THE grisly beheading of a Hindu man by two Muslim suspects in the Indian city of Udaipur must be unequivocally condemned.
The suspects reportedly committed the crime after the victim uploaded content on social media apparently supporting the BJP politician who had earlier made blasphemous remarks about the Holy Prophet (PBUH). The victim had been arrested a few weeks ago over the posts but the matter was resolved after members of the Muslim and Hindu communities held a ‘peace meeting’.
After the murder, the state of Rajasthan remains on edge, with Udaipur under curfew to prevent communal flare-ups.
While the Indian authorities need to fully investigate the crime and punish the culprits, there must be no rush to blame Pakistan for this atrocity — as some in the Indian government have done. Moreover, the murder must not be exploited by communal forces seeking to further demonise India’s Muslims.
Indian officials claim one of the suspects was linked to a Pakistan-based religious group and had visited Karachi in the past. With regard to these claims, the Foreign Office has said that “we categorically reject any such insinuations”.
If Indian investigators have solid evidence linking the suspects to any organisation based in this country, instead of indulging in a media trial they need to share such proof with Pakistan. Local authorities — if credible evidence is received — must follow up and if a link is indeed established, start the legal process. But India must not jump the gun — as it is prone to doing in Pakistan’s case.
No doubt, Pakistan continues to wrestle with the demons of extremism. Yet in India, thanks to the toxic politics engendered by Hindutva, Hindu majoritarianism and fanaticism are being promoted at the state level by excluding Muslims from the mainstream and treating them as perpetual outsiders and ‘enemies’.
The crime committed in Udaipur did not happen in a vacuum.
Ever since the BJP took power in 2014, the state has either kept quiet as Muslims have been lynched, attacked or disallowed from freely partaking in their cultural and religious practices, or it has actively participated in their exclusion by legislating discriminatory citizenship laws. Moreover, senior members of India’s ruling class — such as the UP chief minister — have constantly indulged in Muslim-baiting, while the insulting remarks directed at Islam’s most sacred figure crossed a red line.
It is in such an atmosphere of hate that the crime in Udaipur took place. While there can be no justification, context is important. Clearly, if Indian authorities fail to address the rising trend of Hindu extremism in their country, radical Muslim elements will emerge to counter it.
Meanwhile, progressive elements in India must ensure that this reprehensible crime is not used as a rallying cry by the Sangh Parivar to further tighten the screws on India’s Muslim citizens, and perpetuate the cycle of hate.
Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2022