Hartosh Singh Bal in Caravan:
Two weeks after Ikhlaq’s murder by a lynch mob, Prime Minister Modi broke his controversial silence over the incident, only to call it “unfortunate.” It was a statement in keeping with Modi’s habitual reluctance to criticise acts and statements that contradict the narrative of development-oriented governance that he has worked so hard to put in place.
The reason for Modi’s abdication of responsibility may not lie in endorsement, but in fear. His BJP and its influential supporting organisations, including the RSS and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, now run the serious risk of being outflanked from the right by Hindutva outfits they can no longer control. The last six months have made it evident that the cultural agenda of the RSS, relegated to the background of Modi’s election campaign last year, is now at least as important to his government as attempts to deliver “good governance.” But several recent incidents suggest that the RSS cannot keep control of the forces it has unleashed. Ikhlaq’s murder is one of them. Many of those arrested for the crime have links with a local BJP leader. In the aftermath of the murder, party men such as Mahesh Sharma, the union minister for culture, and the BJP MLA Sangeet Som, who is under investigation for his role in the Muzaffarnagar violence of 2013, visited the village and sought to justify the actions of the mob.
This mob did not emerge spontaneously. Reports suggest that an organisation called the Samadhan Sena had been active in the area for a few months. When The Caravan’s reporter Atul Dev met the head of the Samadhan Sena, five days after the murder, the leader claimed an association with the RSS, and went on to say “Kitna gambhir vishay hai ye? Gau hatya—par koi baat nahi kar raha. Baat kiski kar rahe hain? Ki ek Musalman mar gaya. Matlab, behenchod, desh badal jana chahiye?” (Cow slaughter is such a serious issue, but no one is talking about it. What are they talking about? That one Muslim has died. And so, sisterfuckers, the country should change itself?)