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NC Top Opinions: Hindu Rashtra, De Facto; Love, Now A Revolutionary Idea And More

Here's a curation of the opinion pieces that caught our attention today

  • Hindu Rashtra, de facto

Christophe Jaffrelot writes in his column for The Indian Express that the media often presents cow-related lynching cases as spontaneous reactions of the mob. Certainly, some ordinary people take part in them. But the perpetrators’ ideological orientation could be surmised from the fact that they often make their victims raise slogans such as “Gau mata ki jai (Hail the cow-mother)” or “Jai Hanuman (Hail Hanuman)”.

That the choice of victims for assault had less to do with cow protection than with underlying hostility toward Muslims is clear in the way Hindu cow-breeders and transporters have been spared during attacks. In Haryana, the convergence of two types of policing — official and unofficial — has reportedly been strengthened by the creation of a “cow task force” within the state police. An IPS officer heads this network, which has specialised officers in each district. These officials allegedly work with the GRD: In some respects, the state subcontracts policing tasks to non-state actors, turning them into a para-state force.

Collusion between police and Hindu nationalist movements is indeed evidence of the start of a transition from a state-building process, in which the administrative and coercive apparatus is supposed to treat all citizens equally, to a state-formation process wherein majoritarian non-state actors impose a social and cultural order.

Not only has the prime minister abstained from condemning lynchings, some legislators and ministers have extended their blessings to the lynchers. Only a few of the lynchers have been convicted so far. Whenever lynchers have been arrested, the local judiciary has released them on bail. If the executive, legislature or judiciary do not effectively oppose lynchings, India may remain a rule-of-law country only on paper and, in practice, a de facto ethno-state.

  • Backstory: ‘Masterstroke’ Is the Master Key to Understanding Media Capture in India Today

In her column for The WirePamela Philipose says that despite the proliferation of media platforms in the country, television continues to be the most important in terms of reach and influence. Given the nature of its operations, the competition that marks the sector, the costs involved in keeping channels afloat, the anxieties of remaining relevant, television is also the most amenable to state and corporate capture.

Such anxieties are precisely what a government as astute in media management as the Modi dispensation would want to capitalise on, especially in election season. The government’s strategy, going by the Bajpai instance, can be summarised in two words on the keyboard: Control and Delete.

In the Bajpai instance, the attempt to shape the content of Masterstroke came in the form of instructions from the proprietors of ABP News to him to stop naming Modi in the programme, presumably because it pulled no punches. Later, instructions came in that even his images were not to used. The channel’s owners knew that Masterstroke was well put together and was proving to be a hit among their viewers. They would also have known that airbrushing the prime minister from the frame would deeply undermine its credibility. Yet they were actually prepared to sacrifice editorial quality and viewer popularity of their own programme in order to appease those they perceived as their political masters.

  • Empowered, emboldened and weaponised, India’s roving mobs flourish under state patronage

Samar Halarnkar, in his column for Scroll.in writes that it is that time of the year when millions of saffron-clad kanwariyas, devotees of Shiva the destroyer, fill pots of water from the holy Ganga and carry it on foot to shrines across the plains of northern India. With a year to go for general elections that are likely to be a much closer affair than the Bharatiya Janata Party’s facile victory in 2014, the ruling party is making sure it does not impede or offend this walking, swaggering vote bank.

The swagger of this massive pilgrimage, as events of this month have shown, has increased because the police and other administrative arms of the state have made their approach clear. While many are peaceful, a substantial number of kanwariyas are not. This week, they wrecked a car, attacked trucks, beat a cyclist with canes and sledgehammers and vandalised a police vehicle, forcing officers to flee.

The police do not confiscate these tools of violence, emboldening more kanwariyas to carry and use them. When there is violence, the police tend to either delay or play down action against the kanwariyas.

Muslims and Dalits are routinely victims of Hindutva groups that lynch minorities seen with cows or suspected to be cattle rustlers. Police have gone slow on investigations, and Union ministers have felicitated or honoured lynching convicts or suspects. Such kid-glove treatment and the withholding of legal action against Hindu mobs is not a good augury for a Hindu-majority country. If the majority believes it is above the law of the land, the rule of the law will unravel – as indeed it already is showing signs of doing.

  • Love, now a revolutionary idea

In her column for The MintPriya Ramani writes that in the age of everyday bigotry, my heroes were redefined to include anyone who identified themselves publicly as being on the side of love and justice. I cheered when Sikh police officer Gagandeep Singh said he was just “doing his duty” when he saved a Muslim boy from being attacked by an angry mob—on more than one Karwan trip we saw police officers who had been complicit in bovine-linked crimes. Or when Mariam Khatoon, the widow of coal trader Alimuddin Ansari who was brutally murdered by a mob in Jharkhand last year, told Mander she only wanted justice, not revenge.

I’m now a fan of the few actors who don’t let Twitter trolls curb their free speech, politicians who say they are against hate, all the former civil servants and retired military men who write plaintive letters to the prime minister asking him to curb the hate and the Carnatic music vocalist who regularly points out in his writing that the majority community has never been under threat. I feel a pang every time a filmmaker is brave enough to make a political film that questions our toddler brand of multiplex patriotism.

I doff my hat to interfaith couples who by default are warriors in this modern-day battle. As if it’s not enough they fight the petty prejudices of their families, they must now take on the new moral guardians of our country. Their love must survive forcible separations, mob attacks and prolonged legal battles. They may not know it but they are one big reason the idea of India will survive.

  • Mumbai, where is your heart? Gayab?

Shobha Dee says in her column for Mumbai Mirror that according to official data, nine women get molested and two raped in Mumbai every day. She asks where has Mumbai’s once sturdy, healthy heart gone? Why are its arteries dangerously clogged? Does Mumbai need a pacemaker? Multiple stents? A heart transplant? Is Mumbai already in an ICU unit, gasping for breath? How much oxygen does Mumbai need to get back on its feet and run life’s marathon with pride?

The signs are ominous. And alas, it’s the hard working women of Mumbai who are paying the price of its heartlessness the most. Every second news item is about a woman getting raped, murdered, assaulted, groped, tormented in any number of sadistic and inventive ways. A city that respected its female workforce and gave women their due position. Tragically, it now sees desperate protests with volunteers pleading to make Mumbai’s spaces safe for women again.

The assaulters are not space aliens. They are not representative of some other species. They are men who have made Mumbai their home. Some of them could be your neighbours — like the men who drunkenly mow down innocents sleeping on a pavement — and get away with the crime. Where does one look for insights, solutions and some sort of solace while the violence continues? What do we tell young girls discovering life and trying to find a way through thickets of potentially life-threatening situations? Should we keep them cocooned and create a web of lies, cooing, “Don’t worry, beta… this is Mumbai.”

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