Indians were outraged at Jayant Sinha, a Union minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader, for celebrating eight men who were convicted for lynching an innocent, unarmed Muslim man last year.
According to the New York Times, Sinha who graduated from Harvard and worked for McKinsey, was described by his American friends as a man whose political beliefs were moderate, maybe even progressive.
But then Sinha got back to India and joined the Hindu right political party, became a Member of Parliament and then a minister. Sinha, termed as a progressive person, transformed into a man that can only be termed as an extremist.
Because no moderate, progressive person would celebrate men who lynched an innocent man – but Sinha did.
He was slammed by critics and opponents for garlanding eight men convicted of lynching a cattle trader, named Alimuddin Ansari, in Jharkhand. Soon after the convicts were released on bail on June 29, they went to meet the BJP leader, who embraced the hate mob with garlands and sweets.
Pictures of Sinha honoring the murderers raise a very important concern: has the state of Indian politics has gotten so intoxicated by sectarian hatred and extremism that even an educated and successful politician couldn’t help but promote vigilantism?
Lynchings are on a rise in India. In the past a misleading video being circulated on WhatsApp led to the brutal killings of at least nine people across India. The misinformation led to locals reportedly attacking strangers they didn’t recognize or those who didn’t speak their language.
Recently, a Google engineer was brutally beaten to death over false WhatsApp messages in India. Mohammad Azam, along with three of his friends, including Qatari national Salham Eidal Kubaisi, Noor Mohammed and Mohammed Salam, was attacked by a 2,000 strong mob, sparked by false Whatsapp messages that accused them of child abductions.
In the light of all this brutally, embracing men who killed an unarmed man, only goes to show how power hungry people could do anything to stay in control.
“He’ll get some benefit,” said Rajiv Kumar, a homeopathic medicine salesman and one of Sinha’s constituents. “I don’t agree with what he did; it’s only going to encourage more lynching. But Jayant was concerned his party would dump him, and this will help.”
However, Sinha said in his defense that since the men were released on bail, they were “innocent” when they met him.
“The people who came to my house had come after a year in jail. They had been released on a bail order by the high court. They had been released because there was no evidence against them. Ergo, they were innocent,” the Union minister said.
He said that his intent was for everyone to get justice. But how does garlanding a group of murderers gets justice for an innocent man who was lynched by them is yet to be seen – if anything his actions were encouraging mob lynchings.
In an interview with the New York Times, the BJP lawmaker said “In a highly polarized environment, this became a spark and I regret giving the spark.”
“I wouldn’t do it again,” he added.
It is pertinent to note that Sinha hasn’t met Ansari’s wife, who is also a member of his constituency. But the minister also had a defense for not helping the woman in her misery – Sinha claimed that he would have helped her had she visited him.
“I did not go to either the accused or victim in this case.”
Thumbnail/Banner Image: Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times via Getty Images