On June 29, a group of over 50 people gathered at Harvard Square MBTA station in Cambridge, Massachusetts to protest a new wave of mob lynchings by right-wing Hindutva forces in India. Hindutva is a right-wing Hindu nationalist ideology that establishes a Hindu hegemony, and is the ideology of the current ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The rally was organized in response to an international call for justice in the lynching of Tabrez Ansari, a 22-year-old Muslim man in the Jharkhand state of India. Ansari was attacked for nearly 18 hours by a rightwing Hindu mob.
A multi-racial, multi-generational crowd gathered in Cambridge to condemn the lynchings and demand justice for the victims of the right-wing attacks, which primarily target Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis and other minorities in India.
The rally was organized by several groups including Aazaad Lab (Free Lips), a platform for activists and progressives in Massachusetts, the Coalition for a Democratic India, a non-profit that supports environmental and socio-economic movements in India and the Boston Coalition.
The murder of Tabrez Ansari is one of over 200 cases of mob attacks and lynchings in India perpetrated by right-wing Hindu mobs. The attacks are motivated by a specific religious chauvinism. Tabrez Ansari was apprehended by the mob under the pretense of bike theft, tied to a pole and forced to chant “Jai Sri Ram” and “Jai Hanuman” (“Glory to Ram” and “Glory to Hanuman”), both praises to Hindu deities.
“This is very different from pre-meditated murder, it is a downright lynching. And as we know, the purpose of a lynching is to incite fear in the hearts of the people — that there are people that can do anything and get away with it, and nothing can be done to them. It is a way of cowing down a whole community,” said Arif, one of the demonstration’s main organizers and a member of the Coalition for a Democratic India.
The Indian police did not intervene during the mob attack, and in fact detained Ansari in jail without providing him medical assistance. He was jailed for four days before being taken to a hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.
“We have seen time and again, in Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand, that the police are part of the lynch mob,” said one speaker. Many speakers explained how the ruling elite in India are abetting mob violence, and that these lynchings are a form of state terrorism that seeks to direct the anger and attention from the Hindu masses — many of whom are still struggling for basic necessities like food, water and security — towards oppressed groups, instead of the neoliberal state which is to blame. A representative from ANSWER — Act Now to Stop War and End Racism — also drew connections between state-sponsored terrorism in India and police terror here in the United States.
Videos of the lynching were circulated on social media, leading to a global response condemning the attack and the broader rise in right-wing Hindutva violence against minorities — particularly Muslims — in the five years since Narendra Modi, the leader of the right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP, was elected as India’s Prime Minister.
In the same week that Tabrez Ansari was lynched, two more Muslim men, Hafeez Mohammad Haldar and Faizal Usman Khan, were attacked and injured by right-wing Hindu mobs and forced to chant Hindu praises. Protests against mob lynchings were recently organized in over 50 Indian cities and many other cities around the world.