Frontline: The virus of hate
Amid the lockdown, there have been reports of attacks against Muslim men in parts of north India. In many instances, they were asked to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’.
The six-week lockdown that began in April in the Delhi-Haryana-Uttar Pradesh belt may have helped contain the pandemic, but it has failed to control the virus of hatred. In the past one month, there have been reports of lynching of young Muslim men and unprovoked attacks against them by cow vigilantes and local strongmen in Nuh (Haryana) and Moradabad, Mathura and Bhojpur (all in Uttar Pradesh). Instances of violence against Muslim men allegedly involving local policemen were reported in Delhi, and Bulandshahr and Unnao (both in Uttar Pradesh).
From 2015, when Mohammad Akhlaq of Dadri in western Uttar Pradesh was lynched on suspicion of cow slaughter, the template for violence against Muslims has changed. As in the case of Tabrez Ansari in 2019, young men in Nuh and Bhojpur were beaten with rods and hockey sticks and forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’. No political leader other than All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Asaduddin Owaisi called for justice. It was left to social activists, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and little-known organisations such as the Muslim Raksha Dal to demand punishment for the accused.
On May 16, Asif Hussain Khan, a resident of Khalilpur Kheda village in Nuh district in Haryana, was going by car with his relative Rashid to buy medicine from Sohna, the nearest town from his village, when a group of men attacked them near a railway crossing. “On their way back from Sohna they spoke to Wasif [a common friend of Asif and Rashid] and offered him a lift back home. He was dropped off a few minutes later. This was when the accused, in three or four cars, repeatedly hit my son’s vehicle and eventually surrounded them from all sides,” Zakir Hussain, Asif’s father, told the media.
In the attack, Asif and Rashid fell out of the car. While Rashid managed to flee, the assailants, who were allegedly carrying guns and revolvers, kidnapped Asif. Reportedly, they shot him in the arm and leg and gouged out one of his eyes. Rashid later claimed that the attackers forced them to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’.