Naseeruddin Shah, one of India's finest actors, had in a most moving interview to Karwan-e-Mohabbat, referencing his inter-faith marriage, family and concerns for his children, expressed his anguish at a situation, like in Bulandshahr, where the "death of a cow has more significance than that of a police officer."
He said he spoke as a worried Indian. Well, he is not the only worried Indian. We are and should all be worried that things have come to such a pass that no one can express an opinion against the toxic politics of hate promoted by those in power without running the risk of being attacked and humiliated by them. The organizers of an event in Ajmer which was to be inaugurated by Shah on Friday decided to cancel it after members of the BJP Yuva Morcha and other groups tore down posters, vandalized the stage and reportedly threatened further violence.
These highly condemnable actions show the levels of impunity enjoyed by thugs and hooligans owing allegiance to the ideology of the Sangh Parivar. Under the Vasundhara government, as in other BJP-ruled states, those spouting hate speech and committing hate crimes have had a free run with not a single case registered for even the most communally provocative speeches. After the lynching of Pehlu Khan and later Rakbar Khan by the same breed of people who killed a police officer in Bulandshahr, Vasundhara Raje had in an interview during the election campaign sanitized the brutal and communal lynchings by referring to them as a law and order issue like any other. Concealing the specifically communal nature of a crime in a sense "normalizes" the kind of hate crimes that have become a hallmark of the rule of the current BJP governments.
The communal politics around the cow are a central theme along with the Ram temple in the agenda being pushed by the Hindutva forces. This includes the highly perverted argument that any violence committed in the name of cow protection is acceptable. The main accused in the Bulandshahr violence, a leading member of the Bajrang Dal, Yogesh Raj is still not arrested, while an FIR filed by him saw innocent Muslims locked up for cow slaughter. There are reports by journalists that Muslim houses are being raided and there is an environment of fear being created in the name of identifying cow slaughterers. The Special Investigation Team or SIT formed by the Yogi government has been unable to answer any questions as to who was responsible for the display of cattle carcasses which were conveniently discovered by members of the Sangh Parivar groups and how the only eye witness to the so-called slaughter of the cows was the very same man, Yogesh Raj, who reportedly led the mob violence that saw the policeman, Subodh Kumar Singh, being killed. It is quite likely that the entire incident was manufactured by a political conspiracy of the right wing groups to coincide with the large gathering of minority communities in the Ijetama in the region.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has said that his main priority is to identify those "directly or indirectly linked to cow slaughter"; by inference, who killed the police officer is low or no priority. Such statements give license and a cloak of political patronage to Sangh Parivar cohorts across the country to act in similar ways.
And those who even raise a question mark on this kind of toxic politics are targeted.
Naseeruddin Shah became an easy target.
But Vasundhara Raje is no longer the Chief Minister and Rajasthan is now governed by the Congress. The newly-elected Gehlot government had and still has an opportunity to show how it is different by taking suo moto notice and arresting those responsible. There is ample evidence of the identity of the men who attacked the venue. Shamefully, the attacks took place in full view of the police who stood by watching. Perhaps this is what they had been ordered to do in the past, to protect the saffron brigade when they indulged in violence. But surely the Gehlot government should have taken firm steps to send a strong message that this type of communal politics, violence and intimidation will not be tolerated.
While the official handle of the Congress party at the centre tweeted support for Shah, there has been no follow up in the state where the incident occurred and where they are running the government. Even 24 hours after the shameful incident, there has not been a single word of condemnation by any Congress minister or leader in Rajasthan. No case has been filed, there has not been a single arrest. No policeman is being questioned for their lack of action in what appears to be a clear case of connivance. It is a disappointing start.
Brinda Karat is a Politburo member of the CPI(M) and a former Member of the Rajya Sabha.
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