Not in My Name

Mob Lynchings and Civil Society

Aurobindo Ghose

A fiteeen-year old boy was lynched to death in a train by a mob, when he was returning home with his relatives on the evening of Thursday, 22nd June after doing his Eid shopping in Delhi. The mob threw his body at Asaoti railway station near Faridabad. The boy's name was Junaid Khan.

There have been more than a dozen cases of lynching of Muslim men across India since Narendra Modi came to power, particularly since September 28, 2015 when a mob lynched 50-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq at Dadri near NOIDA, over rumours that he had consumed beef.

In all such cases, like that of Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan and Riazuddin Ali, there was not only public outrage, witnesses were identified, FIRs lodged and the cases proceeded in the courts. But this was different. As the Indian Express reported on the front page on Sunday, June 25, of the about 200 people who were there on the Asaoti platform while Junaid bled to death, not one of them had seen anything. The police could not muster a single witness to Junaid's killing.

Aarti Sethi writes searingly in Kafila Online (republished in, that the police cannot find a witness because something very peculiar and uniquely terrifying seems to have happened to those present at Junaid's death: "the totalising force of an unspoken, but collectively binding, agreement between Hindus to not see the dead body of a Muslim child". Aarti Sethi in the same piece draws a stark conclusion : "On June 22, 2017, the Republic effectively ended. India is no longer a secular constitutional republic but on precipice of being transformed into a rnajoritarian state..."

The silence over Junaid's lynching on Thursday, June 22nd, was both eerie and frightening This silence was finally and firmly broken on the evening of June 28th, when there were #Not In My Name protests in Delhi and 18 other cities of India, like Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Pune, Faridabad. Chandigarh, Thiruvantha-puram, Lucknow, Patna, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Gaya, Allahabad and five cities abroad. (The Economic & Political Weekly gives a vivid and live account) I was present in a 2000+ strong gathering (Dr PS Sahni of PIL Watch group puts the number at 3000 while another estimate says it was 3500) as activists from all walks of life gathered in drizzling rain, during the 'NOT IN MY NAME' protest meeting full of songs, poetry, memoralia arid mono-acting, at JANTAR Mantar, New Delhi. The protest was a great success as the rain as well as the support and enthusiasm of the gathering brought much relief both to the beseiged minority community as well as the educated middle classes all around. It was a most moving and powerful show of cultural resistance to the emerging fascism.

I liked every moment of the cheerful solidarity expressed by the protest with the victims of the ongoing lynching tyranny. The meeting began with a strong and combative introduction by Saba Dewan, on how the 'NOT IN MY NAME' campaign originated and moved forward after 15-year-old Junaid's lynching last week Thursday and the reign of silence and fear that followed.

Though the immediate families of Junaid and Pehlu Khan could not arrive despite every intention, they were represented by relatives and vocal members of their village. The audience was in tears when Mohd. Azharuddin from Junaid's neighbourhood read out a 'fictional' letter from heaven from Junaid to his mother on earth. The meeting was spruced up with Gandhiji's favourite Bhajan 'Vaishnava Jana' sung by Mohd. Haneef Khan and group, recitations of nazms by Dr. Padmawati 'Chhinna' Dua, Gauhar Raza, Sabita, Akhil Kumar and Vinod Dua, the song-with-guitar 'Bullah ki' by Rabbi Sher Gill and a powerful performance by danseuese-cum-actor Maya Rao.

The audience cheered and clapped throughout, undeterred by the drizzling rain. Soon news trickled in that similar 'NOT IN MY NAME' protest meetings were simultaneously going on in 19 Indian cities and were scheduled that day in 5 cities abroad. I could spot some of the faces I knew of well-known women activists, journalists, human rights activists, Professors, lawyers, student leaders.

Particularly noticeable were the skull caps and beards of people who were for once feeling at home. Also noticeable were, the emerging faces of resistance to tyranny and incoming fascism. Must congratulate the visible faces of the organising team, particularly film-maker Saba Dewan and Rahul Roy. I say visible faces because I do not think it was spontaneous. It was so well planned, organised, co-ordinated and executed beautifully. Plenty of resources—human, moral, material, temporal—seem to have gone behind it. It gives us hope. Congratulations to the emerging faces of #Not ln My Name event in 19 cities in India and 5 cities abroad. I fully agree that #Not ln My Name is a much needed step forward from the prevailing fear and silent acquiscence to frequent lynchings of our Muslim brethren. It has unmistakably and firmly broken that silence. But it needs to be taken forward and broadened in scope.

Even now public protests continue. There was a massive protest on 2nd July at Dadar, Mumbai, led by filmmaker Anand Patwardhan and supported by various organisations, political parties and trade unions like AITUC. Kolkata witnessed a fiery torchlight procession on 4th July, organised by the Young Bengal group. On 8th July, despite non-cooperation by the police, Ahmedabad saw a massive demonstration organised by Gujarat Jan Andolan with people from ail walks of life holding placards—'Not In My Name', 'Shed Hate Not Blood' and 'Democracy Not Mobocracy'. As I sit to complete and release this piece, news comes of 100+protest actions across Delhi on 27 August: Say NO to Hatred! #Not ln My Name.

The State and the civil society was quick to respond to these protests. The electronic and print media gave wide and deep coverage. For days it became about the only talking point over social media, both Facebook and Twitter.

The very next Saturday after the Wednesday 28th June protests, the President of India who is the Constitutional Head of State used strong words when he remarked "When mob lynching becomes so high and uncontrollable, we have to pause and reflect, are we vigilant enough? I am not talking of vigilantism, I am talking of are we vigilant enough, proactively to save the basic tenets of our country". Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke his silence the day after the nation-wide protests, making general remarks, expressing "sadness on some of the things going on..... killing people in the name of protecting cows is not acceptable.... As a society there is no place for violence.... No person in this nation has the right to take the law in his or her own hands..." These words of the Chief Executive appear significant but the general public reaction was, it was too late, too little.

Vol. 50, No.5, Aug 6 - 12, 2017