From Romeos to Gau Rakshaks, violence a normal act

July 02, 2017 03:55 PM

Pankaj Butalia*

Three years after he became Prime Minister, Modi made his second statement against the vigilante violence unleashed by cow hoodlums in different parts of the coun try. The speech, welcome though it was, lacked conviction primarily because Modi heads a government in which ministers have openly lauded such `gau rakshaks', and given them state financial assistance.Just a week ago, home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said hate crime was not new in India and that the only thing new was its over-reporting. This kind of casual dismissal of targeted brutality over the past three years flies in the face of the Prime Minister's claim to have finally taken a stand against such crimes.

Meanwhile, the Parishads, the Dals, the Vahinis, the Senas, the moustached Generals, the Romeo Squads and, of course, the Gau Rakshaks wait their turn. They need to be noticed. They need to be upgraded when the next opportunity arises.

Now what neither the Prime Minister nor Mehrishi will acknowledge is that hatred in human beings needs only a small trigger to turn violent -and the most effective violence is often self righteous. So all the provocateur needs to do is provide a platform -it could be the train in 2002 or the cow in 2014. Once set in motion the instigator can easily disown his role in the affair.

A casual look at the emergence of new leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party over the past three decades reveals that violence has been the most effective stepping stone for many of them. There seems to be a pattern here whereby violence against disadvantaged groups, normally minorities, helps bring the individual to the notice of the party . Once the goal is achieved, overt violence is renounced by the individual and we start to see the individual as a `normal politician'. The violence doesn't end, however. It just gets outsourced to those lower in the hierarchy .

Pankaj Butalia, Film maker

During the Babri Masjid agitation in the early nineties, a few of its more impatient leaders like L K Advani, Uma Bharti and M M Joshi stepped outside the boundaries of the law. Unfortunately for Advani the tag of aggressive Hindutva stuck to him and cost him the prime ministership. Advani, Joshi and others then decided to become `moderates' or `elder statesmen' to be more acceptable in an era of coalition politics. Today, we do not see Advani as an aggressive politician -just as a gentle old man who wouldn't hurt a fly .

In 2002 this mantle of leadership through violence was taken up by the broad-shouldered Narendra Modi. By then he was a state chief minister and answerable to no one. He didn't seem to have national ambitions and didn't really care what the world thought of him as long as his core, aggressively Hindu-centric community didn't desert him.This changed once large corporate houses decided to back him as a `development man' in 2011-12. Today , Modi is a statesman, above violence, and a man with a vision for the country . His image has a makeover. All violence is normalised.

However, those who stood by him this entire period are still around and violence initiated for electoral purposes still pays dividends. This makes Modi a willing prisoner of his past, in which he cannot even bring himself to say that the rapes and killings that took place in Gujarat 2002 were criminal acts and all those involved in such crimes should get the harshest punishment.

In 2013, a year before the general elections, Muzaffarnagar in UP became the keg that was lit. Rich dividends came the way of BJP's Sangeet Singh Som, Sanjeev Baliyan, Suresh Rana, Virender Singh, who were rewarded with political posts including ministerial ones once the party came to power in 2014. As these gentlemen acquired respectability, on the sidelines appeared people like Sakshi Maharaj and Yogi Adityanath -spewing hatred against minorities. They were next in line, and having done their bit, clamouring for promotion.

In 2017, Yogi Adityanath was made UP chief minister. The first month of Adityanath's rule was a period of terror for the minorities with his outfits like Romeo Squads and Hindu Yuva Vahini running amok. Yet, a few months later, the process of normalisation was on, and the media was full of celebration of a hundred days of his rule. The process of Adityanath's gentrification had begun.

Meanwhile, the Parishads, the Dals, the Vahinis, the Senas, the moustached Generals, the Romeo Squads and, of course, the Gau Rakshaks wait their turn. They need to be noticed. They need to be upgraded when the next opportunity arises.Who can ask them to hold back and not partake of a model that assures success? They are savvy enough to know the Prime Minister has to make occasional noises every now and then. They will ride this out as did `their fathers before them'.

*Butalia is a Delhi-based filmmaker who recently initiated an online petition, No lynch mobs, please


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