On 22 August 2021, 25-year-old Taslim Ali was beaten up by Hindu vigilantes in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. A viral video of the incident showed Taslim, a bangle seller from Uttar Pradesh’s Hardoi district, weeping on the ground while a mob assaulted him because of his Muslim identity. Taslim managed to file a first-information report after much difficulty, and the accused were arrested. But, the next day, based on the complaint of one of the accused’s minor daughters, Taslim was arrested. He was charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code that had to do with sexual harassment, forgery and criminal intimidation, as well as sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
Taslim was granted bail around three and a half months later. The Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court held that he had no “criminal antecedents” and posed no threat to witnesses. His attackers were granted bail much before him. Taslim’s arrest left his family suffering economically and emotionally, and stoked fear among other economically disadvantaged Muslim bangle-sellers from his village, who were afraid to venture out to work. Hindutva groups and leaders have been calling for an economic boycott of Muslim businesses, including impoverished vendors.
Taslim’s case is not an isolated instance. Public acts of violence against religious minorities by Hindutva vigilantes are no longer seemingly disparate incidents but form a larger recurring pattern. The pretexts for vigilante violence can be many, including allegations of forced religious conversion, cow slaughter and love jihad—a conspiracy theory that accuses Muslim men of marrying Hindu women with the aim of converting them to Islam.