Vigilantism in India can be defined by the 3 events namely Babri Masjid demolition, ‘Love-Jihad’ and cow vigilantism attacks. The most historic event to the recent cow vigilantism shows how vigilantism has been normalized. Today, these incidents are on such a rise that even if we hear of someone being assaulted or killed by the cow vigilantes, it does not come as a shock. While all these incidents did have a significant role of the government, but in the past, it was subtle whereas now it’s out there in the open.
Below is an analysis of these 3 different events and how the role of the government has changed since then:
BEHIND THE SCENES
The historic Babri Masjid demolition is an example of how the government pull the strings behind the scenes and enjoy the unfortunate mishaps which take place. So, here is what happened. In the year 1992, the historic Babri mosque was razed by thousands of right-wing ‘Karsevaks’ claiming that the mosque was built after demolishing Lord Ram’s temple. It is claimed that a hate speech delivered by L.K. Advani, just a few minutes before the demolition is what charged and triggered these volunteers. Thus, making it look like a spontaneous and an unplanned act of violence. But, every story has 2 sides to it. So does this.
As per experts, it was a well-planned conspiracy to demolish the Masjid. Maloy Dhar, a former director at Intelligence Bureau, is of the opinion that this entire incident, which was made to look like it was not planned, was actually planned months back secretly by the BJP, RSS and VHP. Further, as per a sting operation carried out by the Cobrapost reveals that the destruction was planned and rehearsed well in advance. As per their investigation, the Bajrang Dal was largely involved in imparting training to the volunteers – like climbing taller structures with the help of ropes and hooks. And of course, the special equipment for razing down the mosque just dint land up like that. Weapons like petrol bombs, heavy duty hammer, axes were arranged for in good numbers to bring down the mosque. Further, all the Karsevaks had arrived the city of Ayodhya approximately 2 weeks before the demolition and were provided with all the necessary assistance like food, electricity and water by the state administration (Kalyan Singh – then CM of UP).
BEHIND THE SQUADS
Back in the 1990s, we saw during the Babri mosque demolition, the government was secretly involved in the act of vigilantism. But now, it seems they are forming squads and groups who work under them and carry out violence in the name of delivering justice.
Take the love jihad campaign in Uttar Pradesh. The campaign started by the UP CM, Yogi Aditya Nath, with the aim to create awareness among Hindi girls (non-Muslims) to be wary of Muslim boys who are likely to forcibly convert them into Muslims. To achieve this objective, the government started groups like ‘Anti-Romeo’, Hindu Yuva Vahini and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, charged with the responsibility of spotting such couples and protecting the girls from forced conversion. And this is not limited to public places, it also included entering people’s home and invading their privacy. In the BJP run states like Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, there is official support of the government to such groups who in name of ‘women safety’ are harassing young couples. For instance, in Lucknow, a 20-year-old man was detained in the police station for half an hour because he was traveling with a woman in an auto rickshaw.
Although, groups like these have official backing, but is it legally backed by any law or the Constitution?
Well, while love jihad is a real issue, but that does not mean every girl and boy have to be made a target of it and harassed. This definitely is invading their privacy and right to live a life with dignity. Further, a citizen has the right to love and marry a person of their own choice and to propagate any religion. Both, which seem to be broken as a part of the Yogi’s objective to end love jihad. The love jihad took an extreme turn when the Kerala High Court annulled the marriage of Hadiya (A Hindu who converted to Muslim) against her wishes. In this case, she chose to convert to Islam at her own will and was purely motivated by religion and not by the love affair. This verdict was further questioned by the Supreme Court as well.
BEHIND THE LAWS
With the nationwide beef ban, the government not only made it offensive for anyone who indulged in cow slaughter, but also in a way gave a legal license to the various vigilante groups to carry out violence as long as it involved protection of the cow.
Currently, 24 out of 29 states have various regulations prohibiting either the slaughter or sale of cows. This new rule could hurt the minorities like Muslims, Christians and Dalits who consume and depend on beef as their livelihood. Cow vigilantes or ‘gau rakshaks‘ are unidentified groups who upheld this law and carried out violence, lynching and murders against these minorities based on a mere suspicion.
As per a study by IndiaSpend, 97% of the attacks by the cow vigilantes have taken place during Narendra Modi’s rule. But when it comes to responding to the crimes undertaken by these unidentified vigilantes, the government has taken the easy way out by maintaining silence over this issue. This was quite evident when our PM choose to talk about toilets, yoga, sports etc on Mann Ki Bat, but not a mention about the recent incident which involved stabbing a 15-year-old before Eid. Nor did he find it important to communicate about the existence of the cow vigilantes groups which are allied with the BJP or the RSS. And while out tech-savvy PM is quick to tweet about almost anything happening around the world, cow-related violence did not elicit a single tweet.
There are high changes his silence and lack of concrete action on this issue can send a signal of his approval over the violence. As stated by the Supreme Court, it was due to lack of responsibility and accountability shown by the Center and the State administration, that the cow vigilantes have created havoc in the country.