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Rinku Sharma murder: All that is wrong with Indian secularism

Attacks on Muslims are highlighted but attacks by them on other religious groups are passed off as routine law and order issues. This inability to look at crimes dispassionately keeps communities divided. And this divide is fanned by those who style themselves as secularists!

Perhaps it was a minor altercation which eventually led to murder. Or perhaps it was a killing caused by communal hatred. But the attempt to cover up and play down the killing of Rinku Sharma in Mongolpuri on the evening of February 10 shows up in stark details, all that is wrong with Indian secularism and with those who claim to be its champions.

A 25-year-old man from New Delhi, Rinku Sharma, was brutally murdered by a Muslim mob on the night of 10 February at about 11 pm. As per the family members of the deceased, the killers were known to Rinku and held a grudge against him for his Hindu activism and association with Hindu organisations. Those named in the killing are Zahid, Mehtab, Nasruddin, Islam and Tazuddin.

The family of the accused has a different version. As per them, Rinku Sharma had gone to attend his friend, Babu’s birthday party along with Aakash, Sachin, Zahid and Golu. There, as alleged by Shama, the wife of Nasruddin, Zahid was forced to consume liquor and this led to a fight.

After the birthday party, it is alleged that the five men mentioned above went to Rinku Sharma’s house and stabbed him with a knife. Sharma was taken to the hospital where, according to the police, he succumbed to his injuries. As per Rinku Sharma’s mother, there were about 40 to 50 people outside her house, armed with sticks and knives when these five barged into her house and attacked her son. The family members of the accused differ and say that it was Rinku Sharma who first attacked Nasruddin. There appears to be bad blood between the two families, with the police saying that the murder was the result of an old business rivalry. The case has been handed over from the Delhi Police to the Crime Branch and in due course the truth will unravel. But many troubling questions remain.

Rinku Sharma murder case

Was the killing simply the result of a brawl which went out of control and resulted in murder? Was business rivalry the cause? Or were the causative factors more deep-rooted, based on religious bigotry and hatred? The refrain being heard is that this was not a communal killing. But can that call be made when the investigation has barely begun? And why is there such a rush to rule out the communal angle in the lynching?

The murder being the result of a brawl in a birthday party would have held resonance had the killing taken place at the house where the party was hosted. But that was not the case. The murder took place much later, at 11 pm. This points to the act being pre-meditated. It was deliberate and not the result of a sudden rush of blood to the head, which one could have deemed possible, had the murder taken place in the afternoon itself. It was a muslim mob which had been mobilised to go to the house of Rinku Sharma, and all the people who took part in the attack were muslims. So why is this not being considered as a communal crime?

Is there a fear in the minds of so called secularists that lynchings by muslims cannot be spoken off as crimes of hatred? Or is there a deeper motive in putting under the carpet, the prospect of the killing being a deliberate and provocative communal act of murder?

Let us examine how other lynchings have been handled by the so called secularists. On 27 June 2017, a 16 year old boy, Junaid, was stabbed in a brawl in a train, after an argument over a seat. This was not a pre-meditated attack, but occurred on the spur of the moment. Yet this incident was given a communal spin and made out to be a case of lynching on communal grounds. Instances of people being killed for stealing cattle are once again given a communal colour if the victim happens to be a Muslim. Vigilantism off course is unacceptable, but the selective highlighting of cases where Muslims are killed, especially post the change of government in 2014, points to a much deeper design to deliberately fan communal hatred and paint the ruling party as intolerant.

Rinku Sharma murder case

It is not surprising that a cursory fact check indicates that incidents of communal violence have shown a downtrend under the BJP led government from 2014 till date, when compared to the ten year period of 2004-2014 under the Congress led UPA regime. So why are attacks on Muslims highlighted with such fervour, but attacks by them on other religious groups are passed off as routine law and order issues? This inability to look at crimes dispassionately denies justice to some, but the consequences are more far-reaching as it provokes a counter reaction, which keeps communities divided. And this divide is fanned by those who style themselves as secularists!

Article 14 of the Indian Constitution grants to each citizen, equality before the law. But some in India’s cabal of opinion makers are living in an Orwellian land, where all are equal, but some are more equal than others. That remains the bane of India’s secularism.