Viewpoint: Why has India's 'beef' lynching sparked no remorse?

Relatives of Mohammad Akhlaq mourn after he was killed by a mob on Monday night, at his residence in Dadri town, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India, September 29, 2015. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Relatives mourn the death of Mohammad Akhlaq

The lynching of a 50-year-old Muslim man in a village in northern India sent shock waves around the country. But inside the village itself there is a disturbing lack of remorse which is an ominous sign for India, writes Senior Executive Editor of NDTV India, Ravish Kumar.

How can all this be normal? How can life on the streets of Bisada village go on, as if nothing happened here, and whatever happened was not wrong? It has been two days since a massive mob pulled a man out of his house and killed him.

Before killing Mohammad Akhlaq, they made him run to the farthest corner of his home. They broke down his door with such force that instead of giving way at its hinges, it cracked right down the middle. They smashed a sewing machine and used it to beat him to pulp.

Their blood boiled in such seething rage, and that hot blood flowed into their hands, giving it such inhuman strength that they bent the grills that barred the top-floor windows as if they were made of flimsy wire.

Could such fury, such bestial savagery have ridden on just a rumour that Mr Akhlaq had eaten beef?

Bisada village has never had any history of communal tensions that can explain this killing. Nobody here has a criminal record.

Dadri district where Bisada is located, is right next to Delhi. The village is clean and well-maintained.

No shame

How is it possible that no one looked bothered by what had happened here? How is it that I didn't find a single person who looked ashamed or had even a shred of remorse? Why was no one distraught that thousands of people from the village were transformed into a killer mob?

By the time I reached Bisada, most of its young men had disappeared. Some families said their sons were unwell. Others said their sons were not in the village. The villagers blame four or five outsiders for instigating the violence.

On the day of the killing, an announcement had been made over the temple loudspeaker, and within minutes thousands had collected outside Mr Akhlaq's house. The narrow street could not have held them all. The mob must have spilled over, all across the village.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Akhlaq's old mother was beaten by the crowd, there are deep wounds on her eyes

Yet, when I asked why so many people listened to a small group of outsiders, I was met with silence. No one saw this massive crowd. No one recognised them. Everyone says those who have been arrested are innocent.

Only the courts can decide who is guilty, but the manner in which Bisada village has returned to normalcy makes me think that the police will never be able to identify the people who made up that murderous crowd.

In any case, when have the police ever been successful in such cases? Even if forensic investigations identify whether it was beef or mutton, what difference will it make?

The crowd has already delivered its judgment. It has already killed Mr Akhlaq.

How can his daughter forget how her father was beaten to death in front of her? His old mother was also beaten by the crowd. There are deep wounds on her eyes.

The Dadri incident will get lost under the glory of some foreign trip or some clever rhetoric in an election rally.

The youth factor

But, those of us who can think need to think today. What has happened that we are unable to rationally explain things to today's youth?

Elders in the village say, even if it was beef, it was for the police to take action. But the young men of Bisada go straight to the issue of sentiment and beliefs.

The way they react to emotive issues clearly shows that someone has already done some spadework here. Someone has planted the seeds of a poisonous tree, which is bearing fruit in their minds now. They are not even willing to listen to the prime minister's statement that communalism is poisonous.

Prashant is a typical young man who wanted to take a selfie with me. He is an engineer.

As soon as the selfie-session ended, Prashant said no one should play with anyone's sentiments.

Image copyright Press Trust of India
Image caption The mob tore through the family's house

Prashant appeared to be a good boy, but it seems that he has no remorse about Akhlaq's death. Instead, he asked us why after the partition, when it had been decided that Hindus would stay in India and Muslims would go to Pakistan, did Gandhi and Nehru ask Muslims to stay back in India? I couldn't help but feel dismayed. These are the typical beliefs that keep the pot of communalism boiling.

Prashant and I had a heated argument, but I lost. People like us are losing arguments every day.

All I could do was ask Prashant to reconsider his views and read a few more books, but he is convinced that he's right.

I wonder who would have taught Prashant to think like this?

Did someone come amongst these young men before they coagulated into the mob that night?

We do not understand what is happening around us. We are not able to make others understand.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mohammad Akhlaq was a farm worker

The sparks have been spread across our villages. Young men with their half-baked sense of history want me to pose with them for selfies, but are not willing to even consider my appeal that they give up their violent ideals.

Our politics has become a collective of opportunists and cowards.

I had gone to Dadri to cover Mohammad Akhlaq's death. On the way back, I felt I was carrying another corpse inside me.

A longer version of this story appeared

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