This is one issue on which it is absolutely imperative that the message comes from the highest quarter. And it has come once again from the Prime Minister, who has categorically talked about our multicultural nation and spectacular diversity being our pride. Using his Mann ki Baat address, he has reiterated that the building blocks of development are peace, amity and unity. This political will to not allow divisive forces to take over has found a welcome echo in the words of chief justice of India HL Dattu, who has said that the courts will be very tough on those chargesheeted for hate crimes.
The fight against sectarian forces can best be won by a strong government backed by a forceful law and order machinery. This, coupled with the stern remarks by the home minister to colleagues who have a penchant to create controversies over hate crimes, is a sign that those who hope to create problems under the guise of religious sentiment are going to be severely challenged. The law must come down harshly on those engaged in crimes of the sort that took place in Dadri. But it should be equally stern with the law enforcers who make excuses not to carry out their duties. We have heard countless stories of the police arriving too late on the scene of communal violence or not filing cases in time, or ignoring the issue as a social problem. Many of these incidents of communal tension and violence could have been minimised if not prevented had the police done their duty. In fact, if the police had moved swiftly against hate speeches, those on the fringes will think twice before making their appalling utterances.
In the past, certain political leaders have got away with their divisive rhetoric by threatening that action against them would inflame passions. None of this must be tolerated. The police and other law enforcers have to be made much more accountable than they are now. The CJI’s words will give a fillip to state governments to push ahead with cases against miscreants in the event of the police having filed chargesheets against them. This also sends a message to the judicial system itself where the prosecution of such crimes often gets endlessly delayed and the accused walk free. It is not just the case of India’s image being undermined in the world. Such crimes give those targeted a sense of deep fear and vulnerability. That this cannot happen is what the prime minister and chief justice have underscored.