Not Just Muslims. Anyone Who Disagrees Can And Will Be Lynched
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court asked the government to frame laws to prevent lynchings in the country. On the same day, a thousand miles away from Delhi, a saffron-clad social activist, Swami Agnivesh was attacked by a group of men allegedly from the Bharatiya Janta Yuva Morcha (BJYM) in Jharkhand. Though he pleaded the men to engage in a civil conversation, the men had only one agenda: to physically assault the old man, in a violent and barbaric act which was captured on video and circulated on social media. While there was criticism from some sections of media and the political class about the nature of this brutal attack, many from the Hindu right thought it was the best time to upload videos of Swami Agnivesh’s speeches, justifying what had happened (without saying so explicitly). This was followed by misinformation and propaganda on the incidence, with claims that this attack was planned by the victim himself.
To someone who might have been asleep for the last four years, all this might seem like a mere coincidence. But to anyone who has been following the daily news, there emerges a remarkable pattern on attacks and lynchings in this country. The mob has no character, no face but many amongst them have a similar ideological inclination. Sometimes the victims are cattle traders, sometimes they happen to keep meat in their fridge, and sometimes they are just taking their kid for a walk. Most of the victims of these incidences are those living on the fringe. They are Muslims, Dalits or come from some other marginalized section of the society. They have no voice, no one from the state to listen to them or protect them. They are unimportant. They disappear on pages of newspapers almost every day.
There is a circus around these lynchings. After the lynchings, there is temporary uproar. After the uproar, there is counter-propaganda. After the counter propaganda, there is passive or active support for the mob. On occasions, a union minister goes and garlands the perpetrators of the crime, since their crimes haven’t been proven in court yet. Then, there is a fresh round of uproar which is followed by more propaganda. And after all that, the victims of these lynch mobs become just numbers, to be reported in retrospective articles in barely read news articles.
With time, more lynch mobs arrive, this time triggered by their own insecurities and the vicious rumors floated through social media and messaging apps. For a group of citizens, there hasn’t been an easier time to turn into a mob. The state barely does anything to stop them. There is also hope, that once the crime has been committed, some political outfit or the other will emerge to declare their innocence and free them from any guilt. Today, there are so many lynchings across the country, with such diverse reasons, that it is impossible to separate the grain from the chaff. It is impossible to tell which ones are instigated by ideology and which ones are motivated by fear and insecurity. There is so much distortion and misinformation, that it is almost impossible to see the truth.
Nonetheless, it becomes essential to distinguish and point out to the wave of right-wing mobocracy which has taken the country under its grip. Violence is not new to right-wing strategy, not here in India, not across the world. Violent actions are often the bedrock of organizational discipline and group action. You would rarely find a right-wing political worker who has not been part of ‘physical action’ at some point of time. It’s the very culture they propagate. It can take many forms, from anti-Romeo squads to anti-beef squads but the result is more or less the same.
The Hindutva brigade has risen considerably in the country over the last four years and is now at the centre of the nation’s politics. What was considered the fringe yesterday is now considered mainstream. Every other day, someone at the top of the right wing chain of command justifies violence, mob actions and ideological attacks. An ideological militarization is taking place even within the Hindu right. There is just one line of thought. If you don’t obey that line, no matter who you are, what ideological spectrum you belong to, you will be attacked. On social media, trolls systematically attack anyone who doesn’t agree with a certain brand of Hindutva. They don’t even spare members of their own party. The vitriol with which lies and propaganda is spread is enough to suffocate anyone who believes in this nation or its constitution.
Indeed, we live in dangerous times. In times like these, pleas of a civic discussion from people like Swami Agnivesh won’t be heard. With each passing day, there is less and less space to express dissent. Even disagreements are not appreciated. The agenda, the discourse and the methods are set by right-wing organizations, upheld by the party in power and everyone else is expected to play along. If you don’t fall in line, you end up getting the wrong end of the stick. You get vile verbal abuse on social media, you get death threats, and your character is assassinated. That’s only if you are privileged enough. If you have no one to speak for you, no one to listen to you, you will end up becoming a victim of another lynch mob, one way or the other. Even if there are laws made to prevent mob lynchings, one wonders if they will save us from the mob mentality that now rules this nation.
Abhishek Anicca is a poet, writer and columnist. He tweets at @gumnaam_musafir .