UDAIPUR: Two sons of Kanaiya Lal, a Hindu tailor who was allegedly killed by two Muslims, carry a portrait of their father after a prayer meeting in Rajasthan on Thursday.—Reuters
UDAIPUR: Two sons of Kanaiya Lal, a Hindu tailor who was allegedly killed by two Muslims, carry a portrait of their father after a prayer meeting in Rajasthan on Thursday.—Reuters

THERE are Muslims in every Indian party; there are Muslims in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and there are Muslims who are overtly opposed to Hindutva, but help its cause with their mindless message of fighting Hindu fanaticism with their own brand of fanaticism.

This last category has the propensity to undo the good that joint campaigns involving every Indian community can do to fortify Indian democracy and society against powerful enemies.

The two Muslim men who allegedly murdered a defenceless Hindu tailor and flashed the gory deed through a video clip could end up doing untold harm to the cause they claimed to espouse: defence of their religion against insult or abuse.

Prof Shamsul Islam has been teaching political science at the Delhi University. His work on the history of Hindu fascism in India is peerless.

In a horrified reaction to the killing of Kanaiya Lal in Udaipur on Tuesday, he wrote that the extreme elements on the Muslim side “are not letting any opportunity go waste to pour oil on the fire of religious hatred ignited by the Hindutva bigots.”

“The Hindutva gang, including the RSS-BJP rulers of India, has been dreaming of a civil war between Hindus and Muslims for more than a century. These rulers are pushing India into such a horrendous situation methodically.”

Prof Islam said he was not surprised that extremist criminals had joined in what he termed “an evil conspiracy” and urged that society must rise up against it.

Indeed, in the larger picture of advancing Hindutva control of the country, the gruesome killing of the tailor, allegedly by self-styled saviours of Islam, is a handy tool to drive another nail in the coffin of Indian democracy.

Look at the big picture: Rajasthan, where the crime occurred, is a rare state where the main opposition Congress party is in power. The other day, the BJP made a strong advance in Maharashtra by toppling an opposition coalition, of which the Congress was a part. The murder of the tailor has strengthened the hands of the BJP in Rajasthan too, and it could be touch and go there if the fragile balance is disturbed.

Hindutva crowds have been out in force and a police constable has already been seriously injured in the skirmish. The situation is ironic and fraught, so much so that Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has had to appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ask for calm.

There have been reports that one of the men involved in the murder has confessed to links to a Karachi-based religious group, and is said to have visited Pakistan in 2014. However, Islamabad has vehemently denied this impression.

But not everything that transpires in the realm of fanaticism has a linear trajectory; The Indian Express makes a few astute observations in its recent editorial.

The gruesome crime, it says, had deservedly drawn the strongest condemnation across political and ideological lines in the country. “The starkness of the horror permits no ambiguity in the aftermath — the perpetrators of murder as ghastly spectacle must be brought to justice quickly and firmly.”

While the crime has played out in public view, the grisly videos don’t tell all, and important questions remain.

“The industry of hurt sentiments is quite capable of manufacturing hate and violence, too,” the editorial cautioned.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2022

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