Muslims of India have been shocked recently by the latest grisly incident surrounding an innocent Muslim’s public, humiliating death. This time it was a young boy, fresh from completing one of the most noble tasks a Muslim can: the memorisation of the Qur’an. His death is a stark reminder of the precarious situation of India’s large but vulnerable Muslim minority, on whom the screws continue to turn in Modi’s polarised, hate-ridden social experiment. 

Hindu mob lynches a young brother in public

In anticipation of this year’s Eid, a young Muslim Junaid and his brothers were sent to Delhi by their mother to bring home a new wardrobe near the end of Ramadan. Having just completed his memorisation of the Quran, there was plenty to be excited about. However, on the train back home, the boys were approached by an armed mob.

The boys were attacked, and too soon after graduating from Hifdh school, 16-year-old Junaid was brutally murdered by that mob on the train in full public view, with no one to stop this grisly act.

The incident took place on a Thursday evening in Haryana state. Four survivors of the attack told media outlets that the attackers repeatedly called them various derogatory terms, in a sign of further anti-Muslim sentiment in India.

Parliamentarian Brinda Karat consoles the mother of Junaid.

A result of rising tensions

The circumstances of his death indicate the severe situation of our brothers and sisters in India. Reports of the mob’s sectarian inclinations have emerged: “They called him “mullah,” mocking his religion. They accused him of being a beef-eater, an anti-national, a Pakistani.”

Hashim, one of Junaid’s brothers, described the behaviour of the onlookers:

They attacked us because we were wearing Islamic skull caps (topis). Instead of saving us the crowd was egging the attackers on. They held us by our arms, while the men pierced our bodies with their knives. Our screams for help fell on deaf ears…

Hafiz Junaid minutes before he passed away.

The brothers were left in a barely believable state by the end of the ordeal.

In an interview, Hashim, exasperated lets out:

What did we do to deserve this treatment? I do not understand why they started calling us names. I know nothing about nationalism. All I know is that I am an Indian. This is my home.

The descriptions of Junaid’s painful final moments, and the harm done to his brothers, still boggle the mind. In the words of their heartbroken father, Jallaluddin:

Their mother asked them to fetch the best sweets to be served on the festival. He promised to reach home early, but what reached home was his dead body. How could those men be so cruel to have pierced my son’s body like that.

Family members lament Junaid’s death.

India under Modi – the politics of cows

In the last year, Modi has banned the sale of beef in India in a move hailed by India’s radical right umbrella movement the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is also closely tied with Modi’s own ruling BJP. The cow is a venerated animal in certain more conservative strands of Hinduism, and its slaughter and consumption by humans is considered an offence. This spells trouble for India’s sizeable minorities such as Muslims and Christians, who have consumed cattle as part of their diets for centuries. It is a more modern, militant strand of Hinduism that has turned the consumption of this animal into a political football and a cause for oppression of minorities.

The cow, the bull, and associated species are venerated in strands of Hinduism.

Moves like this have given new life to vigilante Hindu groups, who now instigate violence against people who they suspect of eating beef. There have been many such incidents over the last few years, usually seeing innocent Muslims killed by raging mobs in the streets. They have taken place in villages, in cities, and in smaller towns. Some have been taped on mobiles, others have seen multiple images taken. In all such cases, these incidents have driven home the fear that Muslims have of being subjected to these sorts of public murders.

A protest by Muslims against the murder of Hafidh Junaid.

Modi himself has publicly said that such vigilantism was due by “antisocial elements”, but history attests to his own populist avowal of vigilantism in the 2002 Gujarat riots. It appears as a kind of two-faced opportunism that has gained common usage among far-right leaders all over the world as of the last few years.

Junaid’s brother, Hashim , and father, Jalaluddin, are in a state of shock.

In the face of this turmoil, we ask for Allah’s assistance for those who are caught in the violence of today’s oppression in India and elsewhere. With Modi’s “popularity” and the success of his rhetoric confirmed by his party’s recent landslide in elections in India’s largest state, the situation of Muslims in India does not look like it will be improving any time soon. With such a febrile atmosphere, it is any wonder that many Muslims wonder what sort of future they have in this increasingly rabid, nationalistically minded state.

May Allah assist protect our brothers and sisters in India who live under significant strain and for whom such incidents are – unfortunately – not altogether rare in today’s climate.