Thousands of Indians gathered in several cities Wednesday to protest recent violent attacks across the country targeting minority Muslims.
Carrying placards saying “Not in my name,” the protesters decried the silence of the Hindu nationalist government in response to public lynchings and attacks on at least a dozen Muslim men and boys since it took power in 2014.
In New Delhi, thousands of people, including the elderly and parents with young children, sang songs and lit candles.
In Mumbai, hundreds, including some Bollywood actors, gathered under umbrellas in pouring rain.
Protests were also reported in several other cities.
Last Friday, about 20 men attacked four Muslims on a train in the outskirts of New Delhi, fatally stabbing a teenager and seriously injuring two others.
The Muslim men said an argument over seats quickly turned into a brutal attack, with the mob accusing them of being “beef-eaters.”
Many members of the Hindu majority consider cows sacred. The slaughter of cows and eating of beef is illegal or restricted across much of India.
Much of the recent violence has been focused on cows.
Several fringe Hindu groups, apparently emboldened by the stunning political rise of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, have attacked Muslim cattle traders and dairy farmers.
Muslims constitute about 14 per cent of India’s 1.3 billion people, while Hindus comprise 80pc.
Rights groups say government officials, including the prime minister, have been slow to strongly condemn the attacks and that police action against perpetrators has been inadequate.
Five of the killings, almost all of them in broad daylight and in busy public areas, have taken place in the last three months.
On April 1, Pehlu Khan, a Muslim cattle trader, was lynched by a mob in the western state of Rajasthan as he transported cattle he had bought at an animal fair back to his home state of Haryana. Khan and his family were small dairy farmers.
In May, two Muslim men were beaten to death over allegations of cattle theft in India’s northeast.
Over the last two years, vigilante groups, who call themselves cow protectors, have become active in small towns and cities across India.
Even lower-caste Hindus who carry out undesirable tasks such as skinning dead cattle have faced mob violence.
Cow-Related Violence: 86% Dead Since 2010 Are Muslim; 97% Attacks Reported After 2014
In the first six months of 2017, 20 cow-terror attacks were reported – more than 75% of the 2016 figure, which was the worst year for such violence since 2010.
The attacks include mob lynching, attacks by vigilantes, murder and attempt to murder, harassment, assault and gang-rape. In two attacks, the victims/survivors were chained, stripped and beaten, while in two others, the victims were hanged.
These attacks were reported from 19 of 29 Indian states, with Uttar Pradesh (10), Haryana (9), Gujarat (6), Karnataka (6), Madhya Pradesh (4), Delhi (4) and Rajasthan (4) reporting the highest number of cases.
No more than 21% (13 of 63) of the cases were reported from southern or eastern states (including Bengal and Odisha), but almost half (six of 13) were from Karnataka. The only incident reported in the northeast was the murder of two men in Assam on 30 April, 2017.
About half the cases of cow-related violence – 32 of 63 – were from states governed by the BJP at the time; eight were run by the Congress, and the rest by other parties, including the Samajwadi Party (Uttar Pradesh), People’s Democratic Party (Jammu & Kashmir) and Aam Aadmi Party (Delhi).
In a fifth of the cases, police registered cases against victims/survivors
Of the 63 attacks over eight years, 61 (96.8%) occurred, as we said, after Modi’s government came to power (2014-2017), with 2016 reporting the most attacks: 25. In the first six months of 2017, 20 attacks were reported–more than 75% of the 2016 figure.
In 23 attacks, the attackers were mobs or groups of people who belonged to Hindu groups, such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and local Gau Rakshak Samitis.
Sadly, rumors spawned 52% of the attacks. Of the 63 attacks since 2010, 33 (52.4%) were based on rumors, according to analysis of media reports.
Observers say “lynching does not find mention in the Indian Penal Code. No particular law has been passed to deal with lynching.”
India Today noted on June 25, 2017 that “Absence of a codified law to deal with mob violence or lynching makes it difficult to deliver justice in the cases of riots. However, Section 223(a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 says that persons or a mob involved in the same offence in the same act can be tried together. But, this has not proved to have given enough legal teeth to (the) justice delivery system.”