When hate invades the human mind, there is no limit to brutal atrocity. On April 10, a Guardian story included a video in which there is cheering as an Israeli sniper shoots an unarmed Palestinian a considerable distance away. Shown on TV in Israel, it has been the subject of some introspective debate. Then there is news from Kashmir to make anyone, but the perpetrators and their supporters, cringe in horror.
Eight-year old Asifa Bano went in the afternoon to the nearby forest, as she usually did, to bring back the family horses from grazing. She never returned. Family and friends searched all-night by flashlights but could not find her. Five days later her body was found.
“She had been tortured,” recalls her mother. “Her legs were broken … Her nails had turned black and there were blue and red marks on her arm and fingers.”
Was this the work of a demented sadist? No, it turns out. It was a planned operation intended to terrorize her community of Muslim nomads (Gujjars) to leave this predominantly Hindu area about 45 miles east of Jammu City.
According to investigators, Asifa was taken to a temple where she was held for several days. The eight-year old was repeatedly “raped for days, tortured and then murdered,” states the charge sheet. She was strangled to death, then hit twice on the head with a stone.
A retired government officer, Sanji Ram aged 60, calmly planned this horror, aided by police officers Anand Dutta, Tilak Raj, Sunder Verma, and someone called Khajuria. The outrage over the incident has grown since two ministers from the ruling BJP (Mr. Modi’s party) attended a rally in support of the accused.
Terrorizing Muslims in Kashmir is not new; it has been ongoing for decades. But terrorizing Muslims, Dalits, Christians and indigenous peoples in India itself has now also mushroomed.
Six Christian churches have been burned since 2015, and a concerted attempt to boycott Christian businesses is underway in the northeast. The killing of Muslims and Dalits by vigilantes on minor pretexts continues as the country’s democracy turns into a ‘mobocracy’.
It is ‘Democracy a la’ Modi’, a phrase that is the title of a long essay by scholars Sumit Ganguly and Krishna Menon in The National Interest (Jan/Feb 2018) — the title was changed to ‘Making India Great Again?’ in the internet version. Mr. Modi and his party want to turn India’s “kaleidoscope of languages, religions, castes and cultures” into a culturally Hindu state, even a religious return to Hinduism for they believe that “many Hindus were forcibly converted to, or duped into adopting Islam and Christianity.” Forget the Islamic injunction against forced conversion or the abundant evidence of tireless Christian missionaries including Mother Teresa.
The National Volunteer Force or RSS in their white shirt, khaki shorts uniform conduct martial drills and “serves as the party’s force multiplier and base”. It demonizes the other creating the environment for vigilante lynchings of minorities — overwhelmingly Muslim note the authors — to continue with impunity.
“Attacks on minority communities have become common, and academics, students and journalists who highlight the harassment and intimidation are subjected to public calumny, and have occasionally been killed.”
Thus noted Hinduism scholar and University of Chicago divinity professor Wendy Doniger’s book, “The Hindus: An Alternative History,” which presented a ‘new way of understanding’ Hinduism according to the publisher was banned as vulgar following a Hindutva campaign. Much worse can happen. Gauri Lankesh, a prominent woman journalist and critic of Hindu nationalist policies was shot dead outside her home in Bangalore last September. A list of Indian journalists killed is on Wikipedia. By the way, no reason has been given by The National Interest as to why the original title of the Ganguly/Menon article has been altered on their website. Of course the published magazine carries the original title.
It was an RSS man — they claimed he was no longer a member — who assassinated Gandhi for his defense of minorities. Mr. Modi joined the RSS in 1971 rising to become its National General Secretary.
Such is India today.