Welcome To India: Where Cows Matter More Than Humans (But There Is Wifi In Railway Stations)
NEW DELHI: The shocking incident of a fifty year old man being savagely beaten to death by a mob for allegedly eating beef in UP’s Dadri has once again turned the spotlight to ‘progressive’, ‘shining’, ‘digital’ India.
Mohammad Akhlaq, was beaten to death and his 22-year-old son severely injured on Monday as residents of Balsara village surrounded their home and accused them of eating cow meat. They then dragged the two men out of the house and beat them with bricks. The senior Akhlaq succumbed to his injuries soon after, and his son remains in a critical condition.
To add insult to grievous injury, the investigation seems to be revolving around determining whether the family did or did not eat beef. The daughter who witnessed the incident insists the meat was mutton -- but why does that even matter? Whether the family was or was not consuming beef is immaterial, but somehow, that seems to have figured into the investigation as the meat in question is on its way to a lab for testing.
The fact that this incident took place as our Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived back in India having completed his famed US tour (where he shook hands with Fortune 500 CEOs and celebrated a move toward “Digital India”) -- raises uncomfortable questions about our priorities as a nation.
We are so quick to celebrate superficial victories that we are forgetting the real challenges this country faces. Challenges such as the mindset and culture that caused the death of Mohammad Akhlaq. Challenges relating to education, income inequality, religious extremism, gender violence, abysmal health care, and so on.
We were so busy celebrating PM Modi’s announcement of direct flights from India to San Francisco, that the news that an American tourist was gangraped just a week earlier in Dharamsala ceases to matter. FYI, violence against women is on the rise in India: statistics show that an average of 92 women are raped EVERY DAY in this country, and that’s just the reported incidents.
We were so busy changing our profiles on Facebook to support #DigitalIndia, that we forgot that just earlier this month, a seven year old boy and a nine year old girl succumbed to dengue fever because hospitals refused to admit them.
We were so busy with the excitement of Google’s announcement of wifi in 400 Indian railway stations that we forgot that just ten days ago, a Khap Panchayat in Haryana ordered five shoe slaps to a 23-year-old man as PUNISHMENT for raping a seven year old girl. Lesson learnt?
We were so busy agreeing with Rupert Murdoch's assertion that PM Modi is India’s greatest leader that we didn’t care about communal riots in Ranchi, the fact that a three year old toddler was shot dead in Kashmir -- the latest in a string of mysterious killings that many blame India’s armed forces for, or the death threats issued by right wing groups to Marathi journalist Nikhil Wagle.
We were so busy retweeting a photo of PM Modi shaking hands with Mark Zuckerberg that we forgot that real India is (tragically) an India where a man can be beaten to death for eating (or not eating) a particular type of meat.
So is this our message to the world? I see it loud and clear. “Welcome to India, where cows matter more than human beings, but fret not, we have free Wifi at railway stations (whether it works or not is immaterial.)”