Palghar lynching: Covid can't be communalised

This does not mean that we should stop ourselves from naming perpetrators of crimes or super spreaders.

 |  5-minute read |   23-04-2020
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The country is reeling under the impact of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. Both the lives and livelihoods of Indians are under threat. As if this were not enough. The gruesome lynching on April 16 of two sanyasis, Kalpavruksha Giri Maharaj (70), Maharaj Sushil Giri Maharaj (35), and their driver Nilesh Telgade (30) near Palghar, Maharashtra, has drawn the ire of the nation and the attention of the world.

One of the collateral and unintended benefits of our digitised world was that the incident came to light only because of the penetration of smartphones and internet connectivity even in a remote village in a backward region in India. Because no major newspaper or television channel had reported the news till the clip of the ghastly and brutal murders went viral on social media. Pressure mounted on the Maharashtra government not only from social media activists but also from major opposition parties in Maharashtra, mainly the BJP, forced delayed action. Uddhav Thackeray, Maharashtra Chief Minister, promised that justice would be done and followed it up by having more than 100 people including the prime suspects arrested.

Disturbing questions

It defies common belief or imagination that a mob of hundreds attacked three men while the police looked on. Not only did the cops hand them over to the murderers but watched, as the Hindu monks were pummelled in the most barbaric and beastly manner till they died. The criminal negligence of the police is obvious in the matter, but the incident also raises a number of disturbing questions.

First, why did the police not prevent the lynching? Second, how did such a large mob gather despite the lockdown on account of Covid? Third, how were they armed and ready to attack the sadhus? Fourth, why didn't the police arrest some of the perpetrators or at the least register an FIR? Fifth, why didn't they report the crime right away to their superiors and the government?

The video clip shows a 70-year-old shaven-headed Hindu monk in saffron, chest partly covered by his saffron anga vastram, seated on the floor, bleeding. He is then seen pleading with the goons to let him go. Instead, the police hand him over to the mob to be beaten to death. Anybody would discredit the theories trotted out to explain this bizarre and horrifying chain of events.

Thackeray's statement that the mob thought that the sanyasis were thieves doesn't make sense. Nor the explanation that they were child-lifters and organ harvesters. One look at the man and his companion not to mention their driver and vehicle would easily disabuse anybody of any such suspicions. Monks in saffron driven around in a Ford EcoSport don't go about the countryside stealing money or children. The mob looked far poorer and ragged than the sanyasis. Also, the sanyasis were carrying Rs 50,000 and gold ornaments of deities, which meant they had more money on their persons than any of their attackers. If anything, the mob consisted of thieves because they robbed the monks and killed them. Both theories, therefore, of suspected thievery.

A radicalised lot

What actually makes much more sense is the statement on Twitter by BJP National Secretary Sunil Deodhar: "No adivasi in India can attack a saffron clad person unless brainwashed over years. The #palgharlynching area is a communists' bastion, even the Local (Dahanu) MLA belongs to @cpimspeak." Deodhar alleged that the killers were Maoists and radicalised tribals known as Lal Bawta by their red hair bands. Naxals and Communists, whether urban or rural, are known to be anti-Hindu, as is the case in Kerala or West Bengal to this day.

Here it is important to refer to Thackeray's clarification that the incident was not communal. Left-leaning media persons and intellectuals jumped at this statement, making a big noise about not communalising this gruesome murder of Hindu sanyasis. They are, unfortunately, only partially right. What they mean, perhaps, is that it was not a Muslim mob that killed Hindu sanyasis. True. Thankfully for the nation. Else in addition to the Covid crisis we might have had a Hindu-Muslim conflagration.

However, many have alleged the belt is also rife with well-funded evangelical and missionary activities. Therefore, the incident might still have been communal, even if not in the Hindu-Muslim sense. Shall we call it the Christian-Communist or else the hard secularist sense of the word "communal"? What this means is that haters of Hindus from different religious or ideological stripes other than Muslim can also be communal. For such as these, the Hindu upsurge poses the greatest threat to their breaking India agenda. In so far as such groups are not only in direct conflict with Hindus but also often choose to align themselves with haters of India, they are a dangerous and, yes, communal lot. It is a part of their stated objectives to weaken the state, create chaos, and seize power.

Political correctness?

While there is no doubt that the Covid outbreak in India should not be communalised, that does not mean that we should stop ourselves from naming perpetrators of crimes or super spreaders. The role of the Islamist revivalist Tablighi Jamaat is well documented, accounting for close to 30% of all infections. Similarly that the killers of the Hindu sadhus could be communists aligned with Christian evangelists cannot, till all the facts are known, be entirely ruled out either. But being "secular" does not mean that out of fear of being branded as "communal" we deny the truth or falsify facts.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: DailyOh! China used vaccines 800 years before Jenner, to the Quarantine Island you cannot visit

Writer

Makarand R Paranjape Makarand R Paranjape @makrandparanspe

The writer is director, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. The views are personal.

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