Seven days after Narendra Modi took oath as the 14th Prime Minister of India on May 26 2014, a mob of Hindu extremists waylaid a Muslim techie in the city of Pune in Maharashtra and thrashed him mercilessly for hours.
According to databases of the hate crimes, the 24-year-old Mohsin Shaikh became the first Muslim to be lynched by anti-Muslim mobs in the country after saffron leader Modi came to power. The lynching was a sinister announcement of what was in the offing for Muslims, the country’s largest religious minority.
Since then, Hindutva mobs have come to rule the streets of the country. With patronage from the ruling party and no accountability from the state institutions, they are enjoying a sense of impunity and feeling more emboldened than ever.
Shaikh’s case is a classic example of how justice has eluded Muslims. Those accused in Shaikh’s murder are out on bail and the promises made to the family by the system and government remain unfulfilled.
“We have been waiting for seven years with hope, but it’s getting nowhere. None of our demands has been fulfilled,” Shaikh’s younger brother Mubin told Maktoob, adding that while they have only held a positive approach to the government and judiciary, they have, in turn, got no positive response.
For family, the reason why any relief has not come their way, there is only one explanation, as Mubin puts it: “Because we are Muslims”.
In January 2017 when Bombay High Court granted bail to the accused, the judge Mridula Bhatkar observed that Shaikh’s religion, that he was a Muslim, provoked the mob to attack him.
“The fault of the deceased was only that he belonged to another religion. I consider this factor in favour of the applicants/accused,” Justice Bhatkar remarked while granting bail to three accused.
The mob who lynched Shaikh belong to Hindu Rashtra Sena. There was already tension prevailing in the area after morphed pictures of late Bal Thackeray, leader Shiv Sena and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, a historical figure in Maratha politics, had surfaced online.
The men aided with rods confronted Shaikh and his friend. They had cornered and thrashed him with hockey sticks. His friend somehow managed to escape and called Shaikh’s brother Mubin who arrived and took him to the hospital. He succumbed to injuries hours after his admission in the hospital.
A couple of months after the incident, Shaikh’s family had demanded a fast track court to call the attackers to justice, a government job for Mubin and monetary compensation. When the Minority Commission asked Mohsin Shaikh’s father his demands and vowed to fulfil them in August 2014, he had also demanded a ban on Hindu Rashtra Sena, the Hindu rightwing group the mob belonged to.
Seven years on, none of the demands have been fulfilled. In 2018, Shaikh’s father Sadiq Shaikh passed away.
Struggling to make ends meet
Mubin has quit his job in Pune and shifted back to Solapur to be with the family. He worked as a sales executive in Pune and earned around Rs 20,000 per month. Back then he was unmarried and didn’t have to fend for his family.
But opportunities are limited in his small hometown. The current job is giving him a paltry Rs 8,000 per month. “We are struggling,” Mubin says as he quickly adds, “but I will stay here because I cannot leave my family now, and my mother gets scared if I talk about going back to Pune.”
Mubin is the sole bread earner in his family. He lives with his wife, daughter and ailing mother.
Rushda Fathima Khan is a correspondent with Maktoob.