherent analysis. Sheer internet research.
    Reply
    1. L
      Lovely
      Jul 9, 2017 at 7:17 pm
      Is PIG available in Kashmir or Kerala or Bengal ?
      Reply
      1. C
        cbonf
        Jul 9, 2017 at 5:34 am
        MEAT is a slow poison. MEAT from 'factory farmed animals' and 'poultry birds' are extremely poisonous and invite dreaded diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart attack and stroke. MEAT preserved under 'refrigeration' is a sure invitation to HEART ATTACK. Governments across India should strictly ban COMMERCIAL MEAT.
        Reply
        1. N
          Nagar Iyer
          Jul 9, 2017 at 5:27 am
          Indian breed cows and bulls are very precious living beings which form the backbone of our agriculture, economy, health and culture. In fact they are more valuable than 'human beings' themselves. We need to protect them and also transform our farming into a COW BASED NATURAL FARMING so that our FOOD CHAIN which is currently TOXIC will become DETOXIFIED and NUTRITIOUS
          Reply
          1. M
            mark
            Jul 9, 2017 at 6:06 am
            "Indian breed cows and bulls are more valuable than 'human beings' themselves". Interesting information. And shows that you know a lot about agriculture. BTW most bulls are castrated Sir, and what are you doing with all these bulls, anyway? India, an overpopulated country, has not enough grazing land nor fodder for your COW BASED NATURAL FARMING. If you don't want to harm cows, which is kind, stop milking them first.
            Reply
          2. P
            Pitambar Sharma
            Jul 9, 2017 at 4:07 am
            Hatred is on the rise. Action propelled by hatred is on the rise. Every sane person should condemn it. But that is not enough. The government machinery needs to be effective and used immediately. Pakistan and Mamta's West Bengal governments have no interest in justice. They are fanning the flames of jihadi radicalism. But India generally has been much better although not completely free from communal hatred and violence. Modi has to take strong action. The public can speak up and must.
            Reply
            1. A
              Adrian Akau
              Jul 9, 2017 at 2:32 am
              The state is the supporter of the cow god and therefore any crimes related to gau raskats are subject to reverse treatment the criminals become the honest ones and the victims are the guilty. It is the way of the cow god.
              Reply
              1. G
                George Cruz
                Jul 9, 2017 at 12:14 am
                The author Anam Zakaria has to realize that the larger Hindu population is democratic, secular, and inclusive and she is hiding the facts that in general Muslims in India are illiterate, attend madrassa and get brainwashed with Islamic ideologies of Jihad/Sharia, quick on trigger, readily willing to commit terror/killing based on the holy book. Lates example is the illegal, worthless. Bangladeshis committing atrocities in W. Bengal. The biased news media paints Muslims as peaceful but if looks around the globe the majority of the terror acts have been committed by the Islamic terror groups like LeT, Hurriyat, Al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, JeM, JeQ, SIMI, IM,..the list is long.
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                1. P
                  Pitambar Sharma
                  Jul 9, 2017 at 4:12 am
                  What you say may be generally right but it does not justify reverse hatred and violence. Gau Rakshaks committing violence is as bad as jihadi committing violence. Both sides are equally wrong and you have no basis to criticize to criticize only one side.
                  Reply
                  1. A
                    Antony
                    Jul 9, 2017 at 4:23 am
                    Pitambar, he is a paid troll with fake christian ID from RSS-IT cell. he is here 24 x7 as full time job, dont react to this guy
                  2. K
                    Kamran
                    Jul 10, 2017 at 2:52 pm
                    I agree. There is no coherent analysis in her writting and perhaps the reason why her book too was only an oral history account and a narrative based on what people said.
                    Reply
                  3. P
                    pankaj
                    Jul 9, 2017 at 12:07 am
                    Foot prints of par ion? Well I haven't read it but I can guarantee that the author would have missed the real footprints for sure. There is still time for muslims to understand when they focus too much on their religious iden y, they basically are forcing others to do the same, While muslims can be excused because their texts do have too much of "us vs them" dialogues and ideology and hence they are vulnerable to it. But in information age and when all texsts/translations are available freely online, when so much of commentary is available online, you do not have excuse to remain vulnerable to dividing ideology all the time. In other words you cannot fight as muslims fo rtheir rights for long enough and feel that other people will not group on religious iden ies. Muslims have done it all around the world and almost all over world people are against their religious iden y. It is not fault of other people's, they were much more benign to other groups than muslims themselves,
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                    1. P
                      pankaj
                      Jul 9, 2017 at 12:14 am
                      The fault lies in those muslims who do not understand that when they ask UK, France and other developed societies who were good to all, to let them have their own rules from Sharia because they are muslims, then such muslims expose their hypocrisy, communal-ism and racism all at once. And when this goes beyond a threshold than even the most benign societies like France will revolt in same coin. ............. Additionally, muslim get trapped into another repurcussion, their texts are reviewed by non-muslims and their faith lose disrespect. All because you wnated to force your own laws out of your fake/deceptive sense of superiority and "otherness" on those who were originally perfectly OK with you. India had the most tolerant society and tolerated this muslims racism and communal-ism to the extent of constant conversion (Kashmir turned from the place of sages renowned in ancient world to place of terrorists, all in the name of islam), India tolerated par ion, there is a a limit to it
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                        pankaj
                        Jul 9, 2017 at 12:18 am
                        the limit is what you see is happening in India today. There is no other solution but for msulims to leave their religious iden y to their homes or personal matters and outside behave at the general community level, one with your family, your mohalla, your district, your state, your nation... not as muslims... otherwise the age of information and quantum physics will not forgive you, you will be considered drag to natural evolution of good human societies (without anybody explicitly knowing it as such) and next generations will suffer for no fault of theirs. .................MUSLIMS HAVE TO STOP BEING MUSLIMS EVERYWHERE, BE MUSLIM IN YOUR HOUSE OR ON YOUR PERSON (BODY) BUT DO NOT CARRY THIS AS A GROUP IDEN Y IN EVERYTHING YOU PARTI TE IN. .. till you change this mentality, you are not going to see reversal of how world will treat muslims in future.
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                        1. P
                          pankaj
                          Jul 9, 2017 at 12:24 am
                          NEITHER PROBLEMS OF PAKISTAN, NOR PROBLEMS OF 56 ISLAMIC NATIONS, NOR INDIA, NOR BANGLADESH, NOR INDONESIA, NOR THAILAND, NOR FRACNE, NOR GERMANY, NOR ISIS CAN BE SOLVED till muslims realize that they do not need to be muslim out side of their house or outside of their person, wear something that guarantess you that you are muslims, take million oaths that you are muslim, but stop being muslim in every group you present yourself, STOP USING ISLAM AND YOUR MUSLIM IDEN Y AS A TOOL FOR POLITICS.... otherwise in this information age, people you call "others", in all those nations, will start treating you as "other" and may become as irrational as the laws you ask them to have for you... you should stop being the catalyst of this otherness and irrationality.. if you are even 1 moderate ask governments all over world to use same civil/common laws for everyone.
                          Reply
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