New Delhi: It’s been more than a week since the lynching of 55-year-old Mohammad Ikhlaq at Bisada in Uttar Pradesh but there is no let-up in the tension in the area thanks to the shamelessly opportunistic behaviour of politicians. Topping the list are the BJP leaders from the state: Gautam Budh Nagar MP and Union minister of culture Mahesh Sharma (who sees himself as the minister of ‘Hindu’ culture), and minister of state for agriculture Sanjeev Balyan, an accused in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.
Family members of Ikhlaq mourn during his funeral at their village in Bisada Greater Noida, India, on Tuesday. (Burhaan Kinu/ HT Photo)
Brain psychologists tell us that human beings take just seconds to form an impression about people they meet – and impressions are difficult to change once formed. So first impressions are often our last. This kind of stereotyping was essential to human survival in the distant past, when the ability to distinguish between friend and foe, predator and prey was needed to trigger a fight or flight response.
The Union government took time waking up to the crisis, asking states to deal ‘strictly’ with ‘elements trying to weaken the country’s secular fabric’. That directive is too little, too late. Law and order is indeed a state subject but then there have been several occasions where the Centre intervened quickly in such circumstances. The delay in cautioning the state government may have something to do with the fact that if the UP government were to cast a net on those vitiating the atmosphere, saffron leaders would top the list.
In fact, if the Centre is serious about redressing the situation then both these ministers should be severely and publicly admonished. Their partisan rhetoric has been entirely insensitive to the dastardly crime that has occurred.
Then there is Samajwadi Party’s Azam Khan, who has sought the United Nations’ intervention in the Dadri case. In a letter to the secretary-general, Mr Khan has said fear among the minorities has increased since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power. But what he failed to admit is that Ikhlaq’s life could have been saved had the local administration kept a tab on mischief mongers, especially when they knew that civic elections were due and that UP has a history of such flare-ups. Sniffing an opportunity, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal also reached Dadri to show solidarity with the family. Even though it is an also-ran in UP politics, the Congress too did not let this opportunity to pass: Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said that his party would extend support if the government brings legislation to ban cow slaughter in the country.
Despite the uproar, we still don’t know whether the meat was beef or not. A state government report to the home ministry on Tuesday does not mention ‘beef’ or ‘cow slaughter’ but states there were allegations that Ikhlaq had consumed ‘pratibandhit pashu ka maans’ (meat of an animal whose slaughter is banned). This kind of vague language in official reports only leads to more confusion and tension. Having said that, let us reiterate once again that beef or no beef, those who are responsible for Ikhlaq’s death must not go scot-free. This crimson tide has to turn.