How has India changed a year after Dadri beef lynching?

Source: BBC

It has been a year since a Muslim man in northern India was lynched over rumours that his family had slaughtered a cow and eaten beef. Hindus consider cows to be sacred, and for many, eating beef is taboo. The slaughter of cows is also banned in many Indian states.

But Mohammad Akhlaq’s death sparked widespread outrage and contributed to changing the social and political discourse of the country. The BBC’s Ayeshea Perera looks at some of the most significant things that happened in India following his death.

The ‘intolerance’ furore

An Indian activist shouts slogans as he is detained by police outside the home of Bollywood actor Aamir Khan in Mumbai on November 24, 2015.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionThe government began to be haunted by allegations of intolerance

Perhaps the largest fallout of Mohammad Akhlaq’s death in Uttar Pradesh state was the accusation of “intolerance” that began to haunt Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist BJP.

Critics of the BJP have often accused it of being Hindu majoritarian in its outlook and of being hostile to ethnic and religious minorities, particularly Muslims. And this incident only strengthened those voices.

The fact that Mr Modi did not immediately condemn the incident, choosing to remain silent even as state party leaders jumped to the defence of the accused, caused even more anger.

It prompted an unprecedented movement by writers and poets who had been celebrated by the government – they started returning their prestigious Sahitya Akademi awards to protest at intolerance in India. More than 40 writers from all across the country returned their awards and were soon joined by a group of film makers who said they would not be “guilty of flattening diversity” in the country.

Leading writer Nayantara Sehgal, a niece of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, wrote that “… India’s culture of diversity and debate is now under vicious assault… The prime minister remains silent about this reign of terror. We must assume he dare not alienate evil-doers who support his ideology.”

But “intolerance” was not limited to returning awards – it found its way into popular discourse as well. Bollywood superstar Amir Khan also created a furore when he expressed concern over the “growing intolerance” in India. He was later joined by fellow star Shah Rukh Khan who said he “respected” people returning awards to protest against intolerance.

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