The mob attack in a Dadri village that resulted in the killing of Mohammad Akhlaq, 50, and serious injury to his son, Danish, 22, has once again brought Hindutva hotheads in the limelight. Whether or not saffron zealots were behind the murder will be known only after an impartial inquiry but it would not be surprising if their hand is detected in the lynching, for they have been vehemently campaigning for beef ban. And if it is found that Akhlaq was murdered because he ate beef, it would indeed be blemish on our democracy. For, while protest is a legitimate right in a democracy, violence is not.
Hindu nationalists often forget this simple fact. This is despite the fact that a violent act by one of them, Nathuram Vinayak Godse, brought almost eternal notoriety to the cause they claim to uphold. He was hanged on November 15, 1949, but till date the Sangh Parivar, the foremost votary of the Hindu cause, faces denunciation for the assassination. Much of the denunciation is indeed unfounded, for neither the role of the RSS established in the murder nor was Godse a member of the organization at the time of the assassination. But that is beside the point; damage was done; it took half-a-century for a Hindu nationalist party to form a government in New Delhi after the murder.
One would have thought that Hindutva politicians and activists would have learnt their lessons and shunned violence as a method to achieve their ends. But, alas, that was not to be! They continue to indulge in activities that bring disrepute to Hinduism; and their leaders continue to make statements that would make one curl one’s lips. Forget the likes of Union Minister Mahesh Sharma; even the supposedly educated Tarun Vijay, who once edited an RSS mouthpiece, wrote in an article (The Indian Express, October 2), “Lynching a person merely on suspicion is absolutely wrong, the antithesis of all that India stands for and all that Hinduism preaches.”
Pratap Bhanu Mehta rightly slammed Vijay the next day in the same newspaper, “It is almost as if lynching is fine so long as it is not based on mere suspicion. It is saying, in effect, that if Akhlaq had actually been guilty of eating beef, it would have been fine to lynch him.” With champions like Vijay, does the ruling party need any detractors?
That is the problem with saffron zealots: coerce, bully, even kill those who don’t agree with them. If they want to promote vegetarianism, they don’t want to persuade people to give up meat; they prefer proscription instead. They are uncomfortable with the views of rationalists and Left-leaning intellectuals, so they take recourse to violence. They don’t like the painting of some artist or the book of some author, so they indulge in vandalism and violence. They don’t like girls visiting pubs, so they beat them up. They don’t like Christian missionaries, so they attack them. In the process, they occasion causing revulsion among the people at large—and end up antagonizing everybody, including their own supporters.
RSS and BJP representatives say that they have nothing to do with the violence, that the unlawful activities are carried out by the people who are not associated with the Sangh Parivar. That may be true, but against the backdrop of Parivar members having been involved in the acts of violence and vandalism these arguments cannot be taken at face value.
Nor would anybody accept the assertion that Hinduism teaches tolerance and thus its proponents cannot be behave in a bigoted fashion, for Hinduism is what Hinduism does, as Islam is what Islam does.
In fact, it is becoming clear that Hindutva is the antithesis of Hinduism. With its intolerance and closing of the mind, it seems to be the Islamized version of Hinduism. This is the reason that the Hindutva protagonists are focused on minor issues like cow protection, so that that attention could be diverted from the real issues of Hindus like Article 370 and the uniform civil code. Killing an elderly Muslim will not lead to the abrogation of the obnoxious Article and the implementation of the common civil code, nor would it strengthen the fight against Islamist terror, a new dimension to which has been added by the Islamic State.