No Lynch­ing Please

In­stead of com­ing out guns blaz­ing against lynch­ing, Bhag­wat tan­gles him­self in se­man­tics

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - An Ecstasy Of Ideas -

RSS chief Mo­han Bhag­wat’s be­fud­dling claim that “lynch­ing” orig­i­nated from an­other coun­try and re­li­gious cul­ture alien to In­dia and us­ing the “lynch­ing” word to de­scribe re­cent in­ci­dents of mob vi­o­lence de­fames In­dia ex­em­pli­fies the dif­fi­culty faced by Sangh Pari­var ad­her­ents to ex­plain this vi­o­lent so­cial phe­nom­e­non. Bhag­wat could have re­stricted him­self to lo­cat­ing “lynch­ing” as an alien prac­tice and ask­ing peo­ple to de­sist from it. But in go­ing fur­ther to ex­press ir­ri­ta­tion with those us­ing “lynch­ing” to de­scribe the mob vig­i­lan­tism and terming this a con­spir­acy, Bhag­wat be­trayed con­cern for form over sub­stance.

Call it “lynch­ing” or “mob mur­ders” the crime is no less deadly: lives are be­ing bru­tally snuffed out and the rule of law de­railed. Even the ar­gu­ment that lynch­ing de­notes “tra­di­tions alien to Bharat and be­long else­where” doesn’t pass muster: no civilised so­ci­ety con­dones mobs met­ing out in­stant pun­ish­ment. By ask­ing crit­ics to talk less about hu­man rights and warn­ing that they erode com­mu­nal re­la­tions, Bhag­wat is es­sen­tially re­stat­ing the “Asian values” the­sis that Asia leans to­wards col­lec­tivism, au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism and so­cial har­mony over hu­man rights.

Ex­tend­ing that ar­gu­ment, Bhag­wat wants those con­demn­ing lynch­ings to pipe down in the name of na­tional pride and so­cial har­mony. How­ever, lynch­ings un­der­mine both na­tional pride and so­cial har­mony. In to­day’s con­nected world one can­not ex­pect to sweep them un­der the car­pet, and adopt­ing am­bigu­ous po­si­tions on such a me­dieval prac­tice hurts In­dia’s global stand­ing. The “Asian values” ar­gu­ment, ac­cord­ing to which con­cepts such as democ­racy and hu­man rights ap­ply only to the West and not to Asian so­ci­eties, is cur­rently be­ing chal­lenged by Hong Kong’s brave pro­test­ers even as In­dia, an­other Asian coun­try, has prac­tised democ­racy for the last seven decades – in­deed that is what the free­dom fight­ers who brought the In­dian repub­lic into be­ing fought and some­times sac­ri­ficed their lives for.

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