Bloodlust on Twitter: The Mob Which Murdered A Muslim Man Over Beef Is Not Alone

01/10/2015 8:01 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
Relatives mourn the killing of 52-year-old Muslim farmer Mohammad Akhlaq at his home in Bisara, a village about 45 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of the Indian capital of New Delhi, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. Indian police arrested eight people and were searching Wednesday for two more after villagers allegedly beat Akhlaq to death and severely injured his son upon hearing rumors that the family was eating beef, a taboo for many among India’s majority Hindu population. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, took office last year, hard-line Hindus have been demanding that India ban beef sales, a key industry for many within India's poor, minority Muslim community. In many Indian states, the slaughtering of cows and selling of beef are either restricted or banned. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

As I type this, roughly hundred kilometres away from this aloof steel-and-glass colony housing MNCs and media houses in Noida, an 18-year-old girl balks at the thought of stepping out of her house to use the toilet outside. I would panic too, if I had to watch a mob of over 100 people swoop down on my house, break the door, beat me up, vandalise everything we ever had, drag my father out and hit him with bricks till he dies.

The idea is scarring even in imagination and for Shaista Akhlaq, it's a reality that she will have to live with the rest of her life.

Like Shaista's family, many of us have beef and other meats in our fridge. And many of us belong to the same religion as Shaista's father's murderers.

As you shudder at the brutality and the frightening audacity of the killers, you probably tell yourself that the sentiment that drove 100 people to lynch Mohammad Akhlaq is not a mainstay of your world. You probably look at around you, at the freezing cubicles in your office, the noisy coffee shops, the men and women buried in their tablets and mobile phones, at the reassuring familiarity of the class you subconsciously identify as your kind of people. And then tell yourself that one of you wouldn't make a lunge at another's life over what you prefer for dinner. Right? Wrong.

As Bisara seethed in anger - not over the murder of an innocent man, but the arrest of people accused of killing him - on Twitter, a hashtag called #CowMurderers started trending. A majority of the tweets with the hashtag espoused the killing of anyone who slaughtered a cow.

Hang them till death. Beat them up. Murder them. Kill them.

Half the tweets in the series were robust endorsements of murder. Each of those tweets, a blatant case of disregard for a fellow citizen's fundamental rights and the country's law.

(I am not linking back to the tweets, since they are disturbing to say the least. However, I have saved screenshots of the same)

That apart, consider the revolting irony of this sentiment: kill a man so that he doesn't kill a cow. And what makes it a perfectly sensible thing to do? Religion.

According to these teeming number of self-proclaimed flag-bearers of Hinduism, you will be doing your chosen gods a favour by killing another man. Because the same gods, apparently, have a meltdown every time a cow is killed. If you were beginning to think what kind of a 'god' has that skewed a sense of priority, stop right now. You are being rational, and that's quite criminal in the present scheme of things.

One favourite argument floating around on Twitter today to defend Akhlaq's murder, questioned what would it be like to slaughter a pig in a conservative Muslim country. It goes on to suggest, if Muslim fundamentalists can reprimand people in orthodox Muslim majority countries for slaughtering pigs, Hindus should follow suit in India when it comes to the cow. How ironical is it that within 60 years of pretending to live in a democracy, a section of the country is thirsting for religious totalitarianism? Also, while they go all hammer and tongs at Islam, they are also suggesting we embrace a version of the religious autocracy adopted by some Muslim-majority countries. Irony, did you say?

Not only are these tweets disturbing in their blood lust, the idea that hundreds of people can take to social media to encourage murder and communal violence with little fear of legal consequences is also gutting. Their audacity possibly stems from the fact that the sheer overwhelming number they come in will stun people into silence and no one will bother to lodge a complaint against them, though hate speech and murder threat are both punishable offences. After all, they have always operated in a pack, possibly directed and managed by professional social media wizards paid by parties and organisations.

They obviously also know how enamoured the government at Centre is of their patronage. A BJP leader in Dadri was enraged following Akhlaq's murder. Not by the 50-year-old man's death, but by the arrest of the six men who were allegedly instrumental in mobilising a mob and killing him. He said, "We demand the release of all the people who have been arrested in connection with the Bisada incident, who are all innocent. We also demand legal action against those who are engaged in cow slaughter, as it is meant to incite sentiments of Hindus. "

The chances that BJP will rap him in the knuckles for sheer stupidity and dangerously stoking communal hatred, is nil. Like many others before him. For the party - whose PM is hopping around the biggest democracies of the world, hugging and posing with men of various religions - a good non-Hindu is one who doesn't irk a Hindu. And possibly has Hindutva-approved meals.

They balk at cracking down at murderers like Akhlaq's. They balk at censoring hate speech on Twitter, though they are most keen on blocking porn sites online.

Bisara is just a click of your mouse away. Right there on your phone screen. You can try and see if the block button on Twitter makes you feel safe. Chances are, after today, it may not.


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