Of late, several communal crimes have been reported from across the country in which persons from the Muslim community have been assaulted or insulted. A factor common to all such crimes is the impunity with which the accused not only commit the crimes without any resistance but also seem to believe that nothing would happen to them. And even if action is taken, they would eventually get away lightly and this might well become a badge of honour for their future political careers.
Incident Involving Muslim Dosa Vendors in Mathura
The latest such crimes took place in Vikas Bazar, Mathura. On August 27, Alishan Jafri (@asfreeasjafri) posted a video on Twitter. In this video, we find some Hindu men threatening two Muslim brothers who happen to be dosa vendors and vandalizing their kiosk/stall. First, they threatened them that, being Muslims, they could not name their shop as Shrinath Dosa Corner! Second, they observed that Hindu brothers were roaming unemployed whereas the Muslims were doing business (merrily).
The authenticity of the video was subsequently confirmed by the Mathura police. The police have, so far, arrested one Shrikant Sharma of a hitherto unknown outfit called International Hindu Parishad.
The license and permits related to food stalls or kiosks do not require the stall owner to state his name on the signboard. And even if he does state a name, there is no law that it should match with the name in his Aadhar Card. After all, have we not seen hundreds of kiosks in Delhi with the name ‘Gupta ji ke mash-hoor chhole-bhathure or rajma-chawal’? Does anybody ever ask who this Gupta ji is? There are several names like ‘Kabir’, which are common to several religions. The religion of the shop owner is not required to be mentioned anywhere even in the license or permits, forget about the signboards. There is no law, which says that a Muslim shop owner must necessarily name his shop after Allah or Muhammad as demanded by the accused and that if he does not do so, it would amount to cheating!
Implications of such communal crimes
Let us face it. Such communal crimes highlight the unsavoury truths of our society as it stands poisoned by the venom of communal hatred.
There is so much lawlessness, and absence of the fear of the law that a group of people just walk up to the victims and vandalize their kiosk with complete impunity in broad daylight. What gave these self-appointed vigilantes the authority to ask for somebody’s religion and trample upon their fundamental right of livelihood? Obviously, the perpetrators of these crimes perceive and feel ‘assured’ that nothing will happen to them.
More importantly, the accused were shouting the slogan “Krishna bhakton ab yuddh karo, Mathura ko bhi shuddh karo.” What does it mean? It means that they were exhorting the Krishna devotees to wage a war and ‘cleanse’ Mathura. This is clearly a provocative call to promote violence. Had it not been so, they could very well have used slogans like “ab prayas karo, Mathura ko bhi shuddh karo.” Also, cleanse Mathura of what? Evidently, the crime was committed against two Muslims who were blamed for doing business while the Hindus were roaming unemployed. What does this mean? Obviously, they did not mean cleansing some people or place with some disinfectant. Obviously, it means driving the Muslims out of the town. Which law empowers them to do so, we do not know. Also the term ‘Mathura ko bhi’ means that they had already cleansed some other place and wanted to repeat the same feat in Mathura also.
‘Driving Away’ of Muslim Vendors in Delhi, Etc. and their Implications
The matter of ‘driving away’ Muslims is not a one-off incident. On Aug. 28, Muhammad Javed Siddiqui (@javedSiddiqui0) posted a screenshot of a social media post of some ‘Devraj Pandit is with Hindu Pariwar and 94 others’. In that, he used abusive words and claimed that on Aug. 19, he ‘drove away’ the handcart of a biryani vendor and that is how Hindustan will be cleaned of the filth of those *ullon.
Towards the end of June, it was reported that a Hindu activist claimed on live video that he had ‘driven out’ all Muslim vendors from Uttam Nagar area of Delhi. The Wire showed the photo of one visibly injured Rizwan, a Muslim vendor who was assaulted in Uttam Nagar on June 19, 2021, by people wielding lathis and shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’. They also showed the photo of a poster put up in Uttam Nagar calling on Hindus to boycott ‘anti-social’ fruit vendors. The poster carried the name ‘Bajrang Dal, Uttam Nagar, Delhi’. On June 20, these activists blocked a busy road in the area to protest against what they said was violence and encroachment by ‘jihadi’ fruit vendors. The activists raised anti-Muslim slogans and gathered with lathis to send a ‘strong message’ to the mostly Muslim vendors that they were not welcome in the neighbourhood.
Let us be clear. People are free to peacefully boycott anybody but they cannot physically drive away anybody from a locality. If they claim that somebody or some people are ‘anti-social’ and have evidence of their alleged anti-social activities, they should approach the police. If traffic jams due to handcarts etc. are the issue, there are proper forums to address that. They cannot claim somebody to be anti-social merely by his looks, dress, name or appearance and order that they shall not be allowed to earn their livelihood in an area! Their show of force with lathis was obviously a threat to public order and had there been impartial police, all of them should have been proceeded against and bound down for keeping peace under section 107 CrPC.
Bangle-Seller in Indore assaulted and then booked
A similar incident was reported in Indore where a Muslim bangle-seller Tasleem Ali from Hardoi, UP was assaulted by a mob in Banganga area. A video showing slurs being hurled at him went viral on social media. An eyewitness claimed that the accused Ali hid his Muslim identity and was teasing Hindu women on the pretext of selling bangles to them.
Ali’s family alleges that he was allegedly pressured by the police to compromise and warned that he would be killed by the Bajrang Dal activists if he pressed on with his complaint. But four people were arrested when Ali struck to his complaint. However, within 24 hours, Ali himself was booked for allegedly possessing fake documents and a POCSO case for molesting a minor. Ali’s family admits that keeping two Aadhar cards was wrong but according to them they did so because they mistakenly received some money in the name of Asleem instead of Tasleem under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. To avoid the rigmarole of getting the mistake rectified by the authorities, they got a fake Aadhar card made in the name of Asleem.
Dubious Role of the Police in Kanpur and Ajmer
The dubious behaviour of the police in such crimes was very much evident in an incident in Kanpur. On August 11, Afsar Ahmad, a Muslim e-rickshaw driver from Kacchi Basti, was paraded through a street, assaulted and allegedly forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ by a group of men in the presence of the police even as his little daughter clung to him and desperately pleaded the assailants to spare him. The mob accused him of forced conversion and raising anti-national slogans. In this case, three persons were arrested but were booked under bailable sections only and were released on bail immediately from the police station itself. NDTV reported that a mob of Bajrang Dal workers held a protest outside the police station and left only after “assurances” from the police.
In a heart-rending incident in Ajmer on August 20, a Muslim beggar and his two children were assaulted in the Ramganj area of Ajmer and told to ‘Go to Pakistan. You will get alms there. You won’t get anything here.’
Initially, the Rajasthan police booked the accused under Section 151 CrPC. However, when public anger intensified, they invoked the correct Sections 153A (promoting enmity on grounds of religion), and 295A (deliberate, malicious intention of outraging religious beliefs) also.
Communal crimes: Intent to humiliate the Entire Community into Submission
We would be committing a serious mistake if we describe such communal crimes as ‘social exclusion, ‘economic marginalization’ or ‘economic boycott’ of Muslims. Things have gone way beyond that. It is now a shameless assertion of dominance, which makes them atrocities and not just IPC crimes.
The poor and the marginalized Muslims are being targeted by hitting them below the belt, that is, on their livelihoods, because they are the most vulnerable and the chances of them getting any redressal from the system are minimal. The perpetrators are aware that the plight of the Muslims will inflict much pain on the entire Muslim community. As such, they are only a medium.
The Grand Design is to inflict so much pain and humiliation upon the community that eventually, they start accepting a pariah status. The target is not just the livelihood of a few poor Muslims; the chilling message is to millions of Muslims.