By Nithin Sridhar
Sanju Rathore. Does the name ring a bell? No? I guessed so. Not many have heard the name. He was a 15-year old boy from a small village in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh. He ‘was’ a small boy, because he is no longer alive. He was shot dead in a communal clash in the last week of July.
Now, let’s try again, but with a different name.
Mohammad Akhlaq. Does the name ring a bell? Yes? Of course. Thanks to the extensive media coverage, almost the entire world knows about how an innocent Muslim man was killed in the last week of September by a Hindu mob after rumors were spread that the Muslim family had killed a cow and had consumed it.
Let’s get back to Sanju Rathore. Two months before the ghastly lynching of Akhlaq in Dadri, Sanju Rathore was shot dead in an equally ghastly manner in Rampur. The Cattle belonging to a Hindu family were allegedly grazing on the land belonging to a Muslim, following which there was a minor clash on the afternoon of July 29th. After this, the members of Muslim community attacked a Hindu religious site and fired at members of the Hindu community. Sanju Rathore, an innocent 15 year old got shot in his neck and died on his way to the hospital.
Sanju’s father has alleged that some people had used loudspeakers and instigated Muslims from the neighborhood to take revenge on those who had left their herd to graze in the fields belonging to Muslims.
Any unbiased person will immediately perceive many commonalities between these two cases. To begin with, both started as a minor conflict over cattle; both turned into communal clashes due to perceived harm to the respective communities; the tensions were fanned in both cases by spreading rumors through loudspeakers; and finally, an innocent person was mercilessly murdered in both the cases.
So, logically we should have seen similar outrage, similar outpourings during the aftermath of both the incidents.
After the Dadri incident, there was a huge outrage. The journalists, writers, and intellectuals, all of them expressed their shock and concern over the issue. Newspapers and TV channels provided extensive coverage and commentaries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was questioned regarding his silence, and the dangers of rising communalism were promptly pointed out. Many writers returned their Sahitya Academy Awards as well, as a mark of protest.
Now, let’s turn to Sanju Rathore’s murder. Except for a few news outlets, no 24X7 coverage was provided. No newspaper articles, no commentaries were written. No writers returned their awards. Most people are not even aware that a 15-year old Hindu boy was killed by a Muslim mob over a trivial issue.
Why was this so? What explains this selective outrage of the media and the public intellectuals? What differentiates the Dadri lynching from Rampur shooting? Why the former was treated with outrage and the latter with silence? Did Sanju deserve to die? Did not he deserve sympathy as well? Did his family not deserve compensation the way Akhlaq’s family got?
Now, let’s consider another incident- the murder of Prashanth Poojary in Moodabidri, Karnataka. He was a flower seller who was campaigning for the protection of cows and for the closure of illegal slaughter houses. True he was a Bajrang Dal activist, but does that make his murder less ghastly? Further, he was not killed because he was a Bajrang Dal activist, but because he tried to prevent illegal cow-slaughter.
One famous journalist writes that Poojary’s death has a political context and hence cannot be compared to Dadri incident. He further insinuates that somehow, Poojary himself is to blame for his murder as he got mixed up with communal politics. The question is, if his argument is really genuine, then what political context did Sanju Rathore’s shooting had? Why was his death not covered then?
He further writes that the only crime of Akhlaq was that he was a victim of a rumor and that he belonged to a particular community. Wasn’t Sanju’s crime along same lines as well? Was he not targeted because he belonged to a particular community as well? Then, why not cover his case then?
From the behavior of the media and the public intellectuals, it becomes clear that in the present India, the life of a Hindu has no value. Sympathy, outrage, protection, human rights, all these terms do not apply to a Hindu life. A Hindu life lost deserves only silence and suppression. All the outrage and lessons in communal harmony and secularism is remembered only when the victims are from the minority community.
This is because an issue about Hindu life lost does not serve the agenda of the media and the intellectuals. It does not help them, because they cannot use this to brand the government communal, they cannot use this to gain TRPs, and they cannot use this to further the agenda of breaking India forces that fund them.
It is not the contention of the article to say that Dadri murder was less ghastly. The point being made is that every communal clash is ghastly, every life is precious and every murder is horrible. The life of an innocent Hindu is as precious as an innocent Muslim and the murder of Hindus is as horrible as murder of a Muslim. After all, Hindus are Humans too.