Indeed, lynching has replaced the age-old communal riot as a means of polarization. Lynching comes without the burden of guilt that used to accompany riots. It is more effective, lethal and sinister. It strikes at the very identity of the community. It is far more demoralizing than the traditional communal violence, but serves the same purpose as riots did in the years gone by: to engender a climate of distrust and fear.
On one side are Hindus who begin to look at any Muslim, particularly those with conspicuous manifestation of being one, with distrust. In their mind, all Muslims are beefeaters. And, maybe, even cow slaughterers. Nothing wrong with that if you are in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and vast stretches of the Northeast, but often a fatal flaw in north and west India. To those Hindus denied the benefit of education and economic cushion, a Muslim is one who deliberately provokes Hindus by eating beef. They do not know the reality or the history of beef eating in their own religion. For such a misled vigilante, the Muslim is the ‘other’ who must be shown his place. For him, a Muslim is what the latest video, real or fake, on WhatsApp shows him to be. Also, a Muslim is to be tackled, again, in the way those hooligans do in the lynching videos. That brings us to Muslims. With each lynching incident, the community slips deeper into fear, and into its own shell. And a community which is often told to join the mainstream slips further away.
Muslim traders in Ghansali town of Uttarakhand’s Tehri Garhwal district said on Wednesday they are wary of opening their shops, two days after a man from their community was beaten up by a mob when he was found with a minor Hindu girl, sparking calls for their ouster.
Around the same time came another media report wherein young men and women in Delhi revealed that they call up their parents and grandparents not to offer namaz (prayer) on a train for the fear of being identified. This in a country where it was not unusual for people to make space for Muslim travellers to offer namaz as a train halted at the railway station, or even on the train itself. Writing in The Wire, Apoorvanand stated,
A friend narrated his experience of offering namaz at the railway platform while waiting for his train. On earlier occasions, it had always been normal for him and others to pray in public. But this time, he was extra alert. A shout, a loud voice made him strain his ears. Was it for him? We who used to make space for namazis in train, in our homes, offices, and even offer a prayer mat to them have gone silent. Goondas have become our voice. This silence will drown India if we allow it to spread.