Creating trouble before elections has so common in Indian politics to bear repetition. And with the UP elections less than a year away, the sangh parivar is gently tapping into a boiling cauldron that could, if not acted upon, flare up into a Muzaffarnagar kind of situation of 2013. Last year, after Mohammed Ikhlaq, a resident of Dadri in Greater Noida, was killed on suspicion of storing beef at home, some local MLAs and MPs of the BJP, the ruling party at the Centre, were caught in a cleft stick. Some of them grudgingly condemned the murder while maintaining that Ikhlaq and his family had indeed erred by ‘keeping beef’ at home. They had been stumped into silence when the UP veterinary department had said the meat was mutton and not beef. Now that another report has contradicted the earlier one and said it was beef, the sangh parivar has pounced on the issue with the clear intention of fomenting trouble. A panchayat was held on Monday, and there it was demanded that the murder charge be dropped against those involved in the killing and the police book Ikhlaq’s family. The family has, however, contested the report.
Several things stand out here. Those holding the mahapanchayat did not have any comment to make on the murder. Obviously they believe in some kind of mob justice and that people can take the law into their own hands when they perceive some wrongdoing has taken place. Far be it from those holding the mahapanchayat to even imagine that no person can be deprived of his life or liberty except in accordance with the process laid down by law. A similar atmosphere was sought to be created when rationalists such as Govind Pansare had been killed. Some people, mostly of sangh parivar persuasion, had justified the killings and it had been bandied about that the rationalist thinkers had been done in by their own follies. In the Dadri case, if the Ikhlaq family had been suspected of any wrongdoing, the correct thing for those whose sensitivities were hurt would have been to report the matter to the police. Instead of doing that, they are asking the police to do what they feel should be done.
The UP government must act immediately. Already it has had to face a lot of flak over the Mathura incident, where the local administration could not foresee that a sect comprising squatters could take to violence in the manner it did. Now it should enforce prohibitory orders more firmly in Dadri, particularly so after they were violated by the panchayat, and see to it that no violence takes place.