One aspect of the Hapur lynching that took place on June 18 keeps coming to mind. Forty-five-year-old Qasim Qureshi left home after getting a call related to his business, says his family. He was a cattle trader. This was a routine he often followed: Leaving with a large amount of cash to buy cattle whenever he got a call. All this while, Qasim never reported any trouble from Hindus who lived in the neighbouring villages.
For over 90 years, the RSS has been spreading its ideology. In the last four years, this ideology has been propounded openly by ministers of the Central government. The man who governs the state of Uttar Pradesh today is known for his strident expressions of this ideology.
More than a year after Yogi Adityanath took over as chief minister of UP, a year in which the state has seen measure after measure aimed at Muslims, particularly meat sellers, a Muslim cattle trader gets a call and unhesitatingly goes to attend to his business, with no dread in his mind. The horrific lynchings of Muslims in the name of cow slaughter, the new crime that characterises ‘New India’ and haunts the national conscience, seem not to have featured in this UP Muslim cattle trader’s consciousness at all. It’s not even that Qasim lived in some remote corner, cut off from mobile phones.
What does all this show except a deep trust in the society he lived in? This middle-aged family man felt secure in his world. He belonged.Qasim’s unimaginably cruel death—the videos of every lynching make the latest seem crueller than the one that happened before—didn’t just take an innocent man’s life. It took away the trust he and other Muslims in the area had in their society. This trust is exactly what made 65-year-old Samiyuddin immediately intervene to save Qasim, only to be nearly lynched to death himself.
Qasim’s sense of security, Samiyuddin’s confidence that he could convince the Hindus, some of whom he recognised, to stop assaulting Qasim, could only come from deep bonds between them and others in their world, a world that is Hindu-dominated. Will Qasim’s family and Samiyuddin trust Hindus again? Can the majority community rebuild this trust?
One of the two accused arrested for the lynching has got bail because of a deliberately faulty FIR. What’s new? Police across the country are not known for thorough investigations in any case. When the victims are Muslims and the accused have acted on some Hindutva belief, it is a rare policeman who will do a professional job. Here, the local cops had already been disgraced publicly by a video that showed them leading a mob that was dragging Qasim like an animal. But even after that, they went on to protect those involved in the lynching.
As a community, it would be surprising if Muslims had not lost faith in the police, given the record of police conduct towards them across the country, specially during communal riots, not to mention terrorist incidents. But one consequence of the series of injustices that have marked Qasim’s lynching, and that have been reported prominently (not all lynchings have received the detailed media attention his has), could be the complete loss of faith in the justice system, or at least in the local courts.
One manifestation of this emerged a week after Qasim’s lynching, in the form of a video being circulated on WhatsApp among some Muslim groups. It showed a mob of Muslims surrounding a vehicle. An injured man was shown being dragged by some people. The video was being circulated with a Hindi caption that had symbols of victory. It read: “The police arrested a man for having insulted the Prophet. Muslims in Surat captured him from the police van and beat him up.’’
A search for reports of this incident yielded nothing, not even on YouTube. The video seemed photoshopped. What’s alarming is its triumphant sharing among some Muslim WhatsApp groups. The thinking this points to, however limited it may be, is indeed dangerous.
It needs to be pointed out that only in one case has a lynch mob been convicted. But three months after 11 accused in the killing of Alimuddin Ansari were convicted for life, nine got bail from the Jharkhand High Court. And then eight of them were garlanded by Union Minister Jayant Sinha.
Bajhera Khurd, the village where Qasim was lynched, has a literacy rate higher than the rest of Uttar Pradesh. According to the 2011 census, male literacy in this village was 82.30 per cent. Yet a section of the Rajputs of Bajhera Khurd went with the RSS’s view of Muslims, with whom they had coexisted for generations.
Yet, in this darkness, there is light, and not just in the fact that someone like Vrinda Grover, an eminent lawyer and human rights activist, is fighting for the victims.Samiyuddin and his brother Yaseen have written to senior Uttar Pradesh police officers, asking for a fair investigation, and detailing how Yaseen was forced by the local police to file a false statement about the assault on his brother. A third letter has been sent by their friend Dinesh Tomar. Tomar was with Yaseen when the latter went to the police. He saw what happened with him there. A Hindu taking on the police on behalf of his Muslim friend is indeed a positive sign.
Freelance journalist based in Mumbai