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‘Eid means mourning’: Muslims lynched in India after shock election result |  Islamophobia news

‘Eid means mourning’: Muslims lynched in India after shock election result | Islamophobia news

‘Eid means mourning’: Muslims lynched in India after shock election result |  Islamophobia news

Aligarh, India – For Zakia Wali, Eid will never be happy again. Instead, she says, the Muslim festival will serve as a horrific reminder of how her older brother, Mohammad Fareed, was lynched in the city they have called home since they were born there 30 years ago .

“We couldn’t give her a ghusl (full ablution), that was the condition,” Wali recalled, speaking to Al Jazeera from her home in Aligarh. “No one dared to count the wounds. Eid will only mean mourning now.”

Fareed, who used to make tandoori rotis – bread cooked in huge clay ovens – at local restaurants, was returning home a day after Eid when he was surrounded by a crowd of Hindu individuals.

More than a dozen men, armed with wooden sticks and iron rods, dragged Fareed, 35, down the street and beat him to death as bystanders watched the horror from phone cameras.

Aligarh, a city of 1.2 million people, is in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, which is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu majority Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), under whose rule a decade, attacks on Muslims have skyrocketed.

On June 4, after the BJP lost its national majority in stunning results in India’s mammoth national election, opposition parties hailed the result as a victory for the country’s democratic and secular traditions. Many analysts suggested that the results, and Modi’s reliance on coalition partners in government, would force moderation among hardline Hindu groups that have long lived on the fringes of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh — the BJP’s ideological mentor organization — but won a some acceptance in recent years. .

However, three weeks later, a spate of anti-Muslim attacks in various parts of the country – including in states ruled by the main opposition Congress – has left India’s largest religious minority facing a very harsh reality. different.

Families’ homes were destroyed on suspicion of keeping beef – the meat of a cow, a sacred animal for many Hindus – in their fridges. Three men were beaten to death after being tortured on a highway. A hospital treating patients was vandalized.

The incidents are related only through the faith of the victims.

These attacks, said Ali Khan Mahmudabad, a political scientist and historian at Ashoka University in New Delhi, only underscore the folly of some of the analysis that has followed India’s election results.

“It will be a mistake to read the poll results as a victory for secularism,” Mahmudabad said, referring to the historically low number of Muslims voted into parliament in recent elections.

In fact, he said he expected “violence of anti-Muslim sentiment” to rise in India as a way to “distract” from the myriad challenges facing the country — unemployment and inflation were top concerns among voters before the elections that have just ended. .

A protest… to defend the mob

Mohammad Zaki, 30, was at home when he heard a crowd of neighbors knocking on the door after 10pm on June 18. “They showed me a video and some photos of a seriously injured man,” he said he. It was Fareed, his older brother, who had been attacked less than a kilometer from their home.

If the people who had come to alert him to the attack on his brother were neighbors, so were the attackers themselves—a fact not lost on Zaki.

“I am so scared that such people live among us in the same society,” he said. “They were only thirsty for Muslim blood.”

Zaki said that after asking around among locals, the family learned that a passer-by had called the police fearing for Fareed’s life. But Fareed died before reaching the hospital.

Aligarh police officials investigating the lynching told Al Jazeera they have yet to determine what led to the killing, although they have arrested at least six people so far and charged them with the murder. The accused claims that Fareed was a thief, which his family and friends denied.

“He was a very calm man who never spoke ill of anyone,” said Mushtaq Ahmed, a childhood friend of Fareed’s. “He never picked a nail that didn’t belong to him. They (the accused) are just lying because they committed a horrible crime.”

Soon after the arrests, the BJP, along with far-right groups, staged a protest to defend the six accused and demand their release. The city was shut down due to the protest.

“If a Muslim comes in to rob your house, will you garland him?” Shakuntala Bharti, an influential BJP leader and former mayor of Aligarh, told Al Jazeera.

“If the police don’t investigate properly, we know our way around. It is Uttar Pradesh where (the) bulldozer rules,” she added, referring to a tactic used in Uttar Pradesh and other BJP-ruled states where Muslim homes are bulldozed. Amnesty International described the use of bulldozers to demolish Muslim homes without any legal warrant as “deliberate punishment of the Muslim community”.

But for Wali, Fareed’s younger sister, questions about her brother’s alleged murder are beside the point. “Even if he was a thief, slap him and give him to the police,” she said. “Why kill my brother like savages?”

For now, she said, she has to focus on her bedridden mother Zubaida, 70, who suffers from paralysis. “Fareed would take her to the toilet, feed her breakfast and take care of her medication,” she said. “The (elderly) woman’s only support is now gone.”

Ever since Fareed’s lifeless body was brought home, his mother’s blood pressure has gone up, Wali said.

Unlike a decade ago, Wali would celebrate festivals with his Hindu neighbours, she said, adding that this trust had been irreparably shattered. “We feel terror in Aligarh now, scared of our own neighbours.”

“Eid is our biggest festival, but now, Eid will only remind me of my brother’s sacrifice.”

“Deafening Silence”

Nearly 400 km (240 miles) away, a photo sparked mob violence on June 17.

After Javed Qureshi uploaded a photo of an animal carcass as his WhatsApp status, a mob in Nahan town in northern Himachal Pradesh stormed his shop accusing him of slaughtering a cow.

In the presence of police personnel, the mob entered the locked shop (Qureshi lives in the state of Uttar Pradesh and had gone home for Eid) and looted it. The mob then attacked another shop owned by Qureshi’s brother.

They warned other Muslim business owners to leave Nahan and called for their boycott.

Two days later, a police investigation found that the animal depicted in the photo was not a cow. However, the police arrested Qureshi for “hurting religious sentiments”, citing the “graphic” image he used on WhatsApp.

The state of Himachal Pradesh is governed by the Congress party, which claims to uphold the secular principles enshrined in the Constitution of India.

“The silence of opposition leaders on attacks on Muslims is deafening,” said Nadeem Khan, national secretary of the Association for the Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), an advocacy group.

Mahmudabad, the political scientist, said the BJP had “pulled the center of Indian politics to the right”.

“So, the opposition must do that too and align itself with ‘soft Hindutva’,” he said. Hindutva is the political ideology of the BJP and its Hindu majority allies.

The silence of opposition leaders will make Muslims rethink their voting patterns, Khan said. “There is no complaint about the BJP as there is no expectation from them, but we had high hopes from people claiming high secular credentials.”

Khan referred to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s promise to build a “shop of love in a market of hate”.

Gandhi, Khan said, could not bring himself to “use the M word”. “The opposition is complicit in the disenfranchisement of the Muslim community,” he said.

Gandhi’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, in a village in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh state about 640 km (400 miles) away, authorities demolished the homes of 11 Muslim families suspected of keeping beef in refrigerators.

Al Jazeera contacted two national BJP spokespeople for a response to concerns about anti-Muslim violence, but they declined to comment.

A known mob

Even hospitals are no longer sanctuaries of safety.

In the town of Medak in southern Telangana state, where Gandhi’s Congress controls the state government, administrators at Minhaj Ul Uloom, a religious school for Muslims, bought 40 bulls worth $30,000 for collective sacrifice by more than 700 people on the occasion of Eid. They were wary: the BJP had doubled its number of parliamentary seats in the state from four to eight, and school leaders were worried that triumphalism over that verdict would turn into aggression against Muslims.

While cattle were grazing in a field near the school, a team of far-right vigilantes apparently trying to stop cow slaughter seized the bulls on June 15. Arguments ensued. The police intervened and took away the oxen while they determined whether the animals were cows. They were not and the cattle were later released.

Meanwhile, fights broke out between a mob and those in the school.

Two injured Muslims were taken to the nearby Medak Orthopedic Hospital, but the crowd followed. Dr Surender Reddy was treating them in the hospital when he heard “loud noises and the sound of stones outside”.

Terrified, Reddy’s staff appealed to the relatives of the injured inside the hospital not to react. But it was in vain. Relatives of the injured Muslims came outside and tried to fight the mob, which vandalized the hospital premises, including Reddy’s new car.

“We have never experienced anything like this because at least the hospitals are spared from the mafia,” Reddy told Al Jazeera. “It was just awful.” Broken windows and medical equipment littered the blood-stained floor when staff reopened the hospital three days later. The hospital now remains open only a few hours a day.

“Some of the staff have not returned since the incident,” he said. “They are terrified.”

Since the attack on the hospital, some of the mob members have apologized to Reddy, he said. Meanwhile, the Telangana police arrested 36 people, including 13 BJP members.

The attacks in Medak, Aligarh and Nahan — in states ruled by both the BJP and the Congress — are “a reaction to the election result,” APCR’s Khan said.

“The message (from the majority Hindu groups) is unified: ‘We are still all-powerful and we will not cede any space.’

Khan said Muslims are increasingly being pushed into second-class citizenship in India. “There is no value in the life of a Muslim today,” he said. “You feel unsafe even in your home as a Muslim in India now.”