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Monday Musings: Does India have an answer to mob violence?

We will continue to hurt ourselves and destroy our country by not bringing in a rule of law.

pune Updated: Aug 13, 2018 14:46 IST
Abhay Vaidya
Abhay Vaidya
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Monday musings,India
Protesters pelted stones at IDBI bank on FC road on August 9,2018 during the bandh for Maratha reservation. (RAVINDRA JOSHI/HT PHOTO )

Seventy-two years after Independence, one of India’s greatest failures is the absence of the rule of law. While we never tire of boasting of our greatness as a continuing civilization of more than 5,000 years, it is worth examining whether we have truly evolved - or degenerated - as a civilization.

Mob violence, which includes the spate of horrific lynchings in recent years, vandalism, damage and destruction of public and private properties, have become an accepted part of our political and social reality. There is nothing new about this as almost all political parties and aspiring political groups have indulged in this over the decades.

In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena grew in strength with its unabashed love for mob violence in the name of ‘thokshahi’ (muscle power). Its rebel offshoot, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, has been no different. The frequency of mob violence has certainly increased in recent weeks and months– be it the Bhima Koregaon clashes between Marathas and Dalits, the milk agitation in Maharashtra led by Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana or the Maratha protests for reservation quota, because the 2019 elections are on the horizon.

In previous ‘bandhs’ the protestors never barged into private offices and threatened employees with violence, thereby forcing them to pack-up for the day. That was new this time around. While the IT firm Persistent Systems has filed a police complaint, a few entrepreneurs and businessmen protested about this, especially on social media. One businessman who was forced to close his office in the latest ‘bandh’ wrote emotionally to his employees that he never asked their caste or religion while recruiting them. “We have only one caste and that is our loyalty to job at hand,” he said eloquently.

Our police force is unable to do much during all such bandhs and violent protests, largely because they can only use minimal force, and rightly so. What can they do if their political masters have decided to encourage or tolerate violence and vandalism for narrow political gains? One distinguished IPS officer who has cried hoarse for police reforms and even wrote a book on this, has left things to their own fate. Having served the nation to the best of his abilities, he is now content with playing tennis in the evenings and enjoying social outings in his years of retirement.

We will continue to hurt ourselves and destroy our country by not bringing in a rule of law. Western countries are superior to India because they have a firm rule of law. If someone breaks the law- be it the president of the United States, a billionaire businessman, or an ordinary citizen- they are punished. This is what is meant by the rule of law.

The most visible example of this is how everyone- including we Indians- respect traffic signals when we drive in Western countries. We don’t do the same in our own country because we know we can get away by breaking the law or bribing the police. What is the consequence of such uncivil and unlawful behaviour? India has the most indisciplined traffic and the highest number of road accidents in the world in which our own friends and family across age-groups, be it small children, college-going bikers or elderly pedestrians get killed. This is exactly what is replicated in its own ways in all segments of society.

This is the sad reality of India which ought to shake us out of our slumber.

abhay.vaidya@htlive.com

First Published: Aug 13, 2018 14:45 IST