June 26, 2017

India - Dangerous trend: From Ballabgarh to Srinagar, communal politics undermines personal and national security (Edit, TOI)

The Times of India, June 26, 2017


Dangerous trend: From Ballabgarh to Srinagar, communal politics undermines personal and national security

The most remarkable thing about the murder of a young 19-year-old and assault on family members out for some pre-Eid shopping is not that it took place on a railway train in Haryana’s Ballabgarh, only a few miles out of the national capital. It is that the perpetrators came up again with the ‘beef’ excuse, hoping this will swing the administration and public opinion their way.

What’s even more shocking is that the SHO of Government Railway Police at Ballabgarh has admitted they couldn’t rescue the youths, nonchalantly stating that “such things happen”. It’s clear from the sequence of events that the brothers were victims of a hate crime to which the police were bystanders. And there’s no denying that such crimes are taking place in an atmosphere of increasing communalisation and suggestions from BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders, starting from the Mohammad Akhlaq case, that beef lynchings are understandable and their perpetrators may have had some cause. The signal that goes out to lawless mobs and even policemen is that it is open season on minorities, and the mere imputation of carrying beef or being ‘anti-national’ is enough for mobs to run amok.

This trend is extremely dangerous for a diverse country like India. To check this, authorities must signal unambiguously they are on the victims’ side. Senior government functionaries should forthwith meet murder victim Junaid’s family and assure them that justice will be done. And they must be as good as their word by ensuring tough punishment for the perpetrators. Moreover, it’s also time to roll back dog-whistle communalism through such things as unjust food laws, or rules restricting cattle trade that end up hurting the whole economy.

Pursuing a religious agenda in politics not only undermines the security of the country, it also assists those pursuing a religious agenda in Kashmir. Mirroring the Ballabgarh incident insofar as communalisation leading to a breakdown of law and order is concerned is the ghastly lynching of a police officer, seen as a government agent, by a mob raising pro-Pakistan slogans outside Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid. The grim situation in Kashmir today is also the result of Valley politicians being sympathetic to the religious agenda of separatists. Both Ballabgarh and Srinagar show that communalism as a political tool comes with hefty collateral damage. Things will get much worse unless politicians wake up to this reality.