Out today, the second — and concluding — part of our report on why Amul, India’s much-loved dairy federation, is in trouble.
Over the past four years, religious tension has steadily increased in Chhapra, Bihar.
For evidence, see how this once peaceful town in Saran district now celebrates Ram Navmi or Maha Shivaratri: the high point of the festivities is large processions of young men wearing saffron headbands brandishing swords and shouting “Jai Shri Ram” to a soundtrack of techno music.
Most chants, though, are not remotely religious, said Jeelani Mobin, the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s head of Chhapra Zilla Parishad. “Doodh maango, kheer dengay. Kashmir maango cheer dengay,” goes one slogan. “Ask for milk and we’ll give you kheer. Ask for Kashmir and we will cut you down.”
In such a charged atmosphere, even petty disputes take on communal overtones. “Recently, a Muslim boy killed a monkey that had been biting passersby,” Mobin offered an example. “A village headman began saying ‘Hanuman has been killed’ and a mob quickly took shape.”
In Wajidpur, a small village about half an hour from Chhapra, Mohammad Shamsher, 22, was stabbed by a group of Hindu boys on the day of Holi, March 13. Shamsher died on the way to hospital. Two days later, his family told Scroll.in they still did not know why he had been murdered. But what had transpired just after the stabbing was telling.
Over the last four or five years, the Bajrang Dal, the muscle of the Hindutva network known as the Sangh Parivar, has established itself firmly in this part of Bihar. If there is any incident involving Muslims, its members quickly reach the spot. This is what happened on March 13. Shamsher was stabbed at half past six in the evening. At around eight, a Bajrang Dal posse assembled in the lane leading to the 25-odd Muslim houses and the mosque.
Go to a state. Urgently ask about the biggest, newest changes. And sometimes you find really ugly stuff. As in Bihar. Five months in that state and the biggest development seemed to be this abrupt spike in communal tensions. It was a puzzling spike too. One that did not fit into the state’s past history of communal violence — the triggers, the nature of violence, they are both different.
This is Part One. Do read.
Last Thursday, a mob nearly killed two Muslims in Uttar Pradesh’s Karhal town.
The two men, 55-year-old Mohammad Shafiq and 27-year-old Mohammad Kalam, were skinning a cow when they were accused of slaughtering the animal. Very rapidly, a mob of 1,000-1,500 people, according to police estimates, converged on the spot, a stretch of open land next to a small irrigation canal just beyond a predominantly Hindu basti.
Shafiq and Kalam, who work as butchers, were stripped and beaten. A police party that attempted to control the crowd was roughed up as well. Three of its vehicles – a jeep, a Bolero and a motorcycle – were burnt. After the police succeeded in rescuing Shafiq and Kalam, the mob loaded the cow onto a cart and paraded it through Karhal.
Along the way, it looted the vegetable market, ransacked and torched shops belonging to Muslims, and burnt an effigy of Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan.
As such, the event raised several questions. Why would a hitherto peaceful town see such violence? Why were people claiming the cow — certifiably dead when it was wheeled away — had been killed? Why did all this happen on a day the local police station was bound to be deserted?
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