"What if it were beef?"
Many an opinion piece, in the wake of Mohammad Akhlaq's brutal lynching and murder on September 28 last year, had posed this question. The futility and ludicrousness of sending a slab of meat stored in someone's refrigerator for forensic testing after he has been beaten to death outside his own house did not go unnoticed.
How could someone be done to death over mere rumours, many asked. Then some contradicted that even if the so-called "rumours" were confirmed or proved baseless, this was not the line of action that should have been taken. A man has been killed for what he and his family intended to eat.
Soon, it was "found", at the preliminary test conducted by a veterinary lab in Dadri itself, that it was "mutton". A flurry of "what if it were beef?" tweets did the rounds once again.
Now, as a "confirmation" from a government-run forensic lab in Mathura, yes in Uttar Pradesh with its big, fat Assembly polls due in May next year - that the meat was indeed beef - has come, many would feel vindicated. Some would feel confused. Some, the "what if it were beef" brigade, would slightly tweak that sentence to "so what if it is beef?".
|Passport to persecution: Mohammad Akhlaq.|
Is this a "twist" to the Dadri narrative? No.
For the Dadri narrative was never about whether it was or wasn't a particular type of meat. It was about who is eating it, what sort of prohibitions must be put in place to nicely stir the communal cauldron before a well-publicised election, what nature of potential and actual persecutions must be hanging in the air, who must be made to feel threatened and who must be allowed to feel empowered, who must be let loose on whom and who must slink into a corner and then dragged out from that hiding place to become a spectacular death as public event.
Akhlaq died because a mob of almost a hundred maniacs gathered outside his house, dragged him out, beat him with bricks until life was snuffed out of his bloodied, mutilated body. His face became an accusation and a verdict. A very damning verdict.
The forensic examination that this hardly isolated incident needed was not of that edible flesh that humans of a particular belief system prescribe or proscribe, but of the compulsions that make men of a certain community turn into the worst genocidal versions of themselves at the mere mention of a meat being beef, or not.
The meat that was first beef, then mutton, then beef again, and all along, the great electoral nutriment.
The suspicion is enough. The suspicion is the point.
Dadri lynching-cum-murder is about this climate of permanent fear and suspicion that is being actively fostered by powers that be.
The meat is incidental.