Fifteen-year-old Muslim knifed to death by Hindu mob on a packed train in India
28th Jul 2017
Thousands turn out in protests across India against a wave of attacks on Muslims by mobs that accuse them of killing cows or eating beef, Jantar Mantar New Delhi June 17 (Photo: Javed Sultan/AA)
The horrific murder of teenager Junaid Khan during Ramadan stirred Indian civil society enough to hold countrywide demonstrations against the public lynching of Muslims on the false pretexts of eating beef. The protests also forced Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to finally break his silence and condemn the violence by cow-vigilantes (gau rakshaks), a first since the lynching of 52-year-old Mohammed Aklaque two years ago, which kicked off the current epidemic of mob-lynching of Muslims.
Fifteen-year-old Junaid, accompanied by his brothers, was returning home on June 22 after completing his Eid shopping in Delhi when they were set upon by a group of Hindu goons who called them “cow-eaters” and attacked them with knives on a moving train. “They kept assaulting us and the mob egged the attackers on; none of the other passengers tried to help us,” said Junaid’s eldest brother Shaqir, 23, who too was stabbed multiple times during the attack. “After stabbing Junaid, they dragged him across the floor of the compartment, which was splattered with blood, “but not one passenger said anything,” added Shaqir.
His other brother, Haseeb, said his skull cap was pulled off his head and his beard was tugged while the crowd shouted abuses at them in addition to yelling they were “anti-nationals” and “beef-eaters”.
Junaid was stabbed to death on the Delhi-Mathura Passenger train as he was returning home to Ballabhgarh, a small town in the state of Haryana, 60km south of New Delhi. His companions were also beaten and stabbed and eventually thrown out of the train when they reached their station. Junaid’s distraught mother, when told that her son was killed for consuming beef, cried and said Junaid was keeping a roza (fast) that day and couldn’t have eaten anything, let alone beef, and had timed his return so that he could have iftaar (breaking fast) at home.
Cows are considered sacred by the Hindus and their slaughter for any reason including consumption is illegal in most states in India. The Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has been in power under Modi since 2014 has made it their mission to make cow slaughter illegal nationwide. Many of the BJP-ruled states in northern and western India have made their Prevention of Cow Slaughter laws even more stringent with Gujarat, in western India from where Modi hails and where he ruled as Chief Minister for 12 years before becoming the Prime Minister has made the killing of a cow punishable with a life term in prison.
Ever since Modi’s ascension to power, emboldened BJP workers and supporters have been using cow slaughter – confirmed or not – to target Muslims. Vigilante groups in the name of cow-protection are extorting money, attacking and lynching Muslims mostly in BJP-ruled states knowing they have the tacit support of the Government.
Junaid was the youngest of more than a dozen Muslim men who have become victims of public lynching by cow-vigilantes on false allegations of eating beef, killing cows or smuggling them for slaughter in the last two years.
The brutality of Junaid’s murder and his young age stirred the conscience of liberals and left-leaning civil society enough to hold demonstrations against lynching in state capitals across India. Thousands of Hindus gathered in the cities condemning the killings as “Not in their Name”. “I can’t condone the killing of humans in the name of cows no matter how sacred I may consider them to be,” said Rajashree Ghosh, one of the participants.
However, the BJP still refused to accept that the killings were hate crimes religiously motivated and insisted they were just stray local law and order problems. Initially, Junaid’s murder was also passed off by the police as the result of a brawl over seats on the train, even though the victims insisted that they were targeted because they were Muslims.
Twitter-happy Modi who had remained silent about the lynchings in the last two years was finally forced to acknowledge they happened. Speaking at the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, Modi invoked Mahatma Gandhi and said “he would not have condoned the violence by cow-vigilantes”; at no point did Modi say that he condemned it. The vigilantes are all part of the BJP or their far-right founding organisation Rashtriya Sewak Sangh (RSS) and their affiliated groups. These groups are Modi’s core supporters and he cannot afford to antagonise them by condemning their actions directly.
Just three hours before Modi made his half-hearted comment in Ahmedabad, another Muslim was killed near Ranchi, the state capital of Jharkhand, another BJP-ruled state, this time for transporting meat. Asghar Ali, 42, was the occupant of a white van which was transporting meat likely to be either mutton or, both of which can be legally eaten. Ali and another man were dragged out of the van by a gang of boys in their teens and early 20s and mercilessly beaten. Ali succumbed to his injuries. The whole incident was filmed and the video went viral on social media, but even then the police insisted they couldn’t identify the culprits.
As long as the governments and the BJP do not tell the law enforcers to come down heavily on cow-vigilantes, the lynching of Muslims using the excuse of ‘eating beef’ will continue. It is very unlikely that the BJP high command will issue such an order because it is against their ideology. For the BJP, cows are more important than Muslims. They more the BJP are seen as the protector of cows and the destroyer of Muslims, the more they hope to increase their votes in any future elections.
* In yet another incident a Muslim dairy owner was critically wounded and his house set on fire by a Hindu mob in a Jharkhand village after a headless carcass of a cow was found near his home, police said. Thirty police personnel were injured as a frenzied crowd of around 1,000, including some self-appointed cow protectors, laid siege to 55-year-old Usman Ansari’s house in Giridih district’s Bariabad on June 27. Villagers in Bariabad, which is around 250km from the state capital Ranchi, found a carcass that was missing its head and assumed that Ansari had slaughtered the cow, police said.
A mob carrying sticks and stones descended on his house and beat him up. When police reached the village, the crowd had surrounded the house. The mob clashed the police team and set the house on fire.
Ansari was hospitalised and his family moved to a safer location under police protection.