Bengaluru’s dark night | HT Editorial
Punish the culprits, battle extremism, establish rule of lawUpdated: Aug 13, 2020 18:39 IST
In Bengaluru, on Tuesday night, a Muslim mob, after taking offence to a social media post, attacked two police stations, vandalised the residence of a Congress legislator (the post was from his nephew’s account), damaged vehicles, smashed an ATM machine, and created a climate of fear in the northeastern part of the city. The police — after repeated attempts to calm the crowd, through persuasion and mediation by community elders, failed — resorted to lathi-charge and finally opened gunfire. Three protesters were killed. 100 people, including 60 police personnel, were also injured.
The incident was unacceptable at many levels. Even if the post was offensive — and there is a discussion to be had on free speech and how, under the garb of community sentiments, free speech in India has often got curtailed — there was a legal process that was being followed. A complaint had been filed, an FIR registered, and the law would have taken its own course. But members of the mob, many of them allegedly from radical outfits such as the Popular Front of India and Social Democratic Party of India, decided to coerce the police and take the law into their own hands. The fact that they attacked symbols of the State, caused the destruction of public and private property, and their actions eventually led to the loss of lives and injuries merits the strongest condemnation. All those who participated in the vandalism and violence must be punished. If there was a larger conspiracy — as indicated by sections of the government — state authorities must get to the bottom of it.
The episode also points to a larger crisis. One, religious extremism, by its very nature, is often undemocratic, causes social tensions, and promotes vigilantism in defiance of the rule of law. There is, undoubtedly, majoritarian extremism — and this has been visible over the past few years. But just as this is dangerous, so is the extremism of minority groups. And just as the Hindu community, at large, must resist extremism, the Muslim community, at large, must treat Bengaluru as a wake-up call and battle any such extremism within. Two, the episode shows how fragile the rule of law is in India. An overwhelming majority of India’s citizens — both Hindus and Muslims — want to live in peace and harmony; they abide by the Constitution, respect each other’s sensitivities, and follow the law. But Bengaluru is a sign that fringe segments of society can, if they wish, upset this equilibrium with ease. The State must assert its authority and not let this happen again.