[Book Extract] The ‘Common Maximum Programme’: Lynchings betray an old pattern

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]UCH before India kept its tryst with destiny in 1947, Hindutva ideologue M S Golwalkar had outlined the place of the minorities in the country in his much talked about We, or Our Nationhood Defined. Golwalkar wrote,

“There are only two courses open to these foreign elements (Muslims and Christians), either to merge themselves in the national race and adopt its culture or to live at its mercy so long as the national race may allow them to do so and quit the country at the sweet will of the national race. That is the only sound view on the minorities’ problem… [The] foreign races in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—not even citizen’s rights.”

For many decades after he penned these words, the proponents of Hindutva were wary of quoting passages from the book in public. Indeed, even the ruling BJP hardly made a reference to Golwalkar’s words when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister. Things changed in 2014. First, Prime Minister Narendra Modi evoked Deendayal Upadhyaya, another Hindutva ideologue, in advising his party men, ‘Do not rebuke Muslims. Do not reward Muslims. Assimilate them’. It was but a euphemism for Golwalkar’s more candid expression about the minorities having to lose their own identity if they had to survive in India.

Now, unfortunately, the second part of Golwalkar’s advice is being implemented, word by word, thought by thought, action by action. Through the unending series of lynching instances, beginning 28 September 2015 and continuing until present, the Muslims, and to a lesser extent, the Dalits, are being told that they are here at the mercy of the majority community. That they can claim no rights, no privileges, not even equal footing. Much like what Golwalkar wrote, [F]oreign races in Hindustan must … learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion … and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—not even citizen’s rights.


Lynch Files: The Forgotten Saga of Victims of Hate Crime, by Ziya Us Salam | Published by Sage India, 2019 | 232 pages | Paperback: Rs 450 (9789353282196) | SAGE Select



A dispassionate look at all the lynching incidents proves that none of them is a spontaneous action of unlettered albeit headstrong villagers whose religious sentiments have been hurt, but a well thought out action with specific victims in mind. The cow is held as a sacred animal by a section of Hindus. But in the cases of lynching, it becomes a political animal with which to browbeat and even murder the minorities and the Dalits. Remember what well-known activist Bezwada Wilson had to say about Dalits being forced to remove the cattle carcass? ‘When the cow is alive, she is the mother of the Brahmins. When dead, why does it become the responsibility of the Dalits to dispose off the body?’

The modus operandi in lynching cases remains the same, the ‘common maximum programme’ almost identical. In almost all cases, it starts with unproven allegations of cow smuggling or cow slaughter. The presence of cattle on a truck is taken as a proof of smuggling. Similarly, the presence of a carcass of the animal is regarded as evidence of the animal having been killed by either a Muslim or a Dalit. That the man transporting the cows, as in Delhi or Alwar, has all the valid documents showing purchase of the animal from a cattle fair is not held as a sound enough reason to avoid the cold-blooded murder of the innocent. Even a point as elementary as the man accused of cow smuggling or slaughter being a dairy farmer by profession is never regarded as a sufficient ground to stay off him. That he and his ancestors had been milk vendors for decades matters not a bit to a mob short of both education and common sense. Even the clear market mantra that while the milch cow with which the men have been held costs anything between Rs 25,000 and Rs 45,000, selling the same to a butcher, or even killing it on one’s own, fetches only `6,000 or so, fails to register with the bloodthirsty mob. Importantly, during the past three years or so, no major instance of lynching has taken place where a Hindu dairy farmer or transporter was a victim. Even in cases when a truck or tempo was being driven by a Hindu man, he is allowed to go, while the Muslim dairy farmers are assaulted, and finally killed. Being a Muslim is to invite murder, being a Hindu is to have a safety halo around you in the parlance of gau rakshaks, who are actually just murderers or extortionists.

In all the cases, after the victim is badly beaten, bruised and almost killed, the cows are confiscated. This happens despite valid documents of their purchase and transport. The animals are sent to a cow shelter and not to the victim’s family, in a clear indictment of the victim. So the victim loses his life, his family loses both the breadwinner and the means to earn their daily bread. It was the same with Mazloom Ansari in Jharkhand. It was the same with Pehlu Khan in Alwar, and the same with Satna victims in Madhya Pradesh. The confiscation of the cattle begins a cycle of further harassment of the victims and their kith and kin. Often, the police files an FIR against the dead for cow smuggling. Muslim dairy farmers are all addressed as cow smugglers in the first address to the press after the incident. Never once does the police assume that the innocent men may have been waylaid by thugs on the road, deprived of their legal earnings, looted and killed. The electronic media too is happy to call them smugglers. The reality is, in all the cases, the men who pay with their life for somebody practising Golwalkar’s advice are first looted, then murdered. Worse, they are denied dignity in death with the police labelling them as gau taskar in Hindi or ‘cow smugglers’ in English. How the police comes to a conclusion even before an elementary investigation is never explained. Nor is a case registered about the cattle theft of the deceased.


[Extracted with permission from the publisher.]