‘The Hour of Lynching’ Presents The Bleak Future For Muslims Under Modi 2.0
The Guardian's short documentary juxtaposes a widow's grief against the politics of hate spewed by Hindutva groups.
The Hour of Lynching, directed by Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya, is a short documentary that attempts to portray the bleak conditions of persecuted Muslims in India as the country welcomes Modi to rule for a second term. Produced by The Guardian, it presents the struggles of the family of Rakbar Khan, who was lynched in Rajasthan by gau rakshaks.
On July 21, Rakbar Khan (29), a resident of Haryana, was beaten to death by a mob of cow vigilantes in Rajasthan’s Alwar. He was attacked on suspicion of cow smuggling. The post-mortem report of Khan said that he succumbed to multiple injuries following the brutal attack. Rabkar had 12 injury marks on his body and he died of excessive internal bleeding.
The documentary uses boxed-in close-ups to register every emotion the victims feel. The film opens at Rakbar Khan’s house where Asmeena, Rakbar’s widow, is encouraged to cry as much as she can so that she doesn’t even dream of her husband. From behind grey, yellow, pink and blue veils the women directly slam Modi saying, “Such is the reign of Modi. The life of Muslims is worth nothing. We are being killed like dogs and cats.”
Asmeena says, “All I want is justice.” But her female relatives object to this, saying women can’t get involved in legal cases and she must stay indoors and not speak to any males while observing ‘purdah’ for four months and 15 days.
As Asmeena sits with a forlorn look as she remarks that in an ironical twist of fate, it was Rakbar’s love for cows which had brought him death.
In the documentary, the Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Gyandev Ahuja tries to justify mob lynching by approaching the issue from the perspective of an animal rights activist. He sports an orange scarf, sunglasses and a fat moustache evoking comparisons to lawless cowboys in westerns. Ahuja demonises Muslims saying that “Cow smugglers are demons. Cow protection is a fight between good and evil.”
He disregards the violence and lawless side of the work of gau rakshaks, speaking of their bravery and selfless nature. He says that the men have all volunteered for the job and are not paid salaries to “patrol our state border to prevent smuggling of cows”.
As the camera follows the cow vigilantes, Nawal Kishore, the head of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad demands from a local if cows are still smuggled via the road they are standing on. Kishore says Rakbar was caught transporting cows and was beaten before he could reach the spot with the police. He says he didn’t know then that Rakbar would die; otherwise, he would have taken more photos of him. In a blasé manner, Kishore indirectly admits that the life of cows are more important than a man, as he says they had taken the cows to drop them at the cow shelter while Rakbar was left bleeding without medical assistance.
A local explains why they don’t want to get involved in cow smuggling cases, admitting that it has always been a norm to stop them, but now they fear that cases will be filed against them. They resent how activists speak up for the victims and demand compensations rather than highlighting the attackers’ plight. They, being Hindus, feel threatened in a country with them as the majority. A local says, “We are living in fear”.
Under cover of night as the gau rakshaks embark on ‘rescuing’ more cows the extra-judicial vigilante group proclaims, “We respect the law, and so the police also accompany us… The police support us because they are helpless by themselves.” Brandishing a metal sword to show that they mean business the gau rakshaks say, “Here every child is a cow protector. We will risk our lives to protect mother cow and our religion.”
Also Read: Why Everyone Needs to Watch Lynch Nation
The film cuts back to Rakbar’s relatives discussing how he was brutally thrashed by the mob, who forced him to drink urine when he asked for water.
Asmeena says, “If the government does not give me justice, I will take the kids to the magistrate… dump my kids in front of him saying: Kill them all… And he will gladly kill them.”