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File photo: In recent times, the 'Jai Shri Ram' chant has been popularized by the BJP in its campaign rallies

By: Arup Deka

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In many parts of India, Hindus often invoke the popular god Ram’s name as a greeting. But in recent years, Hindu lynch mobs have turned the ‘Ramayana’ Ram’s name into a murder cry.

Recently in Assam, a 24-years-old man Tabrez Ansari was seen pleading for his life, with blood and tears streaming down his face. His attackers forced him to repeatedly chant “Jai Shri Ram”, which translates from Hindi to “hail Lord Ram” or “victory to Lord Ram”. Ansari is not the only one to have been singled out in this manner.

The last few months have not been too kind for Indian Muslims either, because they have been targeted in such attacks. In Barpeta district located in the Northeastern state of Assam, a group of young Muslim men were assaulted and then made to chant slogans like “Jai Shri Ram”, “Bharat Mata ki Jai” (long live Mother India) and “Pakistan Murdabad” (death to Pakistan). While in the eastern city of Kolkata, Hafeez Mohd. Sahrukh Haldar, a 26-year-old Muslim teacher at a Madrassa (religious seminary), was heckled while travelling on a train by a group of men chanting “Jai Shri Ram”.

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He told reporters that they made fun of his clothes and beard, and then insisted that he also chant the slogans. When he refused, they pushed him out of the moving train. Haldar was injured but lived to tell the tale. The slogan-shouting and heckling is no longer restricted to the mob and the streets.

Worryingly, it has also entered parliament. The attacks on the minorities have been condemned by opposition politicians. Rahul Gandhi, before he resigned as leader of the main opposition Congress party, described the mob lynching of Tabrez Ansari as a “blot on humanity”.

And many feel a sense of unease that these attacks and killings are being carried out in the name of a God revered by millions for his sense of justice and benevolence.

Sadly, “Jai Shri Ram” has now been turned into a cry of attack, meant to intimidate and threaten those who worship differently.

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