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Project May 24, 2019

The Hour of Lynching: Vigilante Violence in India

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Image courtesy of Amit Madheshiya and Shirley Abraham.
Image courtesy of Amit Madheshiya and Shirley Abraham.

Walking through fields at night, with two cows he bought for dairy farming, Rakbar Khan was accosted by a mob of so-called "cow vigilantes," who claim to protect cows that are sacred to Hindus. They lynched him on suspicion of cow smuggling. His wife Asmeena must now practice an intense iddat, which means "mourning" in purdah, and their daughter Sahila has been forced to abandon school to take care of the household. While the family falls apart, the narrative and machinery of the perpetrators seeks to legitimize his killing. In doing so, nationalistic Hindu politicians, their foot-soldiers, and cow vigilantes justify their violence as built on fearmongering of minorities. 

In India, 47 people have been murdered between May 2014 and April 2019 in cow-related hate crimes. 76 percent of victims were Muslims. They were attacked by groups of cow vigilantes. Set amidst the forest fire of mob lynchings of Muslims, The Hour of Lynching explores the meaning and resurgence of this primordial violence in contemporary India.

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