Headless justice

One might recall that in late June this year, Umesh Kohle, a veterinary pharmacist based out of Amravati, Maharashtra, was allegedly murdered in retaliation for sharing a message in support of Sharma on WhatsApp.
Nupur Sharma
Nupur Sharma

The beheading of a tailor in Udaipur on account of his social media posts in support of the suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma has sent shockwaves across the nation owing to the brutality and impunity with which this unspeakable act was carried out. The perpetrators linked to the gruesome murder had not only filmed the last moments of the victim Kanhaiya Lal but had also subsequently gone on record on social media, claiming how they had stood up to defend their faith and had even issued verbal threats to the Prime Minister. Apart from detaining the two men seen in the video, the police also arrested three others involved in this crime. It was also found that one of men linked to the murder had visited Karachi in 2014 and was connected to a Pakistan-based radical outfit.

One might recall that in late June this year, Umesh Kohle, a veterinary pharmacist based out of Amravati, Maharashtra, was allegedly murdered in retaliation for sharing a message in support of Sharma on WhatsApp. The police had arrested seven people in connection with the case. The probe on the hate crime that claimed Kanhaiya Lal’s life had been taken over by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) even as security had been beefed up around parts of Rajasthan in order to quell instances of communal unrest that might be triggered by this event. The back to back killings riled up even the Justices at the Supreme Court, who came down heavily on Sharma. While hearing a plea filed by Sharma seeking a transfer of all FIRs related to her remarks, the SC in a remark that seemed highly uncharacteristic of India’s apex court said, “Her loose tongue has set the entire country on fire.”

The quantum of vitriol that has been spewed on Twitter in the aftermath of these killings needs to be seen to be believed. The Rajasthan police had been trolled mercilessly for ‘sleeping over’ Kanhaiya Lal’s requests for protection even after death threats were issued to him a few weeks back. As the government has begun considering this killing as an act of terror, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act has been invoked and the IT Ministry has been pressed into action, with strict instructions being issued to social media companies urging them to expeditiously remove all inflammatory content from their platforms.

The murders have clearly split sentiments right down the middle, resurrecting the ‘us versus them’ narrative for the umpteenth time. From calling out religious leaders of the minority community for not assuming collective responsibility, shame and guilt for the dastardly act, to open admissions and calls for retribution to avenge Kanhaiya Lal’s death, it seems there was no upper, or rather lower limit to which some had managed to stoop. Fringe operators, as expected, have been watching these developments for quite some time, preying on how the government’s perceived indifference to the persecution of minorities is leading to growing communal disharmony.

It must be placed on record that these hate crimes must be strongly condemned in no uncertain terms and swift dispensation of justice is a must. At the same time, episodes where members of the minority community have been at the receiving end of discriminatory behaviour, police brutality, bulldozing, social ostracisation and lynching must be taken up with the same urgency. It is essential that the government treats this incident as an opportunity to take stock of its internal security policies as far as the protection of its own citizens — irrespective of religious affiliation — is concerned.

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