The minister has arrived. The motorcade fills the unpaved street. Policemen who were slumbering in the early autumn midday heat stir, straighten, then spring into action, clearing the way with their canes for this most important visitor. Mahesh Sharma, India’s minister of culture, is preceded by a small aide in a purple shirt and followed by a large grey-suited bodyguard.
Sharma has come to “condole” the family of Mohammed Akhlaq, a 50-year-old labourer beaten to death by a mob in his small two-storey home in the centre of Bishara village, about an hour’s drive beyond the outskirts of Delhi, India’s capital, last Monday night.
The mob that killed him believed that Akhlaq and his family, who are Muslim, had eaten meat from a cow, an animal considered sacred by the 80% of the Indian population who follow the Hindu faith.
Akhlaq and his son were dragged from their beds and beaten with bricks. The father died; the son is fighting for his life in hospital.
“I think someone saw a Muslim lady carrying meat in a bag. No one is sure. Anyway, about a thousand people heard the announcement and went to the home [of the Akhlaqs],” said Deerat Singh, whose two sons have been arrested for the attack. “They saw a trail of blood on the ground. Then 60 or 70 people entered the house and pulled him from his bed and beat him to death.”
Satish Singh, an activist with a Hindu spiritual foundation who had travelled from Delhi to “show solidarity”, said: “All Hindus are deploring this sad incident. Everyone agrees it should not have happened. But this is a very sensitive matter. For Hindus the murder of a man is not so sensitive as the murder of a cow. We treat the cow as our mother,” he said.
Muslim groups had also been drawn to the village. “If this heinous crime can be done in a democratic system, what is the meaning of democracy?,” asked Hilal Madni, a 39-year-old auditor who had travelled with 60 others from Delhi to “calm the terror in the minds” of the 27 Muslim families in Bishara.
Preceding Sharma by just minutes was Asaduddin Owaisi, a controversial Muslim politician from the south of India. “It is important to be here because of the overall atmosphere created against the Muslims in this country, whether it is allegations of slaughtering cows or being terrorists or we have too many children,” Owaisi said. “What happened in Bishara was not an accident. It was a religious murder.”
Taken from an article in The Guardian, here