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New Delhi: The brutal killing of tailor Kanhaiya Lal in Rajasthan’s Udaipur on Tuesday, June 28, sent shockwaves across the country, drawing unanimous condemnation from all corners.
It was revealed that the perpetrators’ intention behind the murder was to exact revenge on Lal for sharing suspended Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Nupur Sharma’s derogatory remarks on the Prophet. In a video the perpetrators recorded after the murder, they also issued a threat to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Later, it even came to light that the Rajasthan police had arrested Lal for his tweet – which he claimed was an accident – and were aware of threats to his life being made in response.
Editorials in leading English newspapers and outlets, while universally condemning the gruesome act, chose to focus of a number of aspects and implications of the incident – the rising communal tensions in the country; the Rajasthan police’s failure to act preemptively; and even the potential role of the Islamic community at large.
Blaring red: On the Udaipur killing
The editorial published in the Hindu locates Kanhaiya Lal’s killing within the “communal volcano” engulfing the country today. The actions of the accused – found by the Rajasthan police to have links to the Pakistan-based Dawat-e-Islami organisation – have been highlighted by the newspaper as being likely to make the remainder of the vulnerable Muslim population of the country all the more vulnerable.
As such, it called for “quick” and “exemplary” action to be taken against the perpetrators, while giving credit to the Rajasthan police for its promptness in arresting them.
It also regards the action coming from Muslims – disenfranchised and persecuted in other parts of the country – as the boiling over of a communal conflict with more violence from both sides likely to follow.
Placing the blame for India’s communal atmosphere squarely on political parties and “pathetically irresponsible television anchors”, the Hindu article portends that this killing – brutal, premeditated, and caught on tape as it was – will mark communal tensions reaching a fever pitch.
The editorial also notes that the incident should act as a “chilling tale of caution” to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has been stoking communal fires across the country, failing to act on the numerous instances of Hindutva violence perpetrated in the country.
As such, it ends with a plea to the BJP to tone down its communal rhetoric to stop the country from falling into a “cauldron of endemic violence”.
Murder in Udaipur
The Tribune, in its editorial, notes that Kanhaiya Lal’s killers deserve the most “unequivocal, strongest possible condemnation” for their gruesome actions. Yet, it calls for the murder to be met with a “responsible, restrained” response from the country’s religious and political leadership.
“It is incumbent on religious leaders to emphatically denounce violence in the name of religion and God; and, for the sake of peace and harmony, political leaders must desist from making provocative, divisive statements and prodding their followers towards violence.”
The editorial concludes with an impassioned plea to the people of the country to stop giving precedence to ideology over human life.
“The sanctity of human life is paramount,” it reads, noting that in a modern democracy, even the most “loathsome” ideas can find expression as long as they are directed at ideological or belief systems and not trained on human beings.
Act against the barbaric killing
The incident is described as one that “strikes at the heart of a multi-cultural, pluralist society and underlines an intolerant, orthodox impulse that must be stamped out legally, socially and culturally” in the Hindustan Times editorial.
It goes on to lambast the “indefensible” act, emphasising that no comment – referring to Nupur Sharma’s comments on the prophet which reportedly prompted the killing – can be used to justify violence and that no possible explanation can justify the brutal crime.
“The two suspects must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law to send a message that such acts of medieval brutality cannot be tolerated in any modern society.”
The newspaper called for all leaders – local, religious, political – to come together to ensure that fanaticism of this sort is not allowed to spread to the minds of other citizens.
Moreover, while commending the police’s prompt action, the editorial questioned its failure to act preemptively despite reportedly having known of the threats beforehand.
Highlighting this moment in time as a pivotal one in India’s journey as a nation, the Hindustan Times article calls on all actors to come together and stamp out dogma and a blind allegiance to faith and calls for respect and dignity to be afforded to every religious group in the country.
Act of terrorism: Horrific Udaipur incident must lead to thorough investigation to see if there’s a bigger pattern
Unlike the other editorials on this list, the Times of India’s chose not to focus inward, on the increasingly volatile communal atmosphere in the country, but rather, on how the killing potentially ties into a pattern of potential forthcoming violence.
Describing the murder as a plain “act of terrorism” and likening the video shared by the perpetrators to the methods of the Islamic State, the Times of India, in its editorial called for a “mutli-level, mutli-agency” response to investigate the act.
As such, it extended its full support to the Union government’s directions to the National Investigative Agency (NIA) to probe the matter for and the accused for links to overseas actors.
“A thorough investigation by NIA into Lal’s murder, with the state government cooperating, and quick, definitive results are the best first responses to the act of terrorism. Interminable delays do great harm to the cause of fighting terror, especially when social situations are volatile.”
The Times’s editorial also joins those of the Hindustan Times and the Hindu in pulling up the Rajasthan police for its failure to take preemptive action to prevent the heinous crime.
“…this horrifying incident shows the cost of states’ reluctance to implement even most basic police reforms. In state after state, and in incident after incident, local police forces have been found wanting even when clear indications of threats have been available.”
Barbarians on the loose
The Free Press Journal editorial, equally vehement in its condemnation of the incident, chose to direct its focus on the comments against the Prophet made by Nupur Sharma, noting that the communal row sparked off by her comments within and beyond India could have been mitigated if some Islamic scholar was brought to comment on them.
It goes on to warn readers against radical sections within the Islamic community which the news outlet fears will see Kanhaiya Lal’s murder as a heroic act by two of the faith’s self-styled defenders.
Further, it suggests that the “one-sided” way in which Sharma’s remarks and the ensuing controversy played out could have pushed the perpetrators to “pursue jihad” for the supposed rewards.
“As Arif Mohammad Khan, the Kerala Governor and a rare voice of sanity in a community held in thrall by the mullahs and the maulvis, said, unless the thousands of madrassas are made to modernise their teachings, there can be no stopping germinating “martyrs” like Riyaz and Ghouse in the factories of zealots. If we are not to become another Pakistan, we need to ensure that our children are taught a modern, 21st century education.”
It also contends that the “Sangh parivar mostly draws its sustenance from the narrowness of the Indian Muslim”.
The through line in the editorial seemed to be that Nupur Sharma’s remarks against the Prophet had some truth to them in the Islamic oral tradition and that the apparent failure to acknowledge that in the media is what, eventually, led to the incident at hand.
Targeting an imagined audience of “secular-liberals”, the editorial alleges duplicity on their part for coming out in support of Mohammad Zubair – co-founder of Alt News who was recently arrested for tweeting a frame from an old Bollywood film – but remaining silent on Kanhaiya Lal being arrested for sharing Nupur Sharma’s remarks.