Two factors now seem to guide the nation – vigilante groups working to ensure the supremacy of a ‘Hindu’ way of life and a stony silence from the political leadership. Bihar has now achieved both.
When you start hearing about frequent attacks on Muslims you know you are in India, and Bihar is very much a part of India. After wavering from this course for three years, Bihar seems to have joined the ‘national mainstream’ in a decisive way. Two factors characterise this national approach – first, vigilante groups working to ensure the supremacy of the ‘Hindu’ way of life with the consent and support of the police and the administration. Second, a stony silence from the political leadership.
The Telegraph reports that there have been ‘beef’ related attacks on Muslim homes in Dumra village of West Champaran district on August 18. The New Indian Express and Dainik Jagranalso carry accounts of the same incident. According to The Telegraph, a mob of 100, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad members, attacked six Muslims homes, accusing the families there of eating beef. The police has detained the victims, apparently to save them from further attacks.
The report is worth quoting in detail because the story has a familiar ring:
“Yesterday’s attack unfolded at Dumra village of West Champaran, around 185 km northwest of Patna.
Rajdev Sah, a resident who has lodged an FIR, alleged that a calf had gone missing from the village on Wednesday evening and the villagers suspected it had been killed for meat.
Around 9 am, the crowd that included residents of neighbouring villages attacked the home of Kudus Qureshi, husband of a local mukhiya (panchayat head), suspecting he was consuming beef at home.
Slaughter of milk-yielding cows and transport of beef are banned in Bihar but consumption does not figure on the list.
The attackers barged into Qureshi’s neighbour Shahabuddin’s house, beat him up and confined him in a room, accusing him of eating and supplying beef. No beef was found at the home.
The raid continued till late afternoon, by when the intruders had swooped on the homes of Mustafa Mian, Nasiruddin, Jehangir, Aslam Ansari, Rizwan and Babloo Mian in their search for beef and thrashed them.
One of the victims managed to inform the local police, who rushed to the spot with reinforcements from a neighbouring police station and a police outpost.
A local VHP leader, Neeraj, said gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes) were keeping close tabs on the people involved in consumption and transport of beef in the district.
“We have our activists almost in every village, who keep on passing information about illegal slaughterhouses and beef smuggling,” Neeraj said.
Chanpatia police station house officer Rajesh Jha said Shahabuddin had been rescued and sent to a hospital along with three other injured.
He added that had the police not taken the victims into custody, “some untoward incident could have happened”.
Bettiah SDPO Jha reached the village and pacified the attackers by promising to take action against cattle thieves.
“By the time I reached the spot, most of the residents had dispersed but the ones present were adamant on action against the members of the minority community,” Jha told The Telegraph today.
“Since the issue had snowballed into a major problem for the law-enforcing agency, we had to take some people into custody.”
The SDPO said the seven people detained yesterday would be sent to custody on the charge of hurting religious sentiments.
Asked on what basis they had been charged, he replied: “They have been arrested on the basis of a complaint lodged by one Rajdev Sah, a resident of Dumra village.”
Qureshi said the police had initially ignored the victims’ complaints. “They are not ready to listen to our grievances,” Qureshi said before the cops produced him in the local court today.”
What do we see here? The victims of the violence being arrested, produced in courts, sent to further custody on the charge of hurting the religious sentiments of a section of the people. This is what we have been hearing in Uttar Pradesh, in Rajasthan, in Madhya Pradesh, in Maharashtra, in Delhi and now in Bihar.
Despite the fact that there is no evidence whatsoever that a cow was killed, let alone by those who were attacked, and despite the fact that Bihar does not criminalise beef eating, it is clear that the law plays no role here. It is enough for the attackers to claim their ‘religious sentiments’ have been hurt and the police obediently falls in line.
A few days before this incident, three persons were thrashed publicly for allegedly smuggling beef and later detained by the police in Bhojpur. No action was initiated against the attackers. The three victims were themselves charged for the criminal act of smuggling beef. The Bajrang Dal workers involved proudly told the press that they had intercepted the truck and the police had acted on their information. The police went ahead and also raided the slaughterhouse from where the ‘beef’ was procured.
In this case too, the police detained the victims of assault and reluctantly registered a complaint based on the statement of one of the victims.
On Friday, the state government issued an advertisement in newspapers across Bihar against cruelty to, animals. One cannot miss the colour of the advertisement, which is green. The timing of the ad is also crucial. Muslims are preparing for Bakr’id.
On the heels of the assault on the ‘smugglers’ of beef came the news of attempts to effect an informal change in the name of a village. What was earlier called Shahpur in Hajipur now became Shivpur. There were boards and banners announcing this decision of the people. Neither the district administration nor the state government thought it fit to respond to this.
The affiliates of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh feel bold enough to declare that they are now empowered to do all this in Bihar as the state is now is under their rule.
Not that we had not foreseen what was in store for Bihar. As recently as June 28, Munne Bharti, a journalist working with NDTV, while travelling with his family, was surrounded by a mob of Bajrang Dal goons, who forced him and his family to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’. Bharti still gets shivers when he recalls his escape from what he had thought was definite death.
No culprit could be found or arrested in the case.
Nitish Kumar, who had condemned the craftiness of the prime minister when reacting to the assault on Akhlaq in Dadri, is maintaining a dignified silence as far as these incidents are concerned. His lost and found Lakshman, Sushil Modi, says that he is unaware of such incidents but is sure that the law would take its course. This is of course humbug. Bihar is now a part of Modi’s India. The course he has set will make its own law.
Apoorvanand teaches in Delhi University.