Written by Rakesh Kotti
The latest in the horrendous spree of mob violence is the one at Palghar, Maharashtra, where two seers and their driver were clubbed to death by an irate mob which suspected them of being thieves. Over the years, there have been so many instances of lynching that a numb nation has stopped questioning and debating where why the state of law and order is abysmal in India. However, the Palghar incident is in many ways a reflection of the society we live in.
At the peripherals it is clear that we have understaffed law enforcement agencies. They are ill equipped and poorly trained. India’s per-capita police personnel of 138 per lakh population is one of the lowest in the world. It was designed to serve the needs of a colonial government, rather than being a people centric and sensitive force. Yet, police reforms has seldom been a part of political discourse. Our discourse is largely centered around identity politics and rhetoric.
And that gives us a glimpse into who we really are. After all, the politicians would want to resonate with the worldviews of people, rather than challenge them even if they are deeply prejudiced. We have politicians galore, but a leadership deficit. A politician would not shy away from pandering to the baser instincts of the people, while a leader would resist and propagate enlightened ideas even if they be unpopular in a society brimming with heightened anger.
We are an angry people. Angry and insolent. We kill and maim with impunity. Sometimes emboldened by a moribund police force and sometimes fueled by the prejudiced police itself. An anemic police force that is not only severely understaffed, but also has a 25% vacancy in the sanctioned strength.
When we kill, rather than understanding and addressing the causes of our anger, we deepen the schisms in society. We do it most often on the lines of religion, as was done in Palghar, despite there clearly being no religious angle to it. A divided and unthinking people are easy to rule. That’s how we were under the colonial yoke for centuries. And a government that is driven by colonial minds, is today using the police to ‘control’ people rather than protecting and upholding the law.
That the people have become so violent, is indicative of our famed demographic dividend becoming a demographic disaster. Under the BJP unemployment has become the worst in several decades. A young and unemployed population, becomes the breeding ground for anti-social and violent minds. Rather than address the issue, the BJP leaders have stoked the communal flames with the intent to digress from their failures. A subservient and pliable media has furthered the descent into madness. Otherwise, no society would tolerate the kind drivel that is passed off as news. Surely, the likes of Arnab Goswami would have been prosecuted for libel, if not for more serious offenses too.
But as sections of the society showed in the response to the Palghar incident, we are a people who not only tolerate prejudice, but our leaders actively communalize it for their own ulterior motives. As Joseph de Maistre said—A nation gets the government it deserves! If we don’t resist and question the government, we will end up with an incompetent, meek and prejudiced government.