Ourview An­other bla­tant as­sault on the state

Mint ST - - VIEWS -

The vi­o­lence in Bulandshahr is an ab­di­ca­tion of the

Jun­gle raj is a phrase that is of­ten dished out in re­la­tion to In­dia’s largest state, Ut­tar Pradesh, for its pri­vate armies, cor­rup­tion, and bro­ken law and or­der sit­u­a­tion. Yet, even by its wretched stan­dards, this week’s killing of in­spec­tor Su­bodh Ku­mar Singh in Bulandshahr marks a new low. The world over, vi­o­lence by the hard right is on the rise. But the po­lice are rarely tar­geted with the kind of im­punity that is seen in parts of In­dia. Amer­i­can po­lice of­fi­cers are shot and killed in the line of duty (43 this year alone) in many sit­u­a­tions, but de­lib­er­ate mur­der while try­ing to con­trol a vi­o­lent crowd isn’t among them. That was the case on 3 De­cem­ber, when al­leged cow pro­tec­tion vig­i­lantes killed Singh in a vil­lage in Bulandshahr as he tried to rein in a mob in­censed by re­ports that a cat­tle car­cass had been dis­cov­ered in a nearby jun­gle.

It’s a strug­gle to find a more ap­pro­pri­ate metaphor for law­less­ness than “jun­gle”, a dark place where any­thing goes. Yet, Ut­tar Pradesh is far from be­ing the only In­dian state with such dis­plays of ag­gres­sion against the state. In­deed, the events in Bulandshahr, with their ob­vi­ous com­mu­nal ring (the killing took place on the last day of a large Tab­lighi Ijtema gath­er­ing of Mus­lims, some 40km away), fall into a pat­tern of de­lib­er­ate con­fronta­tion by right-wing and hard-right ac­tivists against or­gans of the state.

The chain of events be­gan 26 years ago to the day (6 De­cem­ber) when Hin­dutva ac­tivists—egged on by lead­ing na­tional-level politi­cians of the Bharatiya Janata Party (Bjp)—tore down the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, claim­ing they were set­ting right a his­tor­i­cal wrong. Now, the re­turn of a cen­tral gov­ern­ment led by the BJP has once again un­leashed pro-hindu and up­per-caste forces that had lain rel­a­tively dor­mant for a decade. Ig­nor­ing pe­ri­odic gov­ern­ment cen­sure, hard-right ac­tivists, be­gin­ning with the lynch­ing of Mus­lims sus­pected to be eat­ing or stor­ing beef, have been able to mar­shal their forces and lay into their tar­gets with shock­ing ease.

The run-up to 6 De­cem­ber 1992 was re­plete with in­stances of sim­i­lar re­jec­tion of con­sti­tu­tional au­thor­ity. Back in 1992, Ut­tar Pradesh chief min­is­ter Kalyan Singh sub­mit­ted a four-point af­fi­davit to the Supreme Court, promis­ing se­cu­rity of the mosque and say­ing he will only al­low a sym­bolic kar sewa (ri­tu­als for build­ing a tem­ple) at the dis­puted site that Hin­dus claim to be the birth­place of Ram. “It may be men­tioned that the present gov­ern­ment of Ut­tar Pradesh has an en­vi­able record of main­tain­ing law and or­der in the state, par­tic­u­larly in main­tain­ing com­mu­nal har­mony,” the af­fi­davit boasted, seek­ing to con­vince the Supreme Court that there was no need for the cen­tral gov­ern­ment to send se­cu­rity forces in or­der to en­force the Al­la­habad high court-or­dered sta­tus quo around the Babri mosque. Par­lia­ment was in­formed on 3 De­cem­ber 1992 that, in­deed, the state gov­ern­ment had sub­mit­ted that “kar sewa would be a sym­bolic oc­ca­sion for car­ry­ing on cer­tain re­li­gious ac­tiv­i­ties and will not be al­lowed to be ex­ploited for any con­struc­tional ac­tiv­i­ties, sym­bolic or other­wise”. Ac­cord­ingly, the Supreme Court in its or­der of 28 Novem­ber had taken note of the “em­phatic as­sur­ance and un­der­tak­ing” given by the Kalyan Singh gov­ern­ment.

All that counted for noth­ing when thou­sands of kar se­waks set upon the mosque with pick­axes and ham­mers and re­duced it to rub­ble, an act that struck at the heart of con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism. The de­mo­li­tion, de­scribed as pre­sag­ing “a Fas­cist take-over” by the his­to­rian Sarvepalli Gopal in the book Anatomy Of A Con­fronta­tion that he edited, set off a se­quence of desta­bi­liz­ing events, in­clud­ing fur­ther re­li­gious vi­o­lence in Ut­tar Pradesh and else­where and the fall of the cen­tral gov­ern­ment when the BJP with­drew its sup­port fol­low­ing the ar­rest of its pres­i­dent L.K. Ad­vani.

Now, the mem­ory of that dark chap­ter in mod­ern In­dian his­tory has been re­vived not only by re­newed calls for build­ing a Ram tem­ple but, with only months left to the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions, the bla­tant vi­o­la­tion of the Supreme Court’s or­ders al­low­ing girls and women of all ages to en­ter the Sabari­mala tem­ple in Ker­ala. It’s been more than two months since the Supreme Court by a 4-1 ma­jor­ity over­turned the tem­ple au­thor­ity’s prac­tice of ban­ning girls and women be­tween the ages of 10 and 50 from en­ter­ing the premises, yet not a sin­gle girl or woman of that age group has been able to of­fer pray­ers at the shrine on ac­count of rag­ing protests, mas­ter­minded by right-wing groups.

The events of 3 De­cem­ber 2018 have eerie echoes of 6 De­cem­ber 1992. Back then, the state was a help­less by­stander as ac­tivists tore down the Babri Masjid. Twenty-six years on, it seems to be slip­ping into sim­i­lar tor­por, even con­don­ing law­break­ers. To al­low the au­thor­ity of the state to be eroded with such naked vi­o­lence as the one that claimed the life of in­spec­tor Singh con­sti­tutes an ab­di­ca­tion of the state’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect the pro­tec­tors. How well we carry out that re­spon­si­bil­ity marks the dif­fer­ence be­tween Ram ra­jya and the jun­gle raj.

Is the killing of Su­bodh Ku­mar Singh an in­di­ca­tion of col­lapse of law and or­der in Ut­tar Pradesh? Tell us at [email protected]

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.