Despite PM's Words, Mob Lynchings Will Not Stop

Published: July 03, 2017 12:23 IST
While reading Swapan Dasgupta's column in The Times of India, I took in his contempt for the #NotInMyName protest and protesters. He has an argument which I find silly and bizarre. I admire him for the fact that he was one of the very few intellectuals who never hid his ideological affinity to the Hindutva brand of interculturalism. He openly sided with them when it was not fashionable in Delhi's power circle. He is learned and delves cleverly into the well of history, but at times, when he tries to justify the unjustifiable, he looks like a pale image of himself. In those moments, with no disrespect to him, he reminds me of a few characters in Nazi history who have been dubbed "Intellectual Gangsters" by William Shirer, the iconic writer who wrote the classic, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

Shirer talks about one Hans Frank who was appointed the Governor General of vanquished Poland. According to Shirer, Frank was "Nimble minded, energetic, well read not only in law but in general literature, devoted to the arts specially music... A dark, dapper, bouncy fellow, father of five children, his intelligence and cultivation partly offset his primitive fanaticism...behind the civilized veneer of the man lay the cold killer". I am certainly not comparing Swapan with Hans Frank who was given the responsibility of the house-cleaning of Jews, intelligentsia and clergy, and what he did in Poland is recorded in history to be read and not to be repeated by the future regimes; what fascinates me is the duality of the character - the great intellectual mind combined with a rabid ruthlessness and fanatic conviction for ideology.

Today, Swapan is not alone in contempt for those who assembled at Jantar Mantar to raise their voice against the inhuman killings of minorities in the name of cow protection. The immediate provocation for the #NotInMyName protests was the death of Junaid, who along with his brother, was so brutally thrashed on a train that he died. And the excuse was that he was carrying beef. This was not the first such incident. In the last three years, there have been 34 such attacks on minorities and 24 people have been killed. Akhlaq from Dadri was the first such victim. Even non-minorities are being targeted. The brutal beating of Dalits in Una on camera was one such incident. Prime Minister Modi spoke against these in Sabarmati last week. He also spoke against mob attacks when Akhlaq was killed, but only after ten days. And there is no stopping cow protectors - on the very day that the Prime Minister spoke, a man was killed in Jharkhand for allegedly carrying beef in his van, which was set on fire. I am convinced that that these killings won't stop, they will recur at different intervals and will occur in some other forms also - like how an NDTV staffer was treated by adherents of Hindutva.

It has to be understood that this is not a simple law and order issue. Neither are these simple criminal acts. They are the product of a much deeper malaise. These are ideological killings. The reason for the killing of Akhlaq, Junaid and Alimuddin was not personal enmity, or that a fight broke out between two groups, resulting in murder. Those who killed them were convinced that these men were the enemies of Hindutva and such religious enemies are meant to be annihilated. History is full of such references. Communist history has invented the term "class enemy" - in the name of class enemy, millions of people were liquidated and those who did so had no shame or remorse whatsoever. Nazi and Fascist literature is also full of such details.

In contemporary history, the examples of Radical Islam or Jehadi Islam are also before us. It is unthinkable how Al -Qaeda and ISIS have perfected the art of killing innocent people whom they identified as their enemies. In such killings, these Islamists get vicarious pleasure. They are convinced that it has to be done for the larger normative goal. It is also true that most of the them are foot soldiers and not well-read, but they have been inculcated with the idea by their intellectual mentors and ideological demi-Gods whose words are their last refuge for salvation and who have propelled them to live in a hallucinatory world - a dream world, an ideal world of their imagination. These perpetrators are convinced that such acts have to be carried out to create that perfect world. It is in the search for the perfect world that young radicalized Muslims are carrying out suicide attacks with such regularity. Laying one's life is the supreme sacrifice. They are doing it because they have been brain washed. The killings will stop if the brain-washing of foot soldiers is stopped. Brain-washing is done not by ordinary men or women, but highly-qualified and motivated individuals. Unless these men or women are stopped, the process of "liquidation" won't come to a halt.

Ideology provides the justification and also contempt for enemies of the ideology. In India, the process was started long ago. Slowly but surely, this process captured the mind space of millions of ordinary men and women. As long as the "counter ideology" was stronger than this, the "ideology and process" was rendered weak, it lacked the legitimacy and credibility that would give it all-India acceptability. But with the demise of the counter-ideological umbrella, these forces marched forward, filled the void and occupied the dominant position. When ideology captures the political power, it becomes omnipotent, because it is now the state. It is the responsibility of the state to fight crime and its perpetrators, but if the state itself is the source and perpetrator, then who will protect the citizens and how will citizens attains justice?

Therefore, I am not surprised when Akhlaq's family was also booked for eating so-called beef. His family is living in terror. The killers are belligerent and issuing threats and the state is not taking any action. It is fear of the state that meant not a single soul on the crowded platform where Junaid was killed is willing to come forth as a witness to his murder. It is the fear of the state that meant that in Una, Dalits were beaten in front of the police and they themselves provided the batons for the atrocity. It is the fear of the state that allows BJP leaders to barge into police thaanas, beat up police officers and free their colleagues in UP ever since Yogi took over as Chief Minister. It is the fear of the state that allows a police officer like Shrestha Thakur to be transferred for doing her duty and and has SSP Love Kumar crying for help when his residence is raided by lumpen elements. It is the fear of the state that turned many witnesses hostile in Gujarat in riot-related violence and allowed the accused to roam free.

Even if the perpetrators are arrested and jailed under public pressure, I see no bright light at the end of the tunnel. The process will stop only when the "ideology" is challenged in a more cohesive manner with the same killer instinct and a more robust counter-narrative is built to rid people of the web of infinite intrigues and columnists like Swapan Dasgupta are made aware of the frailty of their ideological position and intellectual contempt.

(Ashutosh joined the Aam Aadmi Party in January 2014.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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