The protests on the borders of Delhi and in various places in Punjab, Haryana, western UP and other places are ostensibly against the three farm laws brought by the Union government. This ostensible economic reason has long been overshadowed by the political rhetoric. In the initial weeks of protest, some anti Hindu utterances were also made notably by Yograj Singh, father of cricketer Yuvaraj Singh and then many others.
The warning to Brahmins
Soon after that, a video of Rakesh Tikait had gone viral. Spewing venom against Pandits (temple priests), he had said that none of the temples came forward to as much as provide them tea despite the fact that their women offer the milk to the temples. He then said that neither did they(Brahmins) organize any Bhandara (food) for the protesters as the Sikhs did.
He warns the Brahmins saying “sudhar jao (improve yourselves)” and then says the Brahmins can go on pilgrimages but cannot organize food for us. At the end of the video, he is seen threatening the Brahmins saying that “Ilaaz inka sabka hoga, inki sabki list banegi..“(We shall “fix” these people…we will make their lists…)
There is every possibility that other such speeches were made and anti-Brahmin rhetoric used in meetings.
The attack in Lakhimpur
It is in this context that yesterday’s events in Lakhimpur need to be seen. The anti Brahmin rhetoric of Tikait and company appealed to the baser elements among these protesters. The inclusion of Ajay Mishra, a prominent Brahmin face in Lakhimpur, as a Union minister also would have rankled the anti-Brahmin brigade.
It is important to note that names of three of the dead BJP workers are being told Shubham Mishra, Ashish Pandey and Om Prakash- two of the three being Brahmins. There is still no information about the other victims and those held hostage.
Immediately after the news of attacks broke on social media, twitter accounts aligned to “farmers” started blaming the Brahmins for killing farmers while the mention of Brahmins killed was omitted!
Many other accounts used “chunmange” – a pejorative term for Brahmins used by Jaat caste in Haryana, which refers to the poor status of Brahmins. This term is now being used by Sikhs, Gujjars and Muslims to refer pejoratively to Brahmins. Choon/Chun means wheat flour and chunmanga refers to a Brahmin who used to ask for alms for their living.
This pejorative was used multiple times during the agitation by “farmer” leaders close to Rakesh Tikait, “pro-farmer” journalists and various social media accounts by protesters.
Such dehumanisation of Brahmins naturally will have far reaching social consequences. There is a clear and present danger in this type of hate speech that needs to be realised by the government before it is too late. The government must investigate if the anti-Brahmin rhetoric had any role to play in the events of Lakhimpur and come down hard on such speeches and posts in future.