On 22 June 2017 fifteen-year old Hafiz Junaid was stabbed to death on a Mathura-bound train from New Delhi. He was traveling home for Eid with his brothers and two friends. A dispute over seats resulted in a group of men repeatedly assaulting and stabbing Junaid and his companions. The assailants flung their bodies onto the Asoti railway platform. A crowd gathered. At some point an ambulance was called and two bodies were taken away. Junaid is dead. His companions are in critical condition. While one person has been arrested the police investigations are running into a wall of social opacity since they have been unable to find a single eye-witness to the incident. Of the 200 hundred strong crowd that assembled on Asoti railway platform on Thursday evening, the police cannot find one person who can say what they saw. The police cannot find a witness because something very peculiar seems to have happened to those present at Junaid’s death. A report by Kaunain Sherrif M in the Indian Express provides specific details. When asked if he had seen anything that evening, Ram Sharan a corn-vendor whose daily shift coincides with the killing, Sharan said he was not present at the time of the incident. Two staffers who were sent to investigate by the station master were unavailable for comment. Neither the station-master, the post-master or the railway guards saw the event they were present at.
In this startling piece the journalist reports how the public lynching of a Muslim child becomes a social non-event in contemporary India. He shows the reconfiguring, and splitting, of a social field of vision. He reports all the ways in which people – Hindus- did not see the body of a dead – Muslim – child that lay in front of them. The Hindus on the Asoti railway platform managed to collectively not see a 15 year old Muslim boy being stabbed to death. Then they collectively, and without prior agreement, continued to not see what they had seen after the event. This is the uniquely terrifying aspect of this incident on which this report reflects: the totalising force of an unspoken, but collectively binding, agreement between Hindus to not see the dead body of a Muslim child. Hindus on this railway platform in a small station in north India instantly produced a stranger sociality, a common social bond between people who do not otherwise know each other. By mutual recognition between strangers, Hindus at this platform agreed to abide by a code of silence by which the death of a Muslim child can not be seen by 200 people in full public view on a railway platform in today’s India. Continue reading Why Two Hundred Ordinary Hindus Did Not See A Dead Muslim Child On A Railway Station In North India