New Delhi, India – A Muslim man was hacked and burned to death in India’s western state of Rajasthan in an alleged hate crime.
The half-burnt body of the victim was found by the police on Wednesday morning on a street in Rajsamand, over 300km away from the state capital Jaipur. A local resident of Rajsamand has been charged with murder.
According to the police, the victim has been identified as 48-year-old Mohammed Afrazul, who was working as a labourer in the town.
A Youtube clip shows the accused leading the Muslim man to a secluded spot and attacking him with a weapon. The victim cries out for help until he falls silent.
The attacker, identified by the police as Shambhu Lal, then addresses the camera and delivers a warning against “Love Jihad”, which the Hindu far-right considers to be a conspiracy by Muslim groups to lure Hindu women into marriages with Muslim men and to convert them to Islam.
“You jihadis, this is the fate that awaits you. Stop ‘Love Jihad’ in India or else you will meet the fate of this man,” the attacker says in Hindi.
He then proceeds to douse the body with petrol and sets it on fire.
“This is a brutal crime. Prima facie it does not look like this is done by a normal human being,” Rajasthan’s Director General of Police, OP Galhotra said at a press conference in Jaipur on Wednesday.
“The probe by a special investigative team has made it possible for us to arrest the killer seen in the video,” he continued, adding that “The probe is in its initial stages.”
It is one of the worst crimes in the recent upsurge of attacks suffered by India’s Muslim and Hindu lower caste communities.
‘Growing climate of hate’
Harsh Mander, activist and former bureaucrat, says there is a “growing climate of hate”.
“We have a political leadership now in the country that has created an environment which is permissive of acting out hate speeches and hate actions. Lynching of this kind is a growing phenomenon in many parts of the country,” Mander told Al Jazeera.
|An image of the alleged attacker hacking at his victim [Screen-grab]|
“We recently went on a journey across eight states to reach out to families who have been affected by lynchings and found that this is happening in the name of the cow and ‘love jihad’. We met around 50 families of victims on this journey.”
Rajasthan’s state’s Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria said he was “shocked” by the disturbing video which went viral on social media.
“It is shocking how he killed the man and made a video of it,” Kataria told Indian news agency ANI. “The accused has been arrested and a special investigation team has been set up. Any person will be disturbed by the video.”
Indian media reports suggested a second video reportedly filmed after the incident showed the same man making inflammatory and communal comments at a local temple.
Mander said that people do not feel that reported cases are held to any sort of accountability.
“The role of the police is extremely worrying because they tend to register cases against the victims rather than the accused,” he said. “So people feel there is a permissive environment and a sense of impunity.
“We are going to see more and more of this kind of hate, I am afraid,” he added.
‘A brutal crime’
Additional Director-General of Police in the state of Rajasthan, Pankaj Kumar Singh, confirmed to Al Jazeera that they have arrested the attacker and that the incident in Rajsamand is being investigated “seriously”.
“He will face the consequences,” Singh told Al Jazeera.
This is not the first case of anti-Muslim hate crime in the state of Rajasthan.
Earlier this year, a Muslim dairy farmer called Pehlu Khan was attacked and beaten to death by scores of Hindu cow vigilantes on a highway. Last month, another dairy farmer in the state, Umar Mohammed, was shot dead allegedly by Hindu cow vigilantes.
Activists say Hindu far-right groups have been emboldened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rise to power in 2014. Leaders of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party have openly declared India a nation of Hindus, posing a challenge to its multi-faith constitutional commitment.
About a fifth of India’s 1.27 billion people identify themselves as belonging to faiths other than Hinduism.