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11 Jun 2014

PUDR mourns the killing of twenty eight year old Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh who was beaten to death by 30-40 members of Hindu Rashtra Sena on June 2nd in Hadaspar, Pune.  Mohsin’s ‘fault’ was that he stood out as a Muslim with his skull cap and beard, which sufficed the wrath of the HRS men to assault him. Media reports suggest that this was not a senseless crime, of a mob gone berserk at the spur of the moment, but an act of a deliberate targeting of Muslims by members of HRS. Because the very same men moved around on motorcycles and after killing Mohsin went on to set fire to Muslim properties in nearby Kalepadal area. Shops owned by Muslims were targeted including bakeries, hair cutting saloons and meat shops. All this happened while the Pune police, barely fifteen minutes from the area, kept away!

According to local shopkeepers [TOI, June 9] HRS members entered Kalepadal around 10.15 pm and remained there until midnight. Clearly, following the killing of Mohsin, the police either failed to take seriously the likelihood of mob violence spreading to other areas, or chose to remain supremely oblivious about what HRS men were doing. In another remarkable feat, the Pune police, which comes under the state government, was quick to declare the crime as a mere “law and order” problem. Therefore, six FIRs have been registered pertaining to criminal trespass, rioting and causing damage to property. And, while the police have arrested Dhananjay Desai, the leader of HRS, it remains to be seen whether the police will deal with the killing of Sheikh, attacks on Muslims and looting and destruction of Muslim owned properties as acts of communal violence or not. As of  now Desai has been accused of criminal conspiracy and murder.

PUDR would like to draw attention to the modus operandi of the HRS and other communal organizations which have been increasingly attacking books, music, films and social media postings. The HRS members, it is said, were exercised over a morphed Facebook posting of Shivaji, Bal Thackeray, Baba Saheb Ambedkar which they considered “objectionable” and subsequently led the rampage. In other parts of Pune, Nasik and Kolhapur it was Vishwa Hindu Parishad members who attacked passengers, burnt buses and other property and also caused the death of a bus driver who was fatally hit by rocks thrown by a stone pelting mob. This is a grim reminder of how the Indian public is being subjected to the muscular diktat of the parochially minded ideology of Hindu communal organizations. It is even more alarming to note how  discourse, discussion or debates, in short freedom of expression, is threatened by  S 66 of the IT Act and S 295 of the IPC which allows for squelching of freedom of expression, on mere subjective  sense of “hurt”. In short, the muscle power of the street functions as a force multiplier against our freedom of expression. Undoubtedly, all forms of hate speech, abhorrent images or intolerant discourses are condemnable; however, the suppression of the same by law is hardly the answer as it does not address the problem but compels it to proliferate in concealed and covert manner. At the same time, the state patronage extended towards the Hindu right organizations has emboldened the latter to freely commit acts of communal hatred within the public domain.   

We therefore, demand that there be a common criminal law, applied without favour or discrimination. In this context it is important to demand the lifting of bans on organizations and groups which the state has conveniently outlawed under draconian legislations. Because, as the Pune police, has so helpfully pointed out, draconian laws such as UAPA and MCOCA etc are not needed to prosecute those who are accused of heinous crimes. It is when police cracks down on all those who prevent us from exercising our freedom, it  will help end the killing of ‘Mohsins’ at the hands of ‘majoritarian’ bigots.

D. Manjeet and Asish Gupta