Professor Mohammed Salim Engineer is a professor at NIT-Jaipur with a Ph.D. in 4G Mobile Communication Technology. His areas of research are Wireless Communication, Coding and Image Processing. He is presently Vice President of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and earlier served as its Secretary General. Prof Salim is also National General Secretary of Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity (FDCA) and the Convenor of Kendriya Dharmik Jan Morcha, a joint national forum of religious leaders. In an interview with MOHD NAUSHAD KHAN, he talks about the issue of lynching, its raison d’etre and the ways and means to combat it.
We have seen that lynching has a pattern. It stops for some period then starts again. What is the motive behind lynching and why do Muslims become soft target? Is it politically motivated?
In North India, incidents of lynching have increased and there is a pattern to it. Mob lynching groups are generally small and their motive is to create a fear psychosis in the minorities, especially Muslims. They generally look for soft targets. Their motive is served when the victim is a Muslim because it acts as fodder for communal polarisation. By the act of lynching and through the video display of brutality, they want to signal a sense of false pride within the majority community.
In addition, they wish to create a perception of domination that Muslims will have to live at the mercy of the majority community in India or as second-class citizens. Lynching incidents happen at places where the perpetrators believe they can get away with their crime easily and where they enjoy some kind of political patronage.
Lynching incidents also take place in non-BJP ruled states. In the BJP, lynching has become a short cut to fame for the leaders at the lower rung. Those who can project themselves as staunch followers of Hindutva, display the most hatred towards the minorities, speak ill of them, create fear among minorities, communalise the atmosphere and humiliate Muslims to brighten their political prospects and climb the political ladder quickly within the party.
It is unfortunate that today hate can fetch political success in a country, which has been known since ages for its unity, diversity, equality and fraternity. When young leaders see that those who unabashedly hated Muslims were rewarded politically, many more follow suit knowing that this is the shortcut to success and political glory; it is a grave situation and a very dangerous trend.
Does lynching lead to Muslim-isolation, which eventually hampers their socio-economic and political prospects and participation in these fields?
Take the issue of communal riots. The motive has been to make Muslims economically weaker and to create an atmosphere of fear among them. However, soon the forces behind them realised that communal riots harmed the majority community along with the minorities. Markets remain closed during curfew and it curtails economic activities for everyone. It is therefore strategized to carry out mob attacks on Muslims for terrorising Muslims, pushing them into isolation and harming their economic prospects and other activities. The display of brutality on social media is not only to create fear locally but also nationally in the minds of the community.
What do you think should be the role of the judiciary in combating lynching?
Judiciary remains pro-active and takes action based on incidents and media reports. It seems judiciary has so far not been pro-active over the issue of mob lynching. However, we have seen lynching cases across India and the incidents are more in states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh. Judiciary should take notice of it and intervene as it has done before in some other cases.
How do you see the role of the police in lynching?
The role of police has been biased and it appears that sometimes the police too have soft corner towards those attacking Muslims, Dalits and the marginalised. The perpetrators are easily let off and are granted bail within hours. FIRs are not written on time against attackers. In many cases, the victim is turned into the accused. During our interaction with the police officials in Madhya Pradesh, we said that police should not become a tool in the hands of politicians but they should rather work as per the law and the Constitution. There are police officers who are doing a fine job but when they see strong political motives, they also work accordingly.
Do you think there should be a national law against lynching? Also, is it true that civil society and minorities have so far not been able to make lynching a big national issue?
Yes, it is becoming a national issue. I do not think it is possible to attack Muslims and display that brutality so openly, make provocative statements and vow publicly to repeat such violent acts without some kind of soft corner by the powers that be for such people. We have repeatedly demanded that there should be a strong national law against lynching.
Some states have made laws against lynching but have not received green signal from those at the helm of affairs. The Communal Violence Bill against riots also could not become a reality. I believe there should be a national law against lynching. Lynching has become an issue and the civil society has intervened as and when required. But the fact is, no matter how big an issue is, the present dispensation pays no attention to it.
Do you think law and order is going to be an electoral issue in the upcoming polls in Uttar Pradesh?
Yes, there are many issues and law and order is one of them. If the government wants to maintain law and order, it is not a big issue for them. However, the government believes those carrying out acts of violence against the minorities and the marginalised are strengthening their agenda and that is why they have a soft corner towards them and do not consider such incidents a law and order issue. For them, it is an agenda, but for us and the people in general, it is a law and order problem.
Do you believe that there should be greater outcry against violent attacks on Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis?
Yes, lynching against Muslims and other weaker sections of society is becoming a national and international issue. What is not published by the media finds space in social media and the message is carried forward nationally and internationally. Such incidents sully our image. However, the role of secular parties, regional or national, has been very irresponsible. Their leaders have not spoken openly against these atrocities and violent attacks. They believe that if they speak for Muslims, it may go against the sentiments of the majority community and may harm their political prospects. It is very unfortunate that these parties are silent on this issue and have turned a blind eye towards atrocities against Muslims. If they raise the issue strongly with civil society, there would be pressure on the government to act decisively against this violence.