On the evening of 28th June, more than a thousand people gathered at Jantar Mantar to protest against mob lynching in the name of cow vigilantism. I was also one of them. The gathering was one of the many happening across India. There was one taking place in Mumbai, one in Bangalore and many other cities also joined in. It somehow reminded me of the 2012 Nirbhaya protests when people had gathered just to vent their anger.
Those gathered did not include people from only a particular community as some right wing fanatics might imagine. At least at Jantar Mantar, where I spent almost three hours, it was as if the who's who of Delhi intelligentsia had descended. A friend of mine, who had been in JNU, put it this way, "I met my teachers as well as my students today."
The next day, on 29th June, PM Modi was in Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad and finally he broke his silence on the incidents of mob lynching that have been happening across the nation. The PMO India Twitter handle made a series of tweets comprising excerpts from his speech.
However, there are few interesting observations from his speech and the reaction to it that are worth noting:
a) A substantial number of his followers do not approve. They think he is "giving air to fake narratives."
b) His personal Twitter handle @narendramodi didn't use any term 'cow' in any tweet. It did post one video but the text was comfortably ambiguous. He might talk about border ceasefire violations by Pakistan or gang violence and use the same text.
c) Those whom the PM follows from the @narendramodi handle stayed away from his statement. Narendra Modi followed 1769 people on Twitter at the time of writing this article and from these, I analysed 200 profiles. They were not journalists or foreign leaders, they were hard-core Modi fans, the ones we call #Bhakts.
Among these 200, not even one had retweeted the PMO India tweets on mob lynching.
But it didn't stop here.
A prominent supporter who goes by the name 'हम भारत के लोग' openly questioned Modi's silence on supposed killings in Kerala and Bengal and used the hashtag #HindLivesDontMatter.
Some of those followed by Modi have retweeted tweets which take a dig at the PM for speaking up against lynching.
Retweeted by Karn:
Retweeted by Anit Ghosh:
If Modi is not able to convince his online fanboys/girls about what he is saying, there is a huge question on what the impact will be on the ground.
The only major difference Modi's speech made is that some prominent news channels have all of a sudden realised that mob lynchings are taking place and have started to cover them.
At no point during his speech did Modi say that the culprits of these gruesome acts, irrespective of which caste, creed or political organisation they belong to, should be brought to book.
However, the bigger issue is what Narendra Modi did not say. At no point during his speech did Narendra Modi say that the culprits of these gruesome acts, irrespective of which caste, creed or political organisation they belong to, should be brought to book. He named none of the victims, neither Muslims nor Hindus not did he in any manner ask the BJP-ruled state governments, where most of the mob attacks are happening, to take stringent action.
Within hours of his speech, news of fresh attacks have come. Alimuddin Ansari, in his mid-30, succumbed to injuries after he was assaulted by a mob killed in Jharkhand as it was "suspected" that he was transporting beef. The key question: is Modi serious about stopping the lynchings or is he just doing lip-service?
Atal Bihari Vajpayee asked Modi to follow his "Rajdharma" after 2002 Gujarat riots.
Will Modi repeat his 2002 act or follow his "Rajdharma"? Only time will tell...