BAGHPAT/NEW DELHI: Three Muslim clerics were assaulted on a moving train last night, when they were returning to their village in Uttar Pradesh's Baghpat from Delhi. "Why do you wear a rumaal (scarf)," one of the six attackers shouted as they beat them with an iron rod.

The three men were preparing to get off at their destination around 11pm when six men in the coach, bottled the exit doors, and started beating them without giving any reason. The only reason seemed to be a problem now with their dress code, as one of the attackers asked them why they were wearing a scarf (keffiyeh ).

The attackers have not yet been identified, so no arrests have been made. The three men are traumatised and as one of them Israr told the local media, “they said nothing and just kept attacking us.” He said that no one had ever been attacked for his clothes before, and this was a first.

It is. Muslims in the districts of UP are fearful and insecure. Any number of videos are being circulated on WhatsApp---all without a date, or location--- with the assailant)s) off camera attacking a Muslim man by either pulling his beard, hitting and threatening him, abusing him in what appear to be isolated attacks but seem to be setting a pattern. The scared man targeted does whatever he is asked to, which is often to repeat the words of Vande Mataram, or declare his patriotism in words chosen by the attackers.

The trains used by the poorer masses to commute are becoming increasingly insecure for the minorities, as the latest incident again proves. Junaid Khan, a young boy, was killed a few weeks ago by a similar assault on board a moving train. An elderly Muslim gentleman from Moradabad told The Citizen that while he did not travel, he was now urging his son's not to travel on Indian railways, “and if they do so travel under other names.”

The Baghpat incident has moved away from the need to justify such an attack. Earlier the minorities were being assaulted for allegedly carrying beef, or cattle (although Junaid was killed also on just allegations of eating beef), and love jihad. Now the dress is sufficient not just to identify them, but to beat them mercilessly.

In other words, to be a Muslim is enough, as a senior Muslim MP said. He, however, did not want to be named as, “naam le kar kya fayada abhi, hum sab ko to maloom hi hai kiya ho raha hai yahan.” (what is the point of taking my name, we all know what is happening here these days).

The encounter raj being fast established by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is working against the marginalised sections, according to activists in Lucknow. Muslim men are being picked up from their homes in the process is again an allegation that is heard all through the districts of western UP in particular, but could not be independently confirmed. Activists are in the process of tabulating lists of such police action. The fear factor, however, is huge in these villages.

Adityanath has made it clear that secularism for him is a ‘lie’. The UP CM is the chief priest of a Gorakhpur temple and said recently, “I believe that the word secular is the biggest lie told since Independence. Those that have used this word should apologise to the people of the country. No system can be secular."