[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he latent fissures between communities explode and lead to loss of life when the attendant institutions meant for ensuring harmony fail to act. Institutions work efficiently in a well-functioning state where law-and-order is generally maintained as per law and in an orderly manner. This also demands an efficient judiciary, which will inflict exemplary punishment in the shortest possible time to the guilty. Needless to mention, we also need other stakeholders and influencers who will fall in line with what the civilised code demands and not argue incessantly when the institutions take a decision.
Sadly India still remains a soft state as Gunnar Myrdal pointed out more than 40 years ago. Here, no entry in the wishlist above operates properly. Take the case of Dadri for instance. There was some kirtan going on in a local temple in the Bisara village. Somebody made an announcement of beef eating by Akhlaq and his family. A mob gathered, and by 10 o’clock in the night on 28 September, a 100-men strong mob attacked the house of Akhlaq. He died while his young son Danish is fighting for his life. Clearly, the gullible mob did never hear of a civilised state, nor did they have faith in whatever is left of it in their area. They felt outraged and did not suffer from any qualms to take the law and punishment in their own hands.
The incident happened in the communally sensitive district of Dadri. According to The Indian Express reporter in another village in the district about a month ago, three Muslim men were killed on the suspicion that they were cattle smugglers. It was also said that some small militant outfit of Hindus had been active in that area against cattle smugglers and cow slaughter. That the sentiments are charged up could be gathered from the umbrage local people took against media and visiting politicians to that area. Women and children attacked mediapersons who went to cover the incident. They pooh-poohed the State government’s act of offering Rs 45 lakh as compensation to the family members of Akhlaq. The post-event reactions of the Akhilesh Yadav government merely helped increase the gulf between the two communities.
The event draws attention to dereliction of duty on the part of the administration. When sentiments are charged up and untoward incidents had taken place in the recent past, what do we expect from the administration? Are they not supposed to round up those who had been responsible for fomenting communal sentiments? Are they not expected to investigate the alleged cases of cattle smuggling and soothe the nerves of the agitated people? As there was the Muslim festival of Eid on 25 September and tension was building up in the area, precautionary steps should have been taken. True, there cannot be police post everywhere, but what about gathering timely intelligence? There was no effort to prevent untoward incidents in the sensitive district of Dadri.
What is curious is the reaction after the unfortunate event. Politicians of all hues queued up to be photographed with the affected family. Commentators and mediapersons kept churning out commentaries without ever questioning whether any preventive step was taken or not. This is not the first such dastardly act in a village in Uttar Pradesh. In 2013, there was a much bigger flare-up in Muzaffarnagar. Did the incidents there teach anything to the administration? Nobody asked and naturally nobody bothered to respond let alone review the situation.
Instead, we started bickering — a free-for-all of sorts! Politicians visited the family. Their house being just about 40 km away from the national capital. For the media, too, with availability of logistics and proximity of the area to their offices, this became a good story to dwell on. Add to this, voluminous arguments on beef eating were churned out to add to our knowledge. The Dadri lynching ended up as yet another nice story for all! The tragedy suffered by Akhlaq and his family made attractive headlines. For a change, Akhlaq’s mother found herself on the front pages of the national dailies. The family travelled in government aircraft to Lucknow and collected an amount that Akhlaq would not have ever dream of providing when alive.
Forgotten in the cacophony is the real issue. How should the administration act so that such incidents can be nipped in the bud? If within the stone’s throw of the nation’s capital such incidents can take place, what safety is there for our ordinary citizens living in far flung areas? Was there any way the police could have reached the spot and saved Akhlaq? Did the police fail in gathering intelligence and taking preventive measures? How did the police miss the role of one of its own official, a home-guard, in inciting the people?
Instead of fishing in troubled waters, is it not the duty of the political class to sit together and devise ways and means to protect the lives and livelihoods of Akhlaq, or for that matter Amar and Antony as well — all living on the similar edge? Can the wise men in our judiciary call the people in charge of administration to explain what the reasons for failing to take necessary precautions in a sensitive area were? Will anybody ask what the police’s intelligence wing was doing?
Busy as we are in seeking response from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, errors and omissions on ground will never be addressed. Not a single report on Dadri lynching has yet mentioned the issue of administrative failure; none of the august commentators has come out with suggestions on how to check repeat of such unfortunate incidents.
The malaise that killed Akhlaq is not new. When it flares up and spreads, it attracts attention. Ordinarily, had it been in some far-flung corner, the reports would have by now been consigned to the inside pages of newspapers. Life is so cheap here in India. Like the 6-year-old girl in a village in Bareilly who was killed by her father Chand Miyan for failing to keep her head covered while having food! The pretext of killing is religion.
In reality, it is frustration arising out of a meaningless life. Do the politicians, commentariat or media pundits care to address the disease called poverty and light up these lives, which are lost in such tragic incidents daily in some corner of the nation?