Nothing can be more deplorable for a democracy, than non-state actors acting supreme over the law. At least in a country like India, the world’s largest democracy where the “rule of law” remains predominant. The very nature of law, to deter and keep hooligans uncomfortable, is the basis of prevailing social harmony. It is the co- existence of legislature, executive and judiciary and their exertion of power, which ensures a law-abiding atmosphere within the country. Any breach of law is subjected to punishment, thus leaving no room for acts like “lynching” and “moral policing”.
But India, despite possessing rule of law, moral policing is practiced to an extent of committing assault and violence. Certain self- proclaimed custodians of society define the principles of morality and ethics, and fiercely try to impose it upon others. It appears as if righteousness is solely known to them, while rest being alien. Legitimate vs illegitimate is what they perpetually seek to differentiate for. What doesn’t suit their narrative is illicit. Such “hooligans” and “vigilantes” are visible on Valentine’s day, assaulting young dating couples, claiming it to be against our “Dharma”and “Sanskriti”. What’s more astonishing is their fearlessness to facing legal consequences, which is evident from the recurrence of such act. Certainly, either the law or the police seems incompetent to curb such moral policing.
Well this was just a matter of “once in a bloom moon” prior BJP assumed power and acquired negligible columns in newspapers. But since BJP assumed power, moral policing and lynching has become a trend. A sudden elevation in aggression by vigilantes, in the name of “cow protection” and “love jihaad”, alleged to affiliated to saffron organisations has triggered a fierce debate among masses. From personal preferences like preferred meal to consensual sex, all seems to have be victimized by their aggression. One can assume the gravity of the situation when the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi himself raised concern stating that “These gau rakshaks are hell bent of destroying the society and are disturbed by the unity of India. These people, in the name of gau rakhsha, are trying to create conflict in the society,"
He further added that “I ask the state governments to protect our people. The cow protection which Mahatma Gandhi used to talk about cannot be wrong. But these fake gau rakshaks are not concerned about cows,"
One can anticipate that with what courage, did Modi spoke, keeping his Hindutva image aside and being well acknowledged by the problematic consequences, which he could face, in aftermath of his speech. The anticipation turned into reality when RSS issued a statement saying, “PM Narendra Modi’s remark that 80 per cent gau rakshaks are fake could have been avoided”.
Well moral policing has always been the “bone of contention” in India, but the matter became prominent only after the 2015 infamous “Dadri mob lynching” in which the mob of Villagers attacked the home of a Muslim man Ikhlaq Mohammed, who they suspected of stealing and slaughtering of cow. It is post this incident when the term “intolerance”, came into being, making BJP notorious for inciting violence. The lynching witnessed a robust discontentment and condemnation by opposition parties and several eminent personalities. The question that emerged was, how could be the life of an animal more precious than that of a human?
Despite strong disapproval, such acts have occurred time and again challenging the supremacy of law. The opposition parties have alleged BJP to provide patronage to such groups, claiming both to be working hand in glove together.
The recent Alwar lynching over cow protection, disruption of church prayers in Maharajganj accusing forced religious conversion and assault on couples in Meerut over suspicion of love jihaad are surfeit examples to estimate the amount of liberty being enjoyed by such anti-social elements, under BJP regime.
So what exactly is the motivating factor behind such incidents?
Yogi Adityanath was deemed as one of the most controversial figures notorious for giving hate speech and inciting violence. His qualifications were precise to make him fit in “ultra-rightist” category. Yet he was always appealing to hardcore “Hindu nationalists” through his rhetoric, but assuming him as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh was inconceivable. A single spark, could expediently ignite the communal tension within the state, which recently recovered from Muzaffarnagar injuries. Thus, when Yogi was sworn in as Chief Minister, it was an utter shock for many.
What’s more interesting is that Yogi Adityanath himself is the founding member of “Hindu Yuva Vahini” which is accused of committing assault and violence. So, when their teacher itself has become chief minister, nothing more needs to be said. It appears as if the hooligans have been unleashed, with free to do anything.
When the CM announced the constitution of anti-romeo squad, there was certain fear of moral policing, though CM constantly disowned any such assumptions. Now when the fear has assumed reality, CMs official statement is awaited. Would he denounce such act of violence whose probability he kept denying? Does the silence of CM not encourage recurrence of such acts?
It is essential to understand that a country is governed by a democratically elected government and its constitution. The constitution of India mandates that law and order is the subject matter of state, therefore the bulk of policing lies with the respective states and territories. There is no space for civilians to take law in their hands, unless done for self-defence. People elect government which ensures every citizen their fundamental as well as human rights. Law enforcement or policing is not the task of groups like Bajrang Dal, Vishv Hindu Parishad, or any other, who don’t carry any constitutional validity.
The achievements of BJP become diminished by such acts of hooliganism and vigilantism done in the name saffron nationalism. The biggest challenge for BJP would be to restrain the ultra-rightist lobby from becoming dominant over the law. It is also essential to understand that such self-proclaimed custodians of nation, society and religion, pose a sever threat to any democracy as their interference is ever expanding to an extent of assault and violence. It’s high time when BJP should take necessary steps to bar such lynching, moral policing and hooliganism. Taking extreme caution becomes even more important in Uttar Pradesh, considering its size and diversity and controversies associated with Yodi Adityanath prior to assuming power.