27/03/2016 9:04 AM IST | Updated 23/01/2017 11:04 PM IST

Vikaspuri Lynching: We Are Entering A Dangerous Era Of Identity Crimes

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
NEW DELHI, INDIA - MARCH 25: Delhi police arrested 5 accused after a 40-year old dentist Pankaj Narang was allegedly beaten to death by a group of around 15 persons, including at least four juveniles, following a dispute in West Delhi's Vikaspuri area, on March 25, 2016 in New Delhi, India. Police today arrested five people in connection with the case. According to the police a little past midnight, Dr Narang was playing cricket with his son and nephew at his home, celebrating India's victory over Bangladesh in the World Twenty20 tournament. The men dragged Narang out of his house on the road and beat him up with hockey sticks and bats till he died. (Photo by Ravi Choudhary/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

In three high-profile cases of crime in Delhi over the last few years, Hindus and Muslims have together been the accused.

One of the six who perpetrated the “Nirbhaya” gang-rape and murder in 2012, a minor, was Muslim.

One night in October 2014, three Muslim and two Hindu men were drinking near a Mata ki Chowki in Trilokpuri in East Delhi. When reprimanded for drinking near a religious shrine, they drove away, throwing out an alcohol bottle which landed at the gate of the Chowki. As outraged Hindutva rioters immediately started pelting stones at the mosque there, sparking a full-scale riot, nobody bothered to point out that the “religious offence” was carried out not by Muslims alone but a mixed group of Hindu and Muslim boys who clearly did not have any intention to hurt anyone’s religious feelings.

Also Read: Social Media Turned Dentist's Murder Into Communal Hate Crime

Now, in 2016, another similar incident has taken place in Delhi. A road rage incident turned into the horrible lynching of a dentist in Vikaspuri. Since the group of people who killed Dr Pankaj Narang composed of Hindus and Muslims alike, Hindutvawaadis again tried to give it a communal colour.

Our religious identities, Hindu and Muslim and Sikh and Christian, are being so overly emphasized these days as though no other identity matters. The example of Hindu-Muslim amity in jointly committing the offences mentioned above, shows how religion isn’t always on people’s mind.

The minor in the Nirbhaya case is, for some, a Muslim. But it was not his religion that made him join five Hindu men in committing rape and murder. It was his social standing – a runaway teenager with no money was at the mercy of Ram Singh, the bus driver and by all accounts the mastermind of the crime, who committed suicide in Tihar jail.

Our religious identities, Hindu and Muslim and Sikh and Christian, are being so overly emphasized these days as though no other identity matters.

There was public pressure to change the law and make it possible for minors to be tried like adults, the Hindutva lobby put its weight behind this, using social media to the hilt. By falsely accusing people of ‘defending’ the minor just because he was Muslim, the Hindutva lobby again made it all about religion, when religion was a non-issue.

There were even some ridiculous news stories quoting anonymous intelligence sources saying that the juvenile offender could have developed jihadi sensibilities while he was learning tailoring in a reform home.

The other five accused were not defamed with fictitious terrorism charges, as they were Hindu. Had the other five been Muslim, by now the Hindutva Twitterati would have been crying hoarse about the delay in hanging them. But since they are Hindu, nobody is losing sleep over spending taxpayer’s money in feeding them in jail.

Had the other five been Muslim, by now the Hindutva Twitterati would have been crying hoarse about the delay in hanging them.

Muslims are prohibited by their faith from drinking alcohol. But it was their Muslim identity that seemed to outraged worshippers at Mata ki Chowki in Trilokpuri in 2014. Three Muslims getting drunk with two Hindus – perhaps the rioters said this made it a Muslim-majority group, and thus it was a pre-planned attack on a Hindu religious event. Soon, the stones were thrown at the local mosque, as though the clerics in the mosque were going to defend the alcoholism of Muslims.

If the presence of three Muslims made the rioters attack all Muslims in the neighbourhood, threaten their women with rape and vandalise their property, why did the two Hindu men not receive the same treatment from the rioters?

For our Hindutva brigade, there are two worlds, Hindu and Muslim. But in the slum of RK Puram where Ram Singh lived, as in the working class neighbourhood of Vikaspuri, the Hindu and Muslim worlds live together, drink together, and Hindus are happy to lead a Muharram procession to make a point about their living together.

Using any Muslim name in a crime to make it about Hindu-Muslim politics, has become a predictable pattern. With the false rhetoric of minority appeasement, what the Hindutva brigade seeks to do is to further divide the wedge between Hindu and Muslim. It is not conceivable for them that Hindus and Muslims are willing to be united in lynching a middle class man for a road rage incident.

The mixed Hindu-Muslim lynch-mob of Vikaspuri, their unity comes not from religion but class. In all three incidents, class is clearly a more powerful unifier than religion. Our upper caste, upper class Hindutva Twitterati won’t understand this. They only want to bay for the blood of Muslims by creating a political climate where a Muslim can do no wrong, and committing crime is the sole preserve of the Hindu majority.

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