Life after lynching: The widows of Nuh

Nuh in Haryana is India’s most backward district. It is also where Rakbar Khan and Pehlu Khan were lynched on suspicions of cattle theft. I travel to Nuh to meet their families.

Pehlu Khan’s grave at Jaisinghpur, Nuh/Namita Bhandare/Shot on my iPhone

Lying on a string cot beneath a row of pale green prayer beads that hangs from the wall, Asmeena Khan holds up a frail hand and says softly, “Please pray for me.”

There is no electricity and Asmeena cannot summon the strength to wave away the flies that settle on her face. She has been bedridden since being in a car accident four months ago. Her brother says the doctors have said she is paralysed from the waist down, and will never walk again.

Asmeena is the widow of Rakbar Khan, the dairy farmer who was killed by cow vigilantes on the night of July 20, 2018. After the murder of 28-year-old Rakbar, Asmeena, who has never been to school and is unsure even of her age, was left to raise her seven children. The eldest, 14-year-old Saahila, dropped out of school to help her mother with household chores and add to the family income by working as a daily wage labourer; four younger children were enrolled at a residential school in Aligarh run by a charitable society. The youngest two, aged six and three, have stayed with their mother in Tapkan village in Haryana’s Nuh district.

When the accident happened. Asmeena was on her way to visit her children in Aligarh in a taxi. A truck collided with the car she was in. The driver and a 19-year-old niece accompanying Asmeena were killed. Asmeena was first taken to the medical college in Nuh and then referred to a hospital in New Delhi, as her injuries were serious.

Bedridden and bereft

Four months later, she still lies on a cot in her parent’s home. Rakbar’s parents have refused to take her in, says her brother Irfan. But, reasons Asmeena, “Rakbar’s father is an old man who barely makes ends meet by keeping a few goats. Rakbar’s brothers add to his income, but he can barely feed himself.”

Asmeena got married when she was about 13. Three of her brothers work as drivers, two work in a poultry farm, and the youngest has dropped out of school and is learning to repair tyre punctures. Seventeen family members live in the two-room house at Tapkan. Two married sisters are visiting; they have come to find work as daily wage labourers, harvesting the ripened wheat in Nuh’s farms.

Welcome to the vigilante nation

The meek acquiescence by citizens to the growing intrusion of state and other actors is alarming.

Don’t eat beef. Don’t transport cows. Don’t buy cows.

Don’t drink alcohol if in Gujarat and Bihar or within 500 metres of state and national highways. Don’t play cricket with Pakistan and don’t hire Pakistani actors in films. Stand to attention during the playing of the national anthem before watching culturally appropriate movies. Scenes that show that Hanuman Chalisa doesn’t scare away ghosts will be excised. Tasteless remarks about Hindu Gods and sages will lead to arrest warrants.

Do yoga. Dress decently. Do not loiter in parks and malls. Definitely do not loiter with people of the opposite sex, even if they are your siblings. Sing Vande Mataram if you’re attending municipal corporation meetings in Bareilly, Meerut, Varanasi and Gorakhpur or if you’re a college student in Uttarakhand. Continue reading “Welcome to the vigilante nation”

Fear and loathing in new India: Dadri, Alwar lynchings leave us unmoved

Nothing exemplifies the moral slide from Dadri to Alwar as much as the indifference on display.

A family counts itself blessed that the 85-year-old mother is blind and is ,therefore, spared from having to watch the video of her son being told to escape – then chased and lynched.

We shrug at a bride’s disappointment at a curtailed wedding feast because her family is too scared to serve buffalo biryani (legal but risky), opting for chicken korma (expensive but safe). You can understand the caution. The bride’s hometown, Dadri is a landmark in India’s recent lynching history.

Young Hindu men run amok in Uttar Pradesh, identifying Muslim-run butcher shops and force their closure. “Muslims will feel the pain,” Pankaj Singh of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, the organisation founded by Adityanath Yogi, UP’s new chief minister, tells Reuters. Continue reading “Fear and loathing in new India: Dadri, Alwar lynchings leave us unmoved”