Social profiling be damned, but what is happening in the hinterland of Uttar Pradesh throws up a communal pattern that none can deny. After shocking the nation with rapes of goats and cows the previous year, one Muslim name after another is emerging now as a perpetrator of the heinous crime of rape where, more often than not, the victim is Hindu — a hapless child at that. This cannot be a concern for Hindus alone, though. Reports of the kind appearing in quick succession are fraught with the risk of a severe backlash as the authority appears to be clueless about tackling crimes that show a motif. There is no condemnation from the class of clerics either, let alone a meeting of the thinking heads to address what appears a perversion caused by a certain lifestyle mandated by religious ideology or interpretation that the criminals had been subjected to, which made them look for easy preys besides, perhaps, settling sectarian scores. After all, in West Asia, there are too many examples of debauchery noticed in the terror camps as much as the hideouts of militia cornered by the US-led NATO forces. It is wholly possible that turning a natural vent to a normal sexual urge into taboo — as much as pushing women of one’s own community behind the veil, rendering them inaccessible for consensual relationships — is causing these crimes. But at this juncture, any reason risks being misconstrued as a justification of the unpardonable crime. No, their dresses could not be the reason that the little children were attacked. No, what results in diabolism in a certain community is no concern of the law. The law is but also incapable beyond sentencing an individual convict; the judiciary cannot offer redress to the social malaise.
It is time the ulema studied the whole world and arrived at conclusions about the status of women in two types of Islamic states — sometimes one given country degenerating when subjected to a fundamentalist interpretation of the Qur’an, the hadiths and the Sharia, for example, Afghanistan during and after Najibullah, Iraq during and after Saddam Hussain, Libya during and after Muammar Gaddafi. Or Turkey two decades ago and now. But we know, if there is one section that refuses introspection and reform, it’s the clergy. The distressing part is that the moderate section of the community never revolts, going beyond issuing piecemeal disapprovals. No one seriously prescribes the application of Sharia in trials of rapists from the faith in countries like India either. Never mind that sexual crimes are near absent in Saudi Arabia where the Islamic law is not applied opportunistically (imagine that the mausoleum of none lesser than Prophet Mohammed could be razed to the ground without a fuss because the structure smacked of apostasy to the Hanbali school of Islamic jurisprudence).
But is it sexual crime alone? If Salim of Barabanki and Arbaaz of Bareilly represent one type of monsters, Zahid and Aslam of Aligarh stand for another form of evil. Hanif, Shahrukh and 15 others lynch a lassi vendor in Mathura’s Chowk Bazaar because he insisted that he must be paid. Rafiq Rasheed attacks and kills Dr Ramkrishna Verma’s wife when unhappy with his treatment in Indore. Etc. And why does the pattern go on and on? Because the arbiters of right and wrong see a pattern on the other side alone: From Akhlaq in Dadri to A**fa in Kathua (naming a rape victim is an offence, but Bollywood couldn’t care less till the time they could make their political statement). On 5 June, the mainstream media justified the hooliganism caught on a video that had gone viral on social media, which showed a Muslim mob on a rampage post-Eid, damaging a public bus. A journalist wrote not on social media but in the mainstream magazine she works for that somebody had rammed a car into a crowd of believers offering namaz. Not so incidentally, the rash driver turned out to be another Muslim character — Shahrukh, a habitual carjacker — that the commentator in the magazine did not name for reasons known best to her. But these are not instances of intolerance, let alone of bigotry, because Narendra Modi-led BJP, and not Mughal Emperor Muhi-ud-Din Muhammad aka Aurangzeb, is ruling the country! Unable to see a Pakistan here, intellectuals, the poor souls, cannot return anything like a Nishan-e-Imtiaz they might have got from the government.
The need for an effective law against communal violence is felt badly across the nation. Not the kind that the UPA dispensation had proposed in the form of a Bill but in the form of community-neutral legislation. It is, in fact, surprising that a nation that has suffered riots decade after decade since the era of 8th century Muhammad bin Qasim does not have a legal framework to tackle the scourge. Curiously, even Aurangzeb did not legislate in response to the 1671-81 riots against his discriminatory policy. Through the Salem riots of 1882, Mappila riots of 1920-21, Kohat riots of 1924, the 1927 Nagpur riots, etc, up to the Direct Action Day, the British Empire couldn’t care less. Up to the Muzaffarnagar riots of the recent past, governments run by Indians have been clueless, too.
The nature of the crimes this editorial deals with is more sinister. These are not riots where mass hysteria can be held responsible. These criminals do not operate in mobs. When a Mohammed Shamsher Alam, his father and brothers stab Dhruv Raj Tyagi in the Hindu-majority Moti Nagar of Delhi after the businessman objects to the lumpen elements’ lewd remarks directed at his daughter, they are making a statement of defiance. That their community will be the domineering class, regardless of who rules the city, province or country! This hegemonic mentality cannot be fought with legislation or law enforcement. The answer is an effective political strategy that would make a categorical point: India cannot be taken for granted.