‘Moo’ over peo­ple, In­dian politi­cians care for cows

Khaleej Times - - NATION - Monobina Gupta gau rak­sha —thewire.in

His­tory came full cir­cle this Mon­day. Three years af­ter Mo­ham­mad Akhlaq was lynched by a mob on the sus­pi­cion of pos­sess­ing beef, Su­bodh Ku­mar Singh, the po­lice of­fi­cer in­ves­ti­gat­ing that case died a vi­o­lent death ear­lier this week. Like Akhlaq, Singh too was killed in a clash trig­gered by a mob protest­ing cow slaugh­ter. Though sep­a­rated by time, the two nar­ra­tives are lo­cated in the same state, Ut­tar Pradesh. They are also tied to the com­mon and now nor­malised mob frenzy over the mere sus­pi­cion of cow slaugh­ter or pos­sess­ing and con­sum­ing beef. More­over, these nar­ra­tives are bound by the de­struc­tive agency ru­mours have come to pos­sess. The power they have come to wield over our ev­ery­day lives.

There is, of course, an over­rid­ing ques­tion of the rule of law. Is In­dia com­mit­ted to pre­serv­ing and im­ple­ment­ing the rule of law? It may be ar­gued that Ut­tar Pradesh, which has a che­quered his­tory in this as­pect, has fur­ther slipped on this in­dex since Yogi Adityanath’s as­cen­dancy to power. But even prior to that, a cul­ture of lynch­ings was rapidly gain­ing pop­u­lar le­git­i­macy.

On the night of Septem­ber 28, 2015, a mob barged into Akhlaq’s home in Dadri and ac­cused his fam­ily of con­sum­ing beef. The in­censed crowd dragged the fam­ily out­side, beat Akhlaq and his son Dan­ish. By the time the po­lice ar­rived at the scene, Akhlaq was dead, his son badly in­jured.

Three years on, this Mon­day, a po­lice sta­tion in Bu­land­shahr be­came the site of yet an­other mob frenzy. Re­ports said peo­ple showed up in trac­tors car­ry­ing what they claimed were cow car­casses. De­mand­ing im­me­di­ate ac­tion, the mob started torch­ing cars and at­tack­ing po­lice­men. Sta­tion house of­fi­cer Su­bodh Ku­mar, first in­jured, was later fa­tally at­tacked as he was be­ing taken to a hos­pi­tal.

As we await poll re­sults in five states and move to­wards the gen­eral elec­tions next year, there are few in­di­ca­tions to re­as­sure us that such vi­o­lence will come to an end. There seems to be a sin­gu­lar lack of will on the part of the po­lit­i­cal class to squarely con­front nor­malised vi­o­lence. One of the pri­mary rea­sons be­hind such ap­a­thy is the cyn­i­cal logic of win­ning elec­tions.

Un­for­tu­nately, elec­toral com­pul­sions tend to sit un­easily with po­lit­i­cal ethics. That has al­ways been the case. But sel­dom be­fore has the cri­sis of con­fi­dence among marginalised and mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties been so acute. Sel­dom be­fore has the need to re­as­sure these com­mu­ni­ties been so ur­gent. But if the rhetoric and con­tent of the op­po­si­tion’s re­cent poll cam­paign is any­thing to go by, noth­ing much will hap­pen.

For in­stance, the main op­po­si­tion — Congress, while cam­paign­ing in Ra­jasthan, has kept mum on the spate of lynch­ings and ris­ing vi­o­lence the state has wit­nessed re­cently. The party has, in­stead, chosen to frame a cul­ture of vi­o­lence as one of rou­tine crime or vi­o­la­tion of law and or­der.

Re­mem­ber that this is the state where Pehlu Khan, Rak­bar Khan, and Umar Khan were mur­dered by cow vig­i­lantes last year. But the Congress does not even men­tion their names.

Do po­lit­i­cal ethics have no place in elec­tions? Some would ar­gue eth­i­cal com­pro­mises are part of a strat­egy for achiev­ing a larger goal — de­feat­ing the BJP, for in­stance. The Congress could jus­tify tip­toe­ing around cow vig­i­lan­tism and the many bouts of vi­o­lence that have con­vulsed Ra­jasthan on these grounds.

The party may ar­gue that men­tion­ing Pehlu Khan is tan­ta­mount to los­ing the support of the Ya­davs and giv­ing BJP a stick to beat the op­po­si­tion with. That may well be true. But such strate­gic cal­cu­la­tions — which don’t ap­pear to be help­ing the party win elec­tions any­way — do not dis­pense with the eth­i­cal ques­tion.

The op­po­si­tion’s ar­gu­ment feeds into the very pol­i­tics the Congress claims to fight. A pri­mary plank of the Sangh pari­var’s pol­i­tics, chan­nelled through many state-based com­mit­tees and the Vishwa Hindu Par­ishad, has been rooted in anti-cow slaugh­ter ac­tiv­i­ties. Since 2014, the ac­tiv­i­ties of such or­gan­i­sa­tions have spi­ralled and taken vi­o­lent forms. Their cam­paign has grown shriller.

By skirt­ing the issue, the Congress, even if it wins Ra­jasthan, would once again have failed to con­front the cul­ture pro­moted by the Sangh. It may even be ar­gued the Congress, in that sense, is col­lud­ing — even if in­di­rectly

The nar­ra­tive of vi­o­lence left un­touched, there is lit­tle hope of chang­ing ground re­al­i­ties. The only thing that may change is the rul­ing party

— in per­pet­u­at­ing vi­o­lence; in not as­sur­ing mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties safety. On the other hand, the party, in­clud­ing Congress pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi, in a bid to ap­pro­pri­ate the man­tle of the “good Hindu,” is go­ing all out vis­it­ing tem­ples and per­form­ing pu­jas.

The nar­ra­tive of vi­o­lence left un­touched, there is lit­tle hope of chang­ing ground re­al­i­ties. The only thing that may change is the rul­ing party. Or­di­nary citizens, es­pe­cially from tar­geted com­mu­ni­ties, will con­tinue to live un­der a shadow of un­cer­tainty and fear.

Chang­ing the re­al­ity on the ground is un­doubt­edly not easy. But elec­tions are just one form of democ­racy. Po­lit­i­cal par­ties, es­pe­cially those who claim to be on the side of mi­nori­ties, are yet to be­gin fight­ing the hard and long po­lit­i­cal fight. The fight which, if fought with con­vic­tion and con­sis­tency, may re­deem our present state of af­fairs.

It is un­de­ni­able that this fight hinges on is­sues of so­cial jus­tice his­tor­i­cally de­nied to all un­der­priv­i­leged and mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties. Pledg­ing to build more roads, bridges and im­prov­ing con­nec­tiv­ity does not ad­dress such is­sues. But no one on the po­lit­i­cal land­scape seems to have the courage to make these, more dif­fi­cult, prom­ises.

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