Mainstream, VOL LV No 15 New Delhi April 1, 2017
The Growing Lawlessness
Sunday 2 April 2017
After the elections in five States, the country has seen a disturbing trend of growing lawlessness. During the election campaign the charge against the Akhilesh Yadav Government was that under it Uttar Pradesh had become a lawless State—a goonda raj had been established. Those who brought this charge won the elections and are now in power. Under the new raj, slaughter houses, whether ‘legal’ or ‘illegal, have been targeted and forcibly closed down. A BJP MLA has publicly warned that he will break the legs of anyone ‘disrespecting’ and killing cows. The lawmaker has threatened to take law into his own hands and mete out summary justice. From Uttar Pradesh’s NOIDA have come reports of a spate of racial violence targeted against African students. This last at a time when Indians or people of Indian origin are being racially targeted in the US, Australia and New Zealand and we are protesting.
From Gujarat, reports of a communal riot at Vadavali, targeting Muslims, have come. The riot victims say that the mob came back three times in ever larger numbers to attack them. In West Bengal, two eminent poets, Srijato Bandypadhyaya and Mandakranta Sen, have been trolled for writing poems that lampooned the new UP Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath. Srijato has received death threats over the phone. An activist of an unknown organisation in north Bengal has filed an FIR with the police and the police have registered a case against him. The charge against the two poets is that they have ‘hurt Hindu sentiments’.
What is noticeable is that behind every such act of violence or threat of violence, it is the Hindutva forces which are at work. They believe that they are above the law. In fact, they are the law, unto themselves and the country. A Shiv Sena MP beats an Air India official with slippers, not once or twice but twentyfive times because he boarded a Pune-Delhi flight knowing fully well that the aircraft had only economy class seats but called the airlines a ‘cheat’ because they failed to give him a business class seat. He refused to disembark, holding up the onward flight of the aircraft. He has prided himself on his assault and, what is shocking, has gone scot-free. He has not been booked nor admonished by the Lok Sabha Speaker or the Ethics Committee. Instead he is now threatening to sue the airlines. His party, the Shiv Sena, has defiantly defended him and the ruling party, the BJP, has thought it wise not to criticise his outrageous behaviour which was nothing short of a criminal act. It is an indirect endorsement of something totally indefensible.
These are ominous signs for our democratic polity. If this trend continues and the forces behind it grow unopposed, then by the time the next Lok Sabha elections come two years from now, it will be impossible to hold free and fair elections. There will be no level-playing field for the democratic and secular forces vis-à-vis the Hindutva brigade. What is at stake now is the survival of the country as we have known it and made it since independence. The challenge facing the nation is not merely electoral. It is a challenge to all our values and beliefs and ideals. The nature and magnitude of the challenge has to be realised by all those who are against the forces of the Hindutva brand of communal fascism and the need for standing together. Without standing together and acting together, it will not be possible to stop the growing lawlessness slipping into an organised anarchy.
April 30 B.D.G.