Issues

Communal Violence Leading to Negative Image of India

One is forced to deliberate on the importance given to each citizen’s constitutional rights in view of the increasing tendency of rogue sections choosing to take administration of “law and order” in their own hands. What else is suggested by several Muslims having been targeted by extremist, communal elements on “suspicion” of their indulging in cow slaughter? Please note, they have been targeted only on ground of suspicion. Also, no consideration was given to filing an FIR against them and letting the actual law officers take the needed legal action. Considering the fact that respected leaders appear to be giving utmost importance to sensitive issues concerning Muslims such as “triple talaq,” perhaps it would be pertinent for them to give some importance to citizens of minority community being targeted for no fault of theirs.

Changes are apparently necessary in the legal system to ensure strict punishment for whoever chooses to take law into his/her own hands primarily to target the minorities. Each citizen must be made aware that it is not his/her right to punish just anyone simply on ground of “suspicion.” Even if there prevail valid proofs of individual/groups’ involvement in any illegal activity, reports need to be filed against them. Or at most, they may be taken to the police station. It is rightly feared that if steps are not taken in this direction, indulgence in these activities is likely to increase. This also implies that there apparently prevails an unnatural confidence among certain powerful members of society that they have the “authority” to target weaker sections and take actions they deem as appropriate against them. Sadly, in the recent phase, this sense of their being “powerful” with the “authority” to take action they desire appears to be on the rise.

The weaker sections may be viewed as the religious minorities, the Scheduled Castes, Other Backward Classes and among others those who are economically weak. What else is suggested by lynching of several persons in Jharkhand on suspicion of their being child abductors (May 18)? Or burning down of more than two dozen houses belonging to Dalits by Thakurs in Saharanpur (Uttar Pradesh) on May 5? Villagers displayed their anger against lynching of men and even targeted the policemen, police-cars and jeeps on May 20. The situation in Jharkhand would not have taken this ugly turn had adequate action been taken to prevent lynching of men. With due respect to concern for anger of people against child abductors, it may be noted that they did not act responsibly by committing murder on ground of mere suspicion. They also acted like criminals. What is worse is that the source of these criminal activities appears to be “rumours” spread through Whatsapp and other means. This also demands serious action against the spread of rumours and/or false news that may lead to social disturbances.

In addition, it is high time efforts were made to educate citizens on not being easily misguided by whatever is communicated to them through cell phones and other means. Let us accept the hard fact that there prevail extremist elements in society who may continue spreading rumours and/or false information of various kinds to disrupt peace and harmony. Severe legal action is needed against these. Also, active communication has to be given top priority to prevent people from being fooled into believing whatsoever rumour-mongers want them to believe.

Against this backdrop, some importance also needs to be given to the peaceful rally of Dalits at Jantar Mantar in Delhi on May 18. The rally was in protest against burning of their houses in Saharanpur earlier in the month. This is a strong indicator of democratic spirit still being alive in India. The Dalits made their presence and anger against being targeted felt. Perhaps, their rally is likely to prevent their being targeted again in Saharanpur at least till this news about remains in the air. Please note, these Dalits pronounced their stand without taking the law into their hands. Yes, they did not have legal permission to hold their rally. However, they moved on without indulging in any act of violence. They apparently had no other option as they reportedly do not expect any justice from the present UP government.  

Little importance is apparently being given by political leaders that targeting minorities, provoking communal violence and similar activities cannot be expected to lead to the development of the country. Besides, communal violence only contributes to a negative image of India across the world. It may be noted that the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has come forward with a report on the deterioration of religious tolerance and freedom in India during recent years. The report, entitled “Constitutional and Legal Challenges Faced by Religious Minorities in India,” points out that hate crimes, social boycotts and forced conversion have escalated dramatically since 2014 with religious minority communities and Dalits facing discrimination and persecution. Compared to 2014, in 2015, according to the Indian Home Ministry figures, the report states that India experienced 17 percent increase in communal violence.

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