Updated: October 6, 2015 12:24:34 pm
All of you who got to see the IAF Corporal, Mohd. Sartaj, on television Sunday evening are bound to be moved by his level-headed equanimity, courage under adversity and lack of any anger or ill-will despite being wronged, horribly wronged.
Sartaj is the elder of the two sons of Mohd. Akhlaq who was lynched to death in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh by a demented mob of villagers who had been instigated to do so by fanatics out to foment communal trouble in the State.
Sartaj expressed surprise at the violence released in a tiny but peaceful part of the country. Nobody had any quarrel in Dadri as long as he could remember! His family sent food to Hindu friends in the village to celebrate Eid and in return, the neighbours sent sweets to them on Hindu festival days. So, the attack was most unexpected. It took the family by complete surprise.
Sartaj said he was part of the Indian Air Force family. He owed his allegiance to that family. The elders in that family would advise him what he should do next to ensure security and he would abide by their advice. He appealed for calm, understanding and communal harmony. He asked fellow-Indians to pray for the swift recovery of his brother, Danish, who was battling for life in hospital.
Sartaj’s reaction to the brutal and uncivilized behaviour of a lynch mob stands out in marked contrast to the venom and hate spouted by BJP’s MP, Sangeet Som, who accused the government of Akhilesh Yadav of protecting “cow-slaughters”! Other BJP party bigwigs, including the Union Minister of State for Culture, were notably ambiguous about their feelings, condemning the murder as people expected them to, but justifying the motive, as the cow had to be protected. The Minister went to the ludicrous extent of terming the murder an accident.
Cow slaughter has been banned in most States of India for many decades. The cow is never sacrificed, not even clandestinely. The minority communities who consume beef, eat the flesh of oxen or buffaloes, never of cows.
In Uttar Pradesh, too, cow slaughter has been banned for decades, but the slaughter of the male progeny of the cow has not been similarly prohibited. That prohibition has been brought in by law in some BJP-ruled states like Maharashtra, Haryana and Rajasthan. Possession of beef or consumption of beef is prohibited in only these few States but certainly not in UP. There was no law that Akhlaq was contravening even if the meat found in his refrigerator was beef.
Almost unanimously the audience that was invited by the television channel to hear Mohd. Sartaj and the debate that followed opined that eating beef was not a problem with the young. It is time that our politicians and right-wing Hindutva elements take note of this changing trend in food preferences or, if you may, religious sentiments of the common people. Personally, I know numerous upper-class Hindus and particularly their children who make no bones about the fact that they eat beef.
True, the great majority of Indians today do not eat beef because of reverence for the cow. Their sentiments need to be respected. But do we have to translate these sentiments to violence by singling out beef eaters and putting them to death?
In the politics of beef a very dangerous trend has been set alight in the country today. People are being singled out as beef eaters if they belong to the Muslim community where as there are other communities like Nairs in Kerala, for instance, who are not averse to eating this type of meat. For the poor who cannot afford milk or other forms of food that contain protein, beef is the cheapest form of protein essential for the human body to survive. Mutton or even chicken might be beyond their financial capabilities.
There is a lurking suspicion that right wing elements are out to destroy the secular fabric of the country by indulging in the politics of beef. By dividing communities on communal lines they expect to attain pole position. This is a very dangerous game to play. You cannot wish away fifteen percent of the population in this manner. If they are not taken along development will only be a dream and the progress of the country is sure to slow down. Mr. Modi’s vision of a resurgent India, where everyone is included to fly high on the wings of development, will be scuttled by the extremists from among his own followers.
A group of friends were discussing Akhlaq’s murder at the Mahalaxmi Race Course last Saturday. Most of these friends were pro Modi and had voted him to power. One of them was a Gujarati gentleman who had served in the Indian Air Force as a pilot, quite rare for a Gujarati. He was the most vociferous. He was convinced that the elements who had killed Akhlaq were anti-Modi and their intention was to ensure that he did not succeed in his mission to develop the country. This was the very first time I heard such a theory floated!
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