The recent spate of vigilante attacks in India has lent a new, nearly domestic familiarity to the word “lynching”. This, though, is more than just a shift in language: the nation’s visual archive itself seems be shifting, towards instatement of a new normal. Inside just a year the “lynching photograph” has moved center-stage, filling mainstream news reportage and social media newsfeeds. The imagistic vocabulary of lynching has thus taken on a touch of mundane inevitability in caste and communal violence.
It began in March 2015, with the lynching of Syed Arif Khan in Dimapur, Nagaland. A couple of months later two teenage Dalit girls were raped, strangled and left hanging from a mango tree in Katra village in Uttar Pradesh. Then, on 28 September 2015, Mohammad Akhlaq was bludgeoned to death by a mob in his home near Dadri in what went on to gain spurious notoriety as a “beef-eating incident”. The following March, continuing with the logical rhythm of a scheduled sequel, the cattle herder Mazlum Ansari and his 14-year-old nephew Imteyaz Khan were lynched and hanged from a tree in Jharkhand. Most recently (on May 22) M. T. Oliva, a Congolese citizen, was beaten to death in the national capital of Delhi. This is an incomplete list: it includes only those incidents that resulted in fatalities. In the same timeframe there have been at least a dozen other cases in which the victims somehow survived the end-stage public shaming, torment and lurid physical violence, in short the ordeal of a completed lynching.
On 2nd October 2015 a team of Janhastakshep comprising of academics, journalists and a student went to Basehada village in Dadri tehsil of Gautam Buddh Nagar District to investigate the incidence of communal lynching of a Muslim man Akhlaq and attack on his son Danish (who is battling for life) on the 28th of September for allegedly killing a calf and eating beef. The team comprised of academics Dr Vikas Bajpai from Jawaharlal Nehru University and Prof Ish Mishra from Hindu College, Delhi University; journalists – Anil Dubey, Rajesh Kumar and Parthiv and student activist of Hindu college, Delhi University, Sheetal.
It is noteworthy that the incident at Bishara village comes in wake of uninterrupted controversies and communal tensions that have been kept alive around the issue of cow slaughter / ban on beef in different parts of the country; as also several incidents of communal violence; intimidation and killing of intellectuals who have opposed the Sangh parivar’s communal designs and its retrogressive sociopolitical agenda. i
It is in this context that the present incident of communal lynching at Bishara village cannot but be seen as another link in the chain of above mentioned developments.
The village itself has a long existence in time that was claimed to date back to at least four to five centuries. It is a big village with as many as 9,500 votes corresponding to a population of around 15,000 and up to 2,500 families approximately. The village is part of a satta i.e. a grouping of seven villages dominated by Rajputs. Apart from the Rajputs the other Hindu castes are the Brahmins, the Lohars (blacksmiths), the Kumhars (earthen ware artisans), the Jatavs (leather workers), Dhimars (a caste of fishermen and palanquin bearers) and the Balmikis (the sweepers). Along with these there are between 35 to 40 Muslim families in the village. Continue reading Low Intensity, High Impact Communalism Targeting better off Muslims: Janhastakshep Report on Dadri killing→