11 Oct, 2015
The minister has arrived. The motorcade fills the unpaved street. Policemen who were slumbering in the early autumn midday heat stir, straighten, then spring into action, clearing the way with their canes for this most important visitor.
Mahesh Sharma, India’s minister of culture, is preceded by a small aide in a purple shirt and followed by a large grey-suited bodyguard. Sharma has come to “condole” the family of Mohammed Akhlaq, a 50-year-old labourer beaten to death by a mob in his small two-storey home in the centre of Bishara village, about an hour’s drive beyond the outskirts of Delhi, India’s capital, last Monday night.
The mob that killed him believed that Akhlaq and his family, who are Muslim, had eaten meat from a cow, an animal considered sacred by the 80% of the Indian population who follow the Hindu faith. Akhlaq and his son were dragged from their beds and beaten with bricks. The father died; the son is fighting for his life in hospital.