In India, Muslim shepherds beat to try to drive cows from their fields

On August 15, two Muslims were seriously injured in an attack led by Hindus who defined themselves as “gau rakshaks”, “cow-protectors”. The actions of these militias against Muslims, which they accuse of transporting, abusing or slaughtering cattle, are regularly documented in India.The video, which was published on social media on August 15, testifies to the attack on Muhammad Asghar, a shepherd and his nephew Javeed Ahmad. The latter were pulled out of their fields, and individuals beat them with sticks while singing Hindu nationalist slogans, even when a police officer arrived at the scene to ask them to stop. The scene took place in the village of Garri Gabbar, in the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, in northwestern India, where the Muslim population mainly belongs to the ethnic group Gurjar, a pastoral community living in northern India.

A few days before the violence, Muhammad Asghar’s son hunted cows that had come to graze in their fields. He allegedly injured one of the cows, which would have angered Hindu residents, according to Indian media that reported the incident.

According to Indian media The thread, the owner reportedly called the police after seeing the damage. The police did not react immediately, the latter, together with members of Hindu society, therefore decided to seek justice.

In this video, which was handed over on Twitter by an activist the day after the incident, you can see the group beating the owner of the field in front of a police officer.

We hear in the video the attackers who sang “Desh ke gaddron ko, goli maaro salon ko” in French: “Those who are traitors to the nation, kill them”. This slogan, used by several politicians who belonged to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to refer to Muslims, has become very popular with Hindu nationalist ranks. The pictures also show several people wearing saffron-colored scarves, usually associated with Hinduism and BJP nationalists the police in the Reasi district, the region where the incident took place, arrested three of the attackers. Police Supervisor Rashmi Wazir explained to The Wire media that the police had “become aware of the identity of everyone who met this man in this video”. Asghar’s son, a 16-year-old, was also arrested for the crime “animal cruelty” from 1960.

On August 16, local police announced on social networks the beginning of an investigation and demanded calm and asked internet users not to post this video likely to “raise tensions in the community” in the region.

Since 2016, the editorial staff of the observers in France 24 has documented the attacks carried out by these “cow-protection” militia series, composed mainly of Hindu nationalists. Cows are considered sacred in India, and their slaughter is even illegal in parts of India, especially in Jammu and Kashmir where this scene took place.

>> Read on observers: Why are beef sellers the recurring target of violence in India?
“Hindu nationalists face their laws on the ground”

Journalist Rayan Naqash has been working on several similar attacks on Gurjar Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir over the past three years. He explains:

These actions are part of a broader stigma of the region’s Muslim community. Everything is done to target Gurjar especially under the guise of religious reasons as cows are sacred. The perpetrators of these acts feel that Muslims are attacking their gods and that is why they are reacting. But the fact that these attacks are often punished says a lot about our society. These Hindu nationalists are clearly putting their law on the ground.

According to Rayan Naqash, the violence perpetrated by these “cow protectors” has really exploded from 2017 in the region. That year, a Gurjar family was attacked by a crowd to protect these cattle. However, there are no official figures documenting exactly these attacks, which often take place in remote villages in the region. The media do not have access to these areas and images of this violence are often broadcast by citizens. Human Rights WatchAt least 44 people, including 39 of the Muslim faith, were killed in attacks linked to violence in names to protect cows between May 2015 and December 2019. Members of the BJP regularly provided support to those who committed the violence. attacks, according to this report.

“When Gurjars get on a bus, they are asked to get out”

The Gurus are often harassed and stigmatized by Hindu communities and are sometimes threatened with deportation by Indian authorities.

Rayan Naqash continues:

They are not in the minority, far from it, and yet they are defenseless because many of them are poorly educated. They rely mainly on agriculture and animal husbandry. People in the region tell me that it is not uncommon for them to be marginalized: when they get on a bus, other ethnic communities, usually Hindus, sometimes ask them to leave. There are deep-seated stereotypes of Gurjars as “subordinates”.

Tensions between Muslims and Hindus are not new in India, and many analysts believe they have increased since Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the BJP took office in 2014. Hindu activists regularly use false information to arouse tensions against the Muslim community in India.>> To read on the observers: “CoronaJihad”: Accused of deliberately spreading Covid-19, Indian Muslim victim of false information

Article written byPariesa Young