Sunday, 11 October 2015

Three Levels Of Failure Of The Indian Polity

The Dadri lynching incident and its sorry aftermath have exposed the failure of the Indian polity at three different levels, although this may not be obvious to a casual observer.

The three levels are:

1. The principle of a secular state
2. A law-abiding citizenry
3. The machinery of law enforcement

To expand,

A secular state would not have laws restricting what citizens may do based on respecting religious sentiment. In the recent Indian context, a ban on cow slaughter on religious grounds is incompatible with the principle of a secular state (although such bans may be possible to justify on other grounds, such as cruelty to animals).

The ban on cow slaughter on grounds of Hindu religious sentiment is therefore the first failure.

Even with a ban imposed on religious grounds, a tragedy such as the Dadri lynching need not have occurred if the citizenry had been law-abiding and not susceptible to inflammatory sentiments whipped up by mischievous demagogues. A complaint could have been made to the police, who could have investigated to determine if the ban had in fact been violated. If it had, the person or persons concerned could have been charged and brought before a court, which may have found them guilty and sentenced them to appropriate punishment under the law.

The mob lynching of Mohamed Akhlaq was therefore the second failure.

Given that a mob lynching took place, the correct thing for the police to have done was arrest those involved without delay. The correct thing for government functionaries to have done was condemn vigilante justice and support the police in bringing the culprits to book.

The actions of police in sending meat for forensic analysis (implying that the presence or absence of beef had a bearing on the severity of the crime), and those of ruling party and government functionaries all the way up to the prime minister (who failed to call out the actual crime and instead made all kinds of excuses and worse), were therefore the third failure.

The first step to correcting a problem is analysis. It is clear that India needs to introspect and determine whether it wants to be a secular state with a law abiding citizenry and impartial, competent law enforcement.

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