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India Is Doomed If It Keeps Forgiving Crimes In The Present Because Of Crimes In The Past

Everyone (except BJP and their supporters) can see that India has a lynching problem

The Supreme Court’s recent directive to the Parliament to draft a new law that can curtail mob violence mirrors what many Indians have been saying for quite some time. However, such is the inclination to paint this very real threat to the country’s law and order situation as some sort of a biased anti-government and anti-national narrative that many Indians have been refusing to acknowledge what exists before their very eyes.

In fact, things have gotten so out of hand that even as the Supreme Court deliberated on the ‘mobocracy’ playing out on our streets, BJP workers in Jharkhand beat up Swami Agnivesh, a 78-year-old social activist, in Jharkhand. But that was not all. BJP workers in Thiruvananthapuram vandalized Shashi Tharoor’s office and BJP workers beat up policemen in Kharagpur and West Bengal. No wonder the BJP is reluctant to criticize mob violence…many people from their party and support base form the mobs carrying out the violence.

According to the home ministry’s reply to the Lok Sabha in February, 2018, as many as 2,920 “communal incidents” were reported in India over four years ending 2017, in which 389 people were killed and 8,890 injured. However, the day after Supreme court made their plea to the parliament, union minister of state for home affairs – Hansraj Ahir – said that the government does not maintain specific data on lynching incidents in the country. This seems bizarre considering there have been so many such incidents and how they can often trigger communal clashes. If Indiaspend can maintain data on this then why can’t the government?

Let’s not kid ourselves. Everyone knows why the BJP is silent on these lynching incidents. It’s not just that their vote base is involved, that much has been clear and in fact was something that their critics had warned of even before they came into power. No, what appears to be taking place is the slow but steady use of mob violence as a deterrent to any dissent. When you paint anyone not on your side as the ‘Other’ and then give your supporters the license to attack the ‘Others’ then you are tapping on man’s primal instinct to dominate. There is power in numbers but there is almost always misuse of the power granted to a group that outnumbers another.

I see it all around me. My friends who live in urban cities, who are highly educated and have well-paying jobs in MNCs and who voted for ‘development’ in 2014, are now suddenly angry at Aurangzeb and his descendants in 2018. I have grown up with these people and never knew them to be religious but now they insist that Hinduism in danger from Western culture and Sharia law. When I talk to them about lynching incidents, they think of them as media fabrications or biased reporting. They say India is a violent country and that such incidents have always taken place here so too much should not be made of them. In fact, yesterday in the Parliament home minister Rajnath Singh addressed the opposition’s criticism of such incidents by saying that “the biggest case of mob lynching happened during 1984 Sikh genocide”.

India is doomed because it always excuses the present due to its past. Yes, 1984 was terrible but does that warrant a similar attack in 2002 or 2018? In the blame game between India’s two biggest political parties, the average Indian forgets that he too could be collateral damage someday. The people who think that these lynchings can be excused, feel this way because there is no threat to their lives. More crucially, the people who are doing the lynchings feel that they can do so because they feel empowered. And why shouldn’t they? Just look at the hate speech put out by Hindu leaders and BJP politicians against members of a particular community. Look at BJP MP Jayant Sinha felicitating lynching-accused convicts with garlands. Look at how the man who lynched Mohammad Akhlaq was draped in the Indian flag and paid respects by tourism minister Dr. Mahesh Sharma. Look at how a tableaux glorified Shambhu Nath Raigar in a Ram Navami procession for hacking an innocent Muslim man and setting him on fire. Look at how BJP ministers and Hindu outfits take out marches in support of those accused of raping an 8-year-old girl in Kathua. Look at how the police in Alwar, Rajasthan had tea with those who lynched an innocent man for transporting his own cows and how they arranged for these cows to be taken to a shelter before taking the victim to a hospital (three hours later) where he was declared brought dead.

The triggers and pretexts for committing mob violence are changing too. Over the last two years, there have been several incidents of mob violence over controversial books and movies, arrest of religious leaders on sexual assault and beef. However, in 2018, the mobs have carefully changed their tactics so that an incident doesn’t seem to have an outright communal angle. Now when you want to lynch someone you just accuse them of being a child-lifter and suddenly you can do what you want and justify your actions by blaming a Whatsapp forward.

Last month a mob beat two young boys to death because they mistook them to be child-lifters; it was heartbreaking to see one of the boys beg for his life on video and remind them that he was Assamese like them and should be spared. Recently a techie in Karnataka was lynched to death for the crime of speaking to some children. Fathers have been beaten up after people mistook them to be kidnappers of their own children. There are many more such incidents.

A few days backs I was driving in South India with a North Indian license plate and for the first time in my life, I was self-aware and felt like an outsider in my own country. I was quite worried that the smallest misunderstanding with the locals of an area could snowball into a fatal situation. Some might call this paranoia, but it was hard for me to forget the videos and photographs I have seen of the victims of mob violence. It used to be that unless you actually had a child in the trunk of your car or someone else’s cow in your truck, you wouldn’t be seen as a child-lifter or a cow smuggler. But India has changed a lot in the last four years. Not only are you now deemed guilty until proven innocent but a mob will make sure that you aren’t even alive to prove your innocence. One doesn’t know any more if they will make it back home in one piece. Most Indians, except BJP and their supporters, are realizing this sinister shift in our society which has divided us like never before and which has turned us into strangers in our own country.

The writer is a Kolkata based writer.

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