Kareeman Bano holds a photograph of her son-in-law Rakbar Khan, who died after being thrashed by a mob last week on suspicion of cattle smuggling, in Kolgaon village, India. Image Credit: AP

The mob started it, and police finished the job of lynching 28-year-old Rakbar Khan killed in Alwar in Rajasthan, India, last week.

His attackers, as they do in most epidemics of lynching that have created a new band of cow terrorists, accused him of being a cow smuggler.

Police in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Rajasthan have clear priorities. They first took the cow to a shelter, washed down the battered Khan, stopped to have a leisurely cup of tea and three hours later ferried Khan to a hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.

Make no mistake the cow terrorists, emboldened by the state, do not care about the welfare of the cow, but want to send a clear and blunt message to India’s 172 million Muslims.

The message, semaphored by Ivy League educated ministers garlanding convicts accused of lynching, draping the national flag; the tricolour on the body of a man who was part of a lynch mob and died of an illness; ministers meeting and weeping at the plight of cow terrorists in prison; the Chief Minister of India’s largest state saying that “cows are as important as people”; the meat being found in a victim’s home being sent for forensic tests to check if it was beef –  as if that would make the brutal murder justifiable.

Luis Vazquez/©Gulf News

And finally a senior functionary of the mothership of the ruling BJP, the self-described cultural organisation, the Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh (RSS) weighed in, saying if Muslims stopped eating beef, the lynchings would stop.

The message being sent by the Modi government and the BJP, which rules in 22 states, is unequivocal – the life of a cow is more valuable than an Indian Muslim.

While the message that you are here on the majority’s sufferance and “project othering” of the Muslims continues apace, the strong leader of the majority BJP government Prime Minister Narendra Modi remains on mute mode apart from the pabulum he has occasionally offered of a vague condemnation of generic violence.

It all began in 2015 when in Dadri near Delhi, Mohammad Akhlaq, the father of an Air Force official, was killed. Modi maintained a stoic silence. His minister for culture, Mahesh Sharma, who had earlier distinguished himself by saying former President of India APJ Kalam was “a nationalist despite, being a Muslim” attended the funeral with legislator Sangeet Som, an accused in the horrific Muzaffarnagar riots. Modi soon rewarded Sharma by allotting him Kalam’s Lutyens bungalow.

Muslims stage a protest against the recent cases of mob lynching, in Kolkata. AP

The message being sent by the Modi government and the BJP, which rules in 22 states, is unequivocal – the life of a cow is more valuable than an Indian Muslim. The mob baying for Muslim blood is helping the BJP in its default mode of polarization, of tapping into the majoritarian project in general election season, with the 2019 vote a mere eight months away.

The much ballyhooed “good governance” promised by Modi is a mirage and his oft repeated “acche din” (good days), his war cry on the stump are now banned words even within the BJP. So since Modi cannot hope to run on his mediocre track record of governance, it’s back to basics of stoking the flames of polarising the electorate.

Consider the government’s own statistics in reply to a question in Parliament. During the monsoon session in 2014 when Modi assumed office, incidents of lynching were 644, it rose to 751 in 2015 and the graph grew in 2016 to 703 and finally to 822 cases in 2017.

The inching up of the graph tells its own story of the Modi government’s adherence to the Constitution, which promises equality to every citizen.

The cow terrorists are a bunch of mostly angry unemployed men gorging themselves on a diet of incitement videos on WhatsApp sent by and large by the BJP’s infamous IT cell venting their frustration on hapless Muslims around them.

In most cases, they are so sure of the immunity they enjoy, that they even film themselves indulging in orgiastic violence. The killers of Pehlu Khan in Rajasthan did – they uploaded videos on social media.

Before the cow terrorists upped the ante, the BJP kept dismissing them as the “fringe”. Well, now the so called “fringe” is the mainstream and calling the shots. After Yogi Adityanath, a monk who has a history of violent cases and Muslim baiting speeches, including the mythical “love jihad” to describe inter-religious relationships, was anointed chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, the genie was well and truly out of the bottle.

Adityanath set up the bizarrely named “Romeo squads” to target “love Jihad” and police went berserk attacking inter-faith couples. Adityanath also cracked down on what he called illegal abattoirs depriving poor Muslims and Dalits of their livelihood.

From that point to the Ivy League educated Jayant Sinha, Minister for Aviation, garlanding convicted lynchers in his constituency and providing them legal aid, it was all about giving succor to cow terrorists on steroids.

The lynchings won’t end anytime soon as the state looks away. After all the BJP has to win another term and Amit Shah, party president and Modi’s doppelgänger, demonstrated in the Uttar Pradesh state elections how he had effectively disenfranchised the Muslims by not giving a single ticket to a candidate in a state where Muslims form 20 per cent of the population. Uttar Pradesh now has the lowest number of Muslim legislators ever in India’s history.

Shah is taking this model national. As the 2019 elections approach, Modi and Shah assisted by the foot soldiers of the RSS, want to flex the majoritarian muscle. It does not seem to matter that it is at the cost of a beleaguered minority and the rule of law.

Swati Chaturvedi is an award winning print and broadcast journalist. Her book “I am a Troll - Inside the BJP’s secret digital army” has received international acclaim. Her twitter handle is @Bainjal.