'Kill the people who eat beef!'

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‘Kill the people who eat beef!’


Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India and leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Many people say he planned the anti-Muslim riots in 2002. (Al Jazeera English under a Creative Commons Licence)

There is more fear in India now. Anti-Muslim feeling killed a man. Mari Marcel Thekaekara reports.

Last week, an angry group of people pulled a 50-year-old Muslim man, Mohammed Akhlaq, out of his house, beat him and killed him. A priest from a nearby temple said, on the temple loudspeaker, that Akhlaq had killed a missing calf. The group said Akhlaq had eaten the calf, and there was beef in the family fridge.

Hindutva extremists led the group. They rushed to Akhlaq’s house as he was getting ready for bed. They broke down his front door, then dragged him outside and hit him with furniture, sticks and stones. He died in 15 minutes – before his best friend, a Hindu, could phone the police and run to get help.

Hindus and Muslims have always lived well together. Most fights between religions start because of priests and politicians. If a Hindu troublemaker throws a piece of pork into a mosque, or a Muslim throws beef into a temple, everyone goes mad. In the name of God.

But life continues. And communities have lived closely together for hundreds of years, working together, and celebrating marriages, births, and big festivals. When I was young, we loved all religious festivals. Christians sent Christmas sweets to neighbours and looked forward to their celebrations for Diwali, Durga Puja and Bakri Id. Everyone enjoyed the neighbours’ holidays.

I will never forget the riots in Calcutta in the 1960s. But they never had so much hate. No-one ever told people on a loudspeaker to kill people who eat beef. Perhaps because I lived in Communist West Bengal and riots were ended fast. In North Bangalore (controlled by the rightwing Hindu nationalist party BJP), groups of local extremist Hindus went around to restaurants and told them not to serve beef. The meat shops were closed. Others had warnings not to sell beef.

And these groups killed Mohammed Akhlaq. Everyone is asking – how long will this go on? People think there will be no punishment for this, because politicians support it.

But our Prime Minister travels around the world telling people that India is a great place to invest in, and it is the world’s most cultured country to work in. When Germans come here to work, will they be allowed to eat steak? Or do we only kill Indian people who eat beef?

Nayantara Sahgal (a famous India author) has refused to accept an important literary prize, the Sahitya Akademi award. She said this was to protest against all the politics of religious intolerance and the hate politics. Many writers and poets have agreed. But Bollywood is silent. Some of our biggest film stars are Muslims. They are probably afraid. They are very famous, but people could turn against them. There is fear everywhere. And of course, the Prime Minister has not said anything.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: http://newint.org/blog/2015/10/08/kill-the-beef-eaters/ (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).