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Prolonged and more brazen


Everyone blames politicians for the degeneration of values, as they have willfully, deliberately and sadistically subverted the law and given their foot soldiers the licence to kill. Are they the only ones to blame?

It is the people who always lose during riots.

WHAT is common between 1984, 1992 and 2002? All of us know the answer: these are the years of cataclysmic riots when hundreds of innocent (and defenceless) members of minority communities were killed by bloodthirsty murderers of the majority community. And in case you have erased these bits from your memory, 1984, was the Sikh massacre in Delhi, 1992, the Muslim massacre in Mumbai and 2002 is today's long playing edition in Gujarat.

Human beings have known, ever since we developed the ability of rational thought, that there is a dark side to us, a sinister, violent beast that lurks somewhere inside each of us, waiting to be aroused. And released. Too many riots and killings, battles and wars, maiming and murders have taken place (and keep taking place) for us to harbour any illusions that centuries of civilisation have reformed us. From the time Neanderthal men clubbed each other to death to now, the only change is in the choice of weapons. Human beings are no longer mere beasts; human beings are now civilised beasts.

But that transformation is important because we wouldn't then be talking about 1984, 1992 and 2002; we would be talking about 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988... All said and done, the beast lurking inside us, waiting to be aroused and released is kept in check because we have put many shackles around it. When those restraints give way, the killings begin.

The most important filter has been provided by religion. The prospect of eternal damnation provides a subconscious deterrent; religious taboos against violence conditions our minds. As important are the moral, spiritual and ethical injunctions against violence, which every society has developed over the years and virtually drilled into our systems.

The ultimate deterrent is, of course, a system of justice where criminal behaviour is punished severely, and murderers either pay with their lives, or are locked up in jail for years on end.

Now look at 1984, 1992 and 2002 again. These are examples of events when all civilisational restraints broke down. It's clear to see why.

To start with, religious taboos against taking human life were lifted because the motive of revenge was "sanctioned" by religion. Indira Gandhi's murder (1984), the serial bomb blasts in Mumbai (1992) and the Godhra train massacre (2002) were the acts to be avenged, and though there was no religious sanction in fact, there was no disapproval either, so approval was assumed.

The fear of judicial retribution disappeared because in each case the political party in power either gave tacit sanction to the lawlessness (1992) or actually led the assaults on the minorities (1984 and 2002). If you study the pattern of these carnages, you will notice that they have become progressively longer in duration and progressively more brazen in execution. That's simply because 1984 set the pattern: not only did Congress goons (some of them front-line leaders and even ministers) openly led the killer gangs, they got away with it completely. Why would subsequent marauders be afraid? They had every expectation of getting kid-glove treatment, and kid-glove treatment is what they've got. In fact in this ghoulish progression, the CM of Gujarat (which abbreviation in his case stands for Chief Monster), isn't seen as an assassin, but as a hero.

All of us blame politicians for this degeneration of values, and rightly so. They have wilfully, deliberately and sadistically subverted the law and given their foot soldiers the licence to kill.

But are they the only ones to blame? Who is responsible for allowing everyone to feel that the killings and rioting were approved by Hinduism? The so-called leaders of the Hindu faith, the Shankaracharyas for instance, have remained conspicuously silent. They pontificate from time to time, give blessings from time to time and give discourses from time to time. But not a word from them about the hijacking of Hinduism by goons and killers; not a word of condemnation and not a word of restraint.

To add to these failures, is the failure of the Judiciary. It has shown us that in spite of its social concerns and its attempts to uphold the rule of law, often in grandiloquent terms, when it comes to bringing rioters to justice, it is a toothless tiger. The reports of several commissions of enquiries have been thorough, laborious, exhaustive, comprehensive. And useless. Because they did not result in a single conviction which is why we now have criminals responsible for horrendous crimes roaming free and often lording over us as ministers and leaders.

That is why whether Narendra Modi stays or Narendra Modi goes is of only immediate importance. Our future imperfect is full of more Narendra Modis who will never stay silent and more Shankaracharyas who will always stay silent.

Anil Dharker is a noted journalist, media critic and writer.

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