The mass shooting in Oregon prompted an angry response from US president Barack Obama. On the other side of the world, the vicious lynching of a man over beef in Dadri got Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s silence. Following is an embellished version of the official speech given by Obama after the mass shooting, to reflect the speech India deserves and needs right now. As an American somewhere sits and wonders why his country needs guns in every man, woman and child’s hand, I sit back and wonder if my or my loved ones’ culinary choices tomorrow could merit an assault or death.
There’s been another mob lynching in India—this time, in Bisara village in the Dadri district of Uttar Pradesh. This has resulted in a 52-year-old resident of the village being murdered in cold blood, while his 22-year-old son battles for his life in a Noida hospital.
That means there is one Indian family right now—a daughter, two sons, and their grandmother—whose lives have been changed forever. That means that yet again, members of one community have been unfairly stunned with grief, while members of another community—those who formed the mob that carried out the attack—now lie afflicted with hatred only ignorance can breed. Communities of varying religions across the country are now forced to relive their own anguish, and millions across the country are scared because they know it might have been their families or their children.
I cannot recall whether I have been to Dadri or not. I am certain I must have in the lead up to the elections, though it was more pertinent for me to have gone there now after arriving from my US trip, instead of departing for an election rally in Bihar. I want to thank all the first responders and police whose bravery likely saved some lives that day. I have requested that the Central Bureau of Investigation be there on the scene in a supporting role, and we’ve offered to stay and help as much as Dadri needs, for as long as they need.
In the past few days, we have learned about the victim, Mohammad Akhlaq, and his son Danish, who were attacked based on rumours that the family was consuming beef. We now know the insignificant detail that the meat recovered wasn’t beef, but mutton. We also know that his other son Sartaj is serving the country as a corporal in the Indian Air Force, but this is not why we must feel guilty. A man was murdered in the most brutal fashion by his fellow countrymen, many of whom might never face any punishment for the crime. All India can do is wrap everyone who’s grieving with our prayers and our love.
But our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in India—next week, or a couple of months from now.
We all know why these individuals did what they did. And it’s fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds, regardless of what they think their motivations may be. But we are not the only country on earth that has people with such bigoted and intolerant hate. But, we are the only country on earth that sees these kinds of religious clashes as routine while at the same time takes pride in our identity of diversity and nonviolence.
And what’s become routine, of course, is the defence of these indefensible things, many a times by my colleagues or supporters. Right now, I can imagine there are statements and factoids being exchanged online, on TV shows, and in living rooms, to justify or distort the crime. There are some who are pointing out how violence has always been carried out in cases of cow slaughter while others are stating the significance of a cow and implicitly suggesting that her protection might even warrant murder.
Does anybody really believe that? There are millions of cows in this country for whom we haven’t provided the basic hygiene and necessary facilities. The cases of them feeding on plastic bags and waste are all too familiar for many. Last year, we were the world’s largest exporter of beef (including lots of water buffalo meat), so much so that we now earn more foreign exchange from it than the export of basmati rice. These are facts you never heard me tell you…because they don’t serve my agenda.
I am often called a great orator though the truth is I am not. I opt for situations I can control—radio talk shows I host, interviews which never change the script and grand speeches designed for applause and ovation. Speeches…like the one I made in the run-up to 2014 where I warned of a Pink Revolution. I warned that the previous government was hell-bent on sanctioning the killing of cows.
This madness of violence and intolerance has become routine since I have come in. The reporting is routine—with biased views on both sides. My response of silence and denial ends up being routine, and the conversation in the aftermath of it. We’ve become numb to this, haven’t we? The violence, the brutality, the self-righteousness, and the moving on.
But something must change.
We talked about this change after Partition, after they shot Bapu, after Ayodhya, after the 1993 Mumbai blasts, after Gujarat, after Mumbai in 2006 and 2008, after Muzzafarnagar. We said, “It cannot be this easy for those who want to divide us, to be able to do it,” and yet, for 69 years, they have been doing it.
There are those who for 13 years have waited with bated breath for my answer to a question. I am afraid, I still can’t give you that.
What I can give right now is an apology. A profuse and futile apology to Akhlaq and his family. I failed you. You may or may not have voted for me but you entrusted your protection in me and I failed you.
I just heard about the great tragedy in the US where a mass shooting just took lives of innocent students again, while in my country, a family was attacked for what they eat.
May God, whichever one He is, bless the memory of Akhlaq. May He bring comfort to the families, and courage to the injured Danish as he fights his way back. And may He give us the strength to come together and find the courage to change.
Jai Hind…and sorry…of course, Bharat Mata Ki Jai.
Watch Barack Obama’s speech on the Oregon college shooting: