By Karuna John
Just days before India celebrates Independence day, a 45-year-old Muslim man was brutally assaulted in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. According to news reports, the victim was assaulted even as he was paraded through the street. His attackers kept telling him to chant “Jai Shri Ram”. The most distressing element of the footage that soon went viral on social media was that of the little girl who clung on to her father, crying and begging the attackers to stop.
The goons continued to hit him even when he was in the custody of the police. According to a report in NDTV, the attack took place near an intersection where the Bajrang Dal held a meeting. The Hindutva group claimed, “Muslims in the area were trying to convert a Hindu girl in their locality”, and the hapless e-rickshaw driver was reportedly attacked soon after the meeting.
NDTV quoted the man’s complaint as saying, “I was driving my e-rickshaw around 3 P.M when the accused started abusing and assaulting me and threatening to kill me and my family. I got saved because of the police.” Kanpur Police told media-persons that a case of rioting was filed against a local resident who runs a marriage band, his son and around 10 unknown people, based on the victim’s complaint.
Know the Pyramid of Hate
This attack is a glaring example of the pyramid of hate that seems to be built at lighting speed in Uttar Pradesh, a state that is going to the polls early next year. While violence is the fourth stage in the hate pyramid, the targeted hate crimes in UP have been fuelled by stereotyping and biased attitudes of stereotyping, for long. A glaring example was seen in the fall out of the Tablighi Jamaat incident during the lockdown of 2020. Muslims across the country continue to face the aftermath even now.
Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) Secretary and human rights defender Teesta Setalvad had recently explained how “biased attitudes of stereotyping, insensitive remarks, fear of differences, non-inclusive language, micro aggressions justifying biases by seeking out like-minded people, that takes shape in the form of hate,” are a part of the foundation of the pyramid of hate.
This is clear in the case of the man assaulted in Kanpur. According to news, reports the victim’s relative is involved in a legal dispute with their Hindu neighbors. The police told the media that the Muslim and Hindu families have filed cases against each other. The Muslim side reportedly filed an FIR of assault and criminal intimidation first, and the Hindu side then filed a case alleging “assault with the intent to outrage the modesty of a woman”. According to NDTV, the Bajrang Dal soon got involved and started making allegations of forcible conversion against the Muslim family. The e-rickshaw driver seems to have been assaulted to send a ‘message’ to the Muslims it appears.
UP’s Yati Narsinghanand Saraswat: A messenger of hate
Recently, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), approached the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) to take cognisance of the Islamophobic statements made by Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, and his endeavour to provoke young Hindu men to act against Muslims. After one such public address by Yati, propagating hate against Muslims, went viral on social media, CJP complained to the Minorities Commission seeking them to intervene in the matter and take appropriate action. In a particularly derogatory reference, he has said that all workers like plumbers, electricians, delivery boys, vegetable vendors are Muslims who enter Hindu homes, befriend Hindu women who then fall prey to the ‘Jihadis’.
His followers were identified as the ones who recently raised communal slogans calling for violence against Muslims, in a gathering at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar. CJP cited examples of his disciples like Shringi Yadav, Vikas Sehrawat, Kunal Sharma, Sukhdev Sahdav and Rambhagat Gopal. Shringi was arrested (now out on bail) for assaulting a minor Muslim boy, at a temple where Yati is the chief priest. Vikas (who is also out on bail) was arrested for uploading an incendiary video against politician Alka Lamba and calling for violence against Muslims in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh. CJP has also complained to NCM about Vikas alias Malik Sehrawat.
As CJP contended, “A lasting damage that such speeches widely heard and relayed cause is to public discourse and the social climate. Once into public discourse, such sentiments –stigmatisation and demonisation- get legitimised within society as they are shared over messaging platforms.”
The message from Moradabad
Recently, the Moradabad police replied to a comment on its social media channel that they have registered a case against one Priyanshu Joshi, who claims to be a leader of an outfit named Hindu Samaj Party Yuva, and was on a ‘hunger strike’ demanding that two Muslim families leave the “posh” Hindu colony of Lajpat Nagar in Moradabad.
According to news reports, the Muslim families did cancel their cancel their house registries after they faced massive harassment from the local residents who were backed by some right wing groups holding ‘protests’ and spewing hate against the Muslim community at large. A clear fall out of “fear of differences” and a prejudiced attitude, and discrimination are the second and third stages in the pyramid of hate.
The fourth stage of the hate pyramid is that of violence, as seen again in Kanpur today, an of targeted hate crime which includes threat, assault, battery, murder, and terrorism. In a recent live session on social media Setalvad explained how India has already entered the fourth stage of the pyramid which must compel the majority community to break this chain of silence against institutional hate. The fifth and last stage is genocide, a deliberate systematic cleansing of a community.
Priyanshu Joshi was among the 15 persons who were allegedly involved in giving “a statement conducting public mischief” inside a temple in Kathghar. The neighbourhood had raised banners, and a few Hindu families had threatened ‘an exodus’ that had been widely reported. The police said that a case was registered against the persons who made communal statements and investigations were initiated. Police have reportedly barred the entry of the ‘activists’ of the group into the colony. According to reports, Additional SP (rural) Vidya Sagar Mishra said, “We have registered an FIR under section 505-2 (statements .. creating or promoting hatred or enmity between classes) against Priyanshu and 14 others for the activities they carried out at a neighbourhood in Kathghar area. Impartial investigation will be carried out in the case.” However, it is not yet known if anyone has been arrested so far.
The police issued a statement to the media that “residents want that no property there be sold to ‘outsiders’ without their consent,” adding, “Some people are deliberately trying to disturb communal harmony over this issue through social media. Legal action will be taken against such people.”
However, the right wing mobs have succeeded in their communal project for now. This ‘win’ is what Priyanshu Joshi and his group was celebrating recently and he announced plans to take his communal harassment tactics to other areas as needed and said it was not a local issue anymore. He said the next time there will not be any planning as such but direct ‘action’, a statement suggestive of a threat to Muslims.
This story first appeared on sabrangindia.in