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The Rinku Sharma murder: ‘No Communal Angle’ trope, what it means, why the police says what it does and the media double standard

Indian Express published a rather 'balanced' headline. In the headline itself, they mentioned what the VHP was 'claiming' and what the police was 'saying' about the murder.

Tensions gripped Delhi’s Mangolpuri area after a mob of around 25-30 people brutally stabbed a Bajrang Dal activist named Rinku Sharma on February 10 (Wednesday). The 26-year-old deceased, who was stabbed in his house in front of his family members, was actively involved with the Hindu outfit and was a part of the donation drive being carried out by Bajrang Dal for contributing towards the construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.

The father, distressed, barely managing to keep himself sitting, recounted the horror to the media. He said that the assailants barged into the house with sticks and knives and brutally stabbed Rinku to death. An image with a knife sticking out of Rinku’s back, as a representation of what Indian secularism truly is, has also gone viral on the internet.

Rinku’s father also said that this was not the first time that Rinku Sharma had been targeted by the Muslim mob that eventually killed him on Wednesday. “Yes, a similar incident took place earlier over the issue of Ram Mandir. The culprits had then abused PM Modi and would say that Rinku was associated with the BJP.” Agonised by the trauma of losing his son, his father lamented, “They were armed with sticks and knives. They killed my son. He is gone forever.”

His family members informed that he had even taken out a rally, following the Bhoomi Pujan of the Ram Mandir. Rinku’s mother Radha Devi said that even while he was being stabbed, the Bajrang Dal activist continued raising the slogan of ‘Jai Shri Ram.’ She also said that her deceased son had received threats for being associated with Barang Dal.

How the media covered the murder of Rinku Sharma

While the pictures of his blood-soaked body went viral, the media stayed abhorrently silent. Today, when they did manage to cover the murder because it was being widely spoken about, the slant that they slyly inserted, the whitewashing of the crime and the desperation to prove that there was ‘no communal angle’ to the murder was evident.

Indian Express published a rather ‘balanced’ headline. In the headline itself, they mentioned what the VHP was ‘claiming’ and what the police was ‘saying’ about the murder.

Rinku Sharma murder report
Indian Express headline on Rinku Sharma murder report

The Hindustan Times’ headline passed this off as just another murder that followed a scuffle. Rinku Sharma was murdered after an argument at a birthday party, Hindustan Times desperately wanted us to believe.

Rinku Sharma murder report
Hindustan Times headline on Rinku Sharma murder report

The Indian Express, true to its form, quoted a police officer saying, “When their businesses failed, they blamed one another… At a birthday party of a mutual friend, this issue again came up. However, people intervened at that time… The accused later went to Sharma’s place; he was standing outside. Both sides attacked each other and Sharma was stabbed”.

However, to the credit of Indian Express, they also mentioned that Rinku’s brother had said that Rinku Sharma worked as a lab technician and the family had no eatery business to begin with. They quoted the brother as saying, “We have been having issues with the accused since last year. In August, we organised a small event for Ram Mandir. They were angered by this but we ignored them. We have always been good neighbours; Rinku Sharma even donated blood to one of their family members when she was pregnant.”

These elements, however, did not make it to the headline. The headline was essentially designed to delegitimise the communal hate by the accused, Mohammad Islam, Danish Nasruddin, Dilshan and Dilshad Islam, for a Hindu man chanting Jai Shree Ram and asking for donations for the construction of Ram Mandir. The fact that Indian Express mentioned the statements by his family members in the body and mentioned only VHP in the headline was designed to prejudice the reader – the subtle messaging being, “a Hindu organisation is trying to turn scuffle into a hate crime”.

The fact that the family has remained consistent in saying that the Muslim mob had an issue with Rinku Sharma for the past six months owing to his affiliation with VHP and his devotion to Lord Ram is relegated to the end of the article, which few might read.

This is, of course, extremely different from how the media covers crimes against Muslims and how, they ensure that the narrative created is that of Hindus harbouring unbridled hate for Muslims, which eventually led to the crime. This is done even when it is evident that there was no communal hate at play in the crime.

Sample this headline:

The man in this case was beaten up because he was suspected of stealing cattle. As we have discussed at length earlier, cattle theft lynching often have nothing to do with the religion of the thief and the cattle owners. There have been several cases where a Muslim suspected of cattle theft has been lynched by Muslim cattle owners.

The crux of the issue in such cases is the fact that in rural areas, cattle are a tool for livelihood and its theft invokes a strong reaction from cattle owners. There is no religious sentiment attached to the crime itself. However, the media often ensures that they mention, rather clearly, that a “Muslim man was lynched”.

The same format of headline writing is, of course, thrown out of the window the moment a Hindu is lynched by Muslims for crimes that have a clear communal angle to the case.

Why are ‘liberals’ and the Left media so predisposed to highlighting the ‘no communal angle’ trope when victims are Hindus

We have often seen that the ecosystem that is predisposed to shielding the Muslim community is also predisposed to believing that when Hindus are lynched and murdered by Muslims, the ‘communal angle’ is summarily missing. One really has to wonder why that is.

Why are they predisposed to believing that a communal angle is always present when a Muslim is murdered, even if the case clearly indicates there was none, and why, they are more than happy to believe that no communal angle was at play when a Hindu is murdered by Muslims, when clearly, religious hate played an important role in the crime.

The answer lies in the supposition of hate, which the ‘liberals’ believe is summarily one-sided, contrary to historical evidence. In all their writing and rhetoric, the ‘liberals’ often theorise and perhaps vehemently believe that the underlying ingredient of ‘religious hate’ only runs in one direction – from Hindus towards Muslims.

Their assumption is that Hindus as a community despise Muslims and Hindus are far more radicalised than the Muslim community as a whole. This phenomenon, according to them, has been far more pronounced after the Modi government came to power. Essentially, what they truly believe is that Hindus are predisposed to hate Muslims and that hate has turned into unbridled violence and venom after Hindus realised that they too have the democratic right to vote as a block, something, only Muslims did up until 2014.

They believe that Muslims are the victimised minority of the violent, hateful majority. The logical extension of this argument is that Muslims harbour no inherent hatred for the Hindu community and thus, in a crime whee a Hindu is murdered by a Muslim mob, the starting assumption is that there is no ‘communal angle’ to the crime at all.

We don’t really need to get into the historical evidence to prove just how baseless this assumption is. We don’t need to list the thousands of cases where Hindus were murdered amidst chants of Allahu Akbar and Naara-e-Taqbeer, we don’t need to list the hundreds of girls and women we lost to Grooming Jihad where they were raped, murdered, tortured and beheaded for not converting to Islam, we don’t need to list the temples desecrated by Muslims or the idols broken by them. We don’t need to details the anti-Hindu riots all over again, on which, OpIndia has written a book. We don’t need to detail the hundreds of years of Islamic rule where women were raped, men were beheaded, all in the name of Islam. All, because Kaafirs deserves to die.

We don’t need to do it because these are historically established facts even if the ‘liberal’ ecosystem wishes to turn its face away. Truth. Cold truths. Won’t change.

However, it is true that contrary to the overwhelming evidence over a span of thousands of years, the establishment does function on the basic assumption that Muslims want brotherhood and Hindus, overtaken by hate and rage, want Muslims annihilated. It is this belief that makes the ecosystem so easily believe the trope of ‘no communal angle’ when a Hindu is murdered by Muslims, even if facts point in a completely different direction.

What is a ‘communal angle’ in a crime?

When we hear the phrase ‘communal angle’, the instant image that we have in mind is that of what happened during the Delhi Riots. It was a riot where Hindus and Muslims came face to face and the casualties mounted from both sides. The underlying reason of that conflict was the Citizenship Amendment Act, where, according to the liberals, Muslims felt slighted.

What ensued was a well-planned conspiracy to mount an offensive against Hindus. Amidst chants of Allahu Akbar and Naara-e-Taqbeer, Ankit Sharma was stabbed to death. Amidst the same chants, Dilbar Negi was burnt alive after his limbs were chopped off. After 2 days of rampant violence by Muslim mobs, Hindus too began to defend themselves and the result, was a collective body count of 53.

Even in this case, the assumption of hate by the liberals led them to believe that it was an anti-Muslim pogrom when the facts were glaringly different. The police reiterated in their statements, in their charge sheets and in the court that this was a well-hatched conspiracy by Islamists to target Hindus. The liberals, unlike in the case of Rinku Sharma, have summarily refused to believe the police statement, even though in the case of the Delhi Riots, it was not just an initial statement at the beginning of the investigation, but one backed by facts, evidence and several charge sheets. More on that later.

We, however, must analyse a seemingly simply question. Are all crimes so cut and dry? Are all communal incidents as clear as that of Delhi Riots? The answer certainly is no.

There are crimes where the communal angle are glaringly obvious, like the Delhi Riots, and there are others, where the trigger of the communal crime could be extremely different and even seemingly benign.

Take the example of Lotan Nishad for example. In April 2020, Lotan Nishad was sitting at a tea shop in the village at around 9.30 am. While reading the morning newspaper, he got into a verbal confrontation, over the role of Tablighi Jamaat in transmitting the Wuhan Coronavirus, with some people sitting there. Mohammad Sona, who was present there, began assaulting the victim. After sometime Sona brought a gun and fired at him from close range. Nishad fell on the ground and started bleeding. He died.

Immediately, after a statement by the police, the ‘liberal’ ecosystem began to peddle the ‘no communal angle’ trope.

The truth, however, was that the police had merely said that no party was involved with the Tablighi Jamaat. That, was in turn, interpreted as the police saying that no communal angle was present in the case. In a report by Swarajya, the brother had detailed how Hindus were leaving the area because of Muslims and how, his brother, lost his life to that hate.

All of this, was ignored to claim that there was no communal angle. The reason? ‘Assumption of hate’. The Muslim community simply cannot hate the Hindu community to murder of them so brutally. It is simply not possible.

But what really decides whether a crime is communal or not? Media reports? The initial and preliminary statements by Police? Perhaps not. What decides whether a crime is communal in nature or not is the ground reality. As OpIndia spoke to several people who are on the ground with the family of Rinku Sharma, we were told that that the communal tension in the area is palpable. Several people have gathered around the area and both, Muslims and Hindus are getting ready for this to blow up. The police, on its part, is guarding the area carefully.

Low intensity communal crimes are a result of strife, hate and societal dynamics that play out at a micro level. At the ground level. For those harbouring prejudices to simply assume that no communal angle exists because the police’s very initial version says so, is not only evidence of them not knowing about why the police says what it says, but also, their ignorance of India’s lived reality.

Often, the communal strife brews for over months, and eventually, leads to a brutal crime like this over a petty trigger. In the case of Rinku Sharma, this element seems to be a glaring component. The family of Rinku Sharma has said that the Muslims of the area held a grudge against Rinku ever since he celebrated the Ram Mandir verdict. For over 6 months, low level fights continued to brew over his devotion to Lord Ram.

What happened on Wednesday night was a culmination of that hate by the Muslim community. The trigger may have been a scuffle over something unrelated, but to say that the crime itself had no communal angle would be an exercise in whitewashing the crimes against Hindus.

Liberals and their convenient faith in the police

The ‘liberal’ ecosystem often looks at crimes from the prism of the agenda that they wish to peddle. While they seem to be vehemently believing the police in the case of Rinku Sharma, because they don’t wish to concede that Muslims killed a Hindu over Jai Shree Ram chants, they have believed the police in several other cases where the version of the police furthered their own narrative. In other cases, however, they have summarily refused to believe the police despite mounting evidence. In these cases, often, the police version is believed when it exonerates the Muslim perpetrator and refuse to believe the police version when it hurts their own agenda. In neither of these cases, are facts of any concern.

When the temple was vandalised in Hauz Qazi, the Muslim community there put the blame squarely on the Hindus. They alleged that it was the Hindu ‘halwai’ who had started the fight and that, the Hindus themselves desecrated the temple to blame the Muslims. A young Hindu boy had also gone missing during the violence by the Muslim mob. While the parents claimed that the boy was abducted by the Muslims, the police, had a different version at the time.

The liberals believed the police – so much so – that they blamed media houses for even reporting the FIR filed by the parents. The boy was later recovered and a seemingly cock-and-bull story was furthered to ensure there is no more communal flare-up in the area. However, what happened in Hauz Qazi was clear. The liberal jamaat refused to believe it. They tried their very best to whitewash it.

And what the official reason for the fight between the Hindus and the Muslims of the area? A fight that had ensued after an argument over parking space.

Now, just because the fight the fight broke out due to a parking space, does that mean that the desecration of the Durga temple in the area had no communal angle? Are we to believe that Muslims broke the idols and urinated on them because they were angry over a parking space and communal hatred did not play a role?

While in Hauz Qazi, the liberals believed the police version of ‘no communal angle’, in several other cases they have been more than happy to tarnish the police, when they made claims with solid evidence. We all know what happened in Delhi Riots and how the international left came together to discredit the investigation by the police.

Even when the crime is not communal in nature, the police version is often believed or discarded according to the whims and fancies of the liberal ecosystem. So is the statement of the family. Recently, when rioter Navreet Singh died after his tractor overturned during the 26th January insurrection, the liberals, with all their heart, believed that he was shot dead by the police. There was no evidence to indicate that he was. Even the wounds were not consistent with a gun-shot injury. But this narrative was furthered internationally and the parents were made to say what ‘eye witnesses’ believed. It was a clearly motivated agenda but the liberal media ran with it.

There are thousands of cases on these lines that could be cited to make this case and demonstrate how the ecosystem is disingenuous, to say the least. However, with the examples cited already, it is clear as day that the liberal’s faith in the family of the victim and the police depends on what agenda they wish to peddle – facts, circumstances, truth and justice be damned.

Why does the police say ‘No communal angle’ even when there clearly seems to be one

The police often say that a communal angle does not exist in a case, where there clearly is one. There are several factors that are generally at play here.

Firstly, one has to realise that an incident of this proportion is often seen as a failure of the local police. For example, during Hauz Qazi, the local police were circumspect about their own failure to control the Muslim mob, and had thus, overnight, got new idols to replace the desecrated ones. It is a different matter that the locals did not allow them to replace the idols. In several other cases, the same pattern has been observed. The police often downplay incidents of low-level communal crime because it is their jurisdiction that comes under question and it comes under question for legitimate reasons.

Secondly, the police works in conditions where strife and hate by the Muslim community flare-up in no time. The police also often say that there was ‘no communal angle’ to a crime when there was one because they wish to ensure that owing to the crime already committed, there is no further flare up in the area.

“We know the truth 9 out of 10 times. We downplay communal incidents because we need to ensure that tensions are watered down. Policing cannot draw from public sentiment. Law and order situation must be controlled at that point of time to ensure that one crime does not lead to several more crimes and an uncontrollable law and order situation”, said one retired police officer who wished to stay anonymous.

He further said that the police has to sometimes ensure the local community that they are not viewing a crime as a communal one so that the locals open up to the police without getting territorial.

“The ground reality is that people identify with their co-religionists. If the police goes in to investigate a crime calling it a communal one, you think the Muslim community will talk to us and give us leads? They won’t. It becomes an ‘us vs them’ situation. Even if it is a communal crime, we need to downplay it in the media so we can do our job. So we can investigate and get the victim justice. That is the job of the police. Not the media”, he said further.

In cases where sentiments fly high, rightly so, the police are often caught between their inability to have stopped the crime from taking place, trying to shield their own incompetence in certain situations and also, ensuring the no further law and order situation takes place. While looking from the outside, it does appear that the police is deliberately denying justice to Hindus, in many cases that is indeed true, several times it is a ploy to ensure justice is delivered. The downside of this strategy is, of course, that Hindus are perennially made to battle, just to ensure that those of them who are murdered owing to the Muslims’ communal hate, are seen as victims and the story of their victimisation is told accurately. Even if the law and order situation is controlled by saying that the crime had ‘no communal angle’ one can perhaps conclude that the justice delivered to the victim after denying him the facts of his victimisation is no justice at all.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Nupur J Sharma
Nupur J Sharma
Editor-in-Chief, OpIndia.

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