‘Sar tan se juda’: The resurgence of beheading culture in India

In 2012, two children were photographed holding placards reading “Massacre those who insult Islam.” This picture was taken in Kolkata, West Bengal, during a protest against the movie The Innocence of Muslims. Most Indians just saw this picture and looked away without making much of it; they missed its key implications.


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This single picture revealed what the future held for India. Indians failed to recognize that in less than a decade, they would hear such calls every day, all over the country, through various means of communication. They didn’t realize that this one picture would become the general mood of all too many Muslims in the country and would be commonplace in ten years. They didn’t realize that jihadis would be attacking Hindus in the middle of the streets, apologists would defend them, and propagandists would accuse the Hindus in turn for the very bloodbath they were enduring.

“Sar tan se juda” (“Separate the head from the body”), a call for beheading kaffirs who were accused of insulting Islam or its prophet, was a sentiment that was always present, though muted, even among the Muslims residing in India who were not necessarily terrorists or militants.

Fresh calls for beheading the kaffirs started echoing in all corners of India in 2022 after BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma referred to incidents recounted in Muslim scriptures in a manner that was deemed blasphemous by Muslims, although she said nothing false or inaccurate. These murderous calls were not just limited to the politician, but were directed also at any regular Hindu supporting Sharma. Some Muslims actually started beheading Hindus, most grotesquely, and recorded the act so that it would serve as a good warning. What’s worse, instead of condemning these Muslims or the apologists who emboldened them, the judiciary held that Sharma’s speech was responsible for the rampant bloodshed in India. Those who had acted violently or wished to do so got all the support they needed to act rapidly, fiercely, and with absolute impunity.

And thus the show continued with increased momentum. Muslims raised the “sar tan se juda” slogan in October 2022, during the Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi processions marking the birth of Islam’s founder in Somnath, Gujarat, Amethi, Uttar Pradesh and several other places across the country. Police detained seven individuals, including two minors, for raising the Islamic chant in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh, and a case was registered by the police against 19 accused, including ten unknown persons.

Rajendra Prasad, a 60-year-old retired government employee, went missing in November 2022. His family alleges that he was kidnapped, revealing they had received a message “Sar tan se judaa, sar tan se juda Ajmer via Pakistan” on WhatsApp. They also received a second message, a picture of the banned Islamic outfit, the Popular Front of India, before the senior went missing.

In January of this year, the national spokesperson of Vishwa Hindu Parishad posted two videos on Twitter showing several Muslim men, including young children, raising the “sar tan se juda” slogan in two different locations in Madhya Pradesh. That one of these incidents occurred right outside the Chandan Nagar police station establishes that many Muslims in India have no fear of the law and police.

In March 2023, another Hindu activist received a beheading threat through a letter left in a green envelope under his car’s windshield wiper. The incident took place in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.

In March again, Muslims raised slogans of “sar tan se juda” in Gir Somnath, accusing Hindu activist Kajal Hindustani of delivering an anti-Muslim speech. During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, thousands of Muslims took to the streets to protest Kajal’s speech against the forced religious conversion of Hindu girls. They demanded action against the women while chanting slogans calling for a beheading, again in front of a police station.

Recently, a young businessman from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Yugveer Arjav, sought protection from the Uttar Pradesh state government after receiving similar death threats. He complained that some people edited an old video of him and made it viral in order to increase tensions. He has also held a Muslim “journalist” responsible for the beheading threats, as the “journalist” had shared the controversial video from his Twitter handle.

Recently India overtook China as the world’s most populated country. This South Asian country is also home to an enormous Muslim population that is expanding rapidly. Managing the world’s largest population can be quite a job in itself. Amid all the other challenges it faces, can India afford to let these jihadi Muslims run amok and call for the beheading of random people? With an increasing Muslim population, there is an evident increase in rigorous observance and jihad activity. Hence, one often hears calls for beheading from fanatic Muslims all across India. Muslim “journalists” play an important role in fueling Islamic jihad activity, and continually guide violent Muslims to their next Hindu target.

What’s more disturbing is that while Islamic apologists defend these monstrous activities under the rubric of “freedom of expression,” the government, which is often touted as a pro-Hindutva and anti-Muslim, is also indifferent to these threats. No effective law has been drafted against the Muslims who casually shout this threat on the streets and post it on social media. No stringent actions have been taken, apart from detaining the accused for a few days. The lack of strict action from the government has encouraged Muslims to call for “sar tan se juda” louder and in increasing numbers./ASHLYN DAVIS

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