Observers

Protests were held in around 50 cities across India last week after a young Muslim man was beaten to death by a mob in the eastern state of Jharkhand.

Tabrez Ansari, 24, was attacked in the night between June 17 and 18. Videos of the lynching show Ansari, tied to a telephone pole, being beaten as the mob accuses him of stealing a motorcycle and forces him to chant "Jai Sri Ram" and "Jai Hanuman" ("Glory to Ram and Hanuman").

Ansari was forced to chant “Jai Sri Ram" and "Jai Hanuman" ("Glory to Ram and Hanuman") as his attackers laughed.

The FRANCE 24 Observers team is not sharing footage of Ansari being whipped by the mob, but is including a screenshot below.

Police did not intervene during the attack and detained Ansari for four days before bringing him to the hospital, where he died from his injuries.

Police later arrested 11 individuals involved in the attack. Two officers were suspended.

As videos of the beating began circulating on social media, online users expressed horror at the violence of the mob and the lack of police intervention. Protests were organised using the hashtag #JusticeForTabrez as activists called for Ansari's attackers to be held accountable and for an end to mob violence.


In a video, Ansari's attackers are seen throwing water on him and threatening him with an iron bar.

 

"India is becoming more and more polarized”

Panchali Kar, a Kolkata-based activist who attended the protest on June 26 along with around 200 others, said violence against minorities was becoming "normalised".

When I saw the video, I felt nauseous. I am an atheist, even though I was born Hindu. I don’t think that religious beliefs are important. These protests aim to denounce the violence against minorities that is becoming normalised, with the consent of our political leaders.

Lots of non-Muslims attended these protests to show their support for the Muslim community. In big cities, where there is much more cultural diversity, people understand the importance of living in harmony. But it is quite different outside the big cities.

We are worried after the results of the last elections [Editor’s note: In May, the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won by a landslide]. It seems like the BJP's main goal is to build temples to satisfy Hindus.

India is becoming more and more polarised. Muslims, Dalits, independent thinkers and minorities, especially those from the LGBTQ community, face pressure from the Hindutva, or Hindu nationalist groups, which seek to Hindu-ise India. This is not the India that I want to live in.

Muslims in India are a frequent target of lynching. Umar Khalid, an activist with the group United Against Hate, tweeted that the attack on Ansari was the 18th lynching in Jharkhand in three years. 

 

"There were big declarations, but no concrete action was taken”

Khalid, who took part in the protest for Ansari in New Delhi along with 1,000 others, said violence against Muslims has increased in recent years.

The number of violent incidents targeting Muslims has exploded. There have been many attacks against people who sell beef, which Hindus do not eat but which Muslims do.

People were shaken by an incident in the state of Uttar Pradesh in September 2015, during which a mob of around 200 people attacked a man whom they accused of stealing and selling beef. It was the first violent incident of its kind in India, and nothing really changed. The attack on Ansari is unfortunately the latest in a long series of attacks.

"I'm afraid of seeing more photos of lynchings on Facebook"

Confronted with the public outcry, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in parliament on June 26 that he was "pained" by the attack and added that it was "unfair" to call Jharkhand state a "hub of lynching".

Khalid said Modi's statement "rang false".

Modi often expresses his “sadness” at this kind of situation. But it rang false because he was quick to add that it was unfair to blame all the residents of the region for the violence. He didn’t take action, he just used words to deflect and distract.

These days, I am afraid to open Facebook or Twitter out fear of seeing new images of mob attacks. What is even scarier is seeing how people respond.

A report from the U.S. State Department on religious freedom stated that attacks on Muslims in India continued in 2018, often based on rumors that the victims had "traded or killed cows for beef".

The fact-checking website Factchecker.in has recorded 128 instances of violence against cattle farmers since 2012.