PM should assert himself

A day after civil society came out on the streets across India to register its protest against lynching and targeting the minorities and dalits, the Prime Minister gave an impassionate speech at Mahatma Gandhdi’s Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, condemning lynching and warning gau rakshaks that nobody would be allowed to take the law in their own hands in the name of cow protection. He had made such speeches earlier also but these had had no effect on the cow vigilantes. The same day that the PM made his speech, a man was lynched in Jharkhand.  The mindset of the vigilante groups has not changed and is not likely to change, the Prime Minister’s fervent appeal notwithstanding.
Mere words will not do. What is required – and required urgently – is action, strong and exemplary action against the wrong-doers – action that is visible to fringe elements and the people alike. Once people come to believe that the self-appointed gau rakshaks do not enjoy official patronage, they will get the courage to oppose those who are doing this outrage. Modi’s Sabarmati speech does not seem to have gone well with the zealots. The Jharkhand lynching shows that no appeal from even the highest of the land is going to change the mindset of the bigoted and the fanatic.
The root of the problem goes much deeper. Someone who has been indoctrinated in an ideology of hatred and intolerance in the formative years of his life cannot unlearn what he has learnt. His mind is not a tabula rasa on which new ideas and ideologies can be imprinted. They cannot change. But the State and the society have to prevent him from wrongdoing and ‘taking the law in his own hands.’  These elements will remain unresponsive to any appeal, even if it comes from the highest of the land. The Jharkhand lynching has shown that the Prime Minister’s appeal, like those he made earlier, has fallen on deaf ears. Now the State will have to act and act decisively so that no one is left in any doubt that the Government means business.

Tuesday, 4 July, 2017