Modi’s Silence on Hindu Violence Threatens India’s Secular Tradition

Modi’s Silence on Hindu Violence Threatens India’s Secular Tradition
Indian Muslim activists shout slogans against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a protest against the killing of a Muslim farmer in New Delhi, India, Oct. 6, 2015 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

On Sept. 28, in the village of Dadri in the state of Uttar Pradesh, barely 50 miles from India’s capital of New Delhi, a Hindu mob beat a Muslim laborer, Mohammed Akhlaq, to death. The mob had attacked Akhlaq at home in the belief that he had slaughtered a cow to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid. The horrific absurdity of the crime was further accentuated when subsequent forensic examination of the meat taken from Akhlaq’s refrigerator demonstrated that it was actually mutton.

The killing generated understandable anger and profound dismay within India’s vast civil society. However, it took a full eight days for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who belongs to the right-wing, pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to even allude to the incident publicly. And in his first public statement, Modi still failed to condemn the killing unequivocally. Instead he urged both Hindus and Muslims to refrain from violence and instead focus on combating the common scourge of poverty.

Unfortunately, more violence by Hindus since Akhlaq’s murder suggests that message fell on deaf ears. On Oct. 14, a mob in a village in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh killed a 20-year-old truck driver, believing he was part of a cattle-smuggling gang. Days earlier in the nearby state of Jammu and Kashmir, another Hindu mob, enraged by rumors of the slaughter of cows, attacked a 16-year-old truck driver, who later died from his injuries.

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