The 25th anniversary of the demolition of Babri Masjid last week was hyped by Hindutva forces, with the demand for a temple in Ayodhya, far too many hate messages on WhatsApp about ‘love jehad’, while sabhas in city after city made hate speeches. And then the ghastly incident, on December 6th in Rajnagar, the headquarter town of Rajsamand district in Rajasthan, brought back those horrible memories of the riots in the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition, the Gujarat riots of 2002 and the recent lynchings of innocent Muslims across the country.
Videos of the gruesome act of murder by Shambhu Lal Regar of Mohammed Afrazul, a migrant labourer from Malda, West Bengal, went viral on social media. Very similar to the videos of the killings in Jharkhand of Muslims in February, when the lynching was broadcast on social media, only to be received by the son when it was still happening, who despite informing the police could not save his father. Like the lynching of Pehlu Khan and others, in which many of the participants and bystanders made videos, as if glorying in the gore they had witnessed, first-hand.
A father of three children and a small time marble dealer of Rajsamand who lost his business due to demonetisation, Shambhu Lal has emerged as the archetype of what the indoctrination of hate can do to people. It is important to know that Shambhu Lal has spent a substantial amount of time in Anand, Gujarat, and his parents still have a small business in Gujarat. The attendant hardship after demonetisation has forced them to make idols for a living.
It was to inflict the worst kind of pain that Shambhu Lal brought the sharp iron hack, the spade, the bottle of petrol on his Activa scooter. He was so determined to carry out the killing that not a minute was lost after he alighted from his scooter and saw Afrazul. Shambhu struck the first blow on Afrazul’s back. The blows continued for over two and a half minutes. The cries of a writhing Afrazul, begging to be saved from the torture, didn’t touch him. The incident took place barely one away from the District Collector’s office.
The murder was shot on a mobile camera by Shambhu Lal’s minor nephew. In the footage, an exhausted Shambhu Lal is heard warning “jehadis” that if they want to live in “our” country then they should stop “love jehad”, otherwise their fate would be the same. The rant continues and after first hitting an already dying Afrazul with the hack, he pours a bottle of petrol over him and then burns him alive.
The indoctrination of hate is complete. In another other video shot in a temple before he surrendered to authorities the next morning, Shambhu Lal tries to give reasons as to why he killed the man. It is the identity of Mewar that he invokes. The newly resurrected identity of Mewar, through the Padmavati protests that knitted a fabric of Hindu nationalism, and the martyrdom of 16,000 women led by Rani Padmini doing ‘jauhar.’
According to Shambhu Lal, people with “Islamic ideology” have spread all over the country, wearing black clothes outside masjids as well as in public places, and they are a threat to “our” cultural heritage.
Locating his fight to that initiated by Maharana Pratap, he says, “ Just like Maharana Pratap, had decided to fight Islamic Jehad, we too have to eliminate the present Islamic Jehadis. So I have done it (the killing), it may be good or bad, but I have done it.”
He goes on to say, “I am a law abiding citizen, but you die only once, so why not eliminate them and then die. Why should we be killed by them (Muslims)? That is why I did it. Twenty-five years ago, the Babri Masjid was demolished but even that has not changed anything. So I am going to surrender tomorrow in the Rajsamand Mahadev temple. All the ‘bhai’ and ‘behen’, the people of Mewar support me, I am surrendering in front of you. Jai Mewar, Jai Bharat, Jai Hind”.
In just a year, Rajasthan has seen four such killings. The first was of Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer and cattle rearer who died on the April 3, after being attacked by a crowd of so called “gau rakshaks” in Behror, Alwar. The killers named by him have not even been arrested, but seven others who were arrested are all out on bail. The second killing happened on June 16, when Zafar Khan of Pratapgarh town was beaten to death as he opposed the “naming and shaming” policy as part of making Pratapgarh an open defecation free town. The police has not arrested anybody, claiming that he died of a heart attack. The third killing happened on November 10, in the early hours, when Umair Khan and his colleagues were transporting cows and were shot by so called “gau rakshaks” in Govindgarh Tehsil, Alwar district. The killers carried the body to a railway track 15 kms away and tried to destroy all evidence — out of the seven killers only two were arrested; instead, the victims of the firing, Tahir and Javed are now behind bars. The killing of Mohammed Afrazul in Rajsamand on December 6 is the fourth such horrific incident.