I am not sure what is more outrageous about the video clip in which a man in a red shirt, evidently a Hindu, is seen pushing another man, a Muslim, before flaying him with an axe and setting the body on fire.
Is it the savage and macabre manner in which a human life was taken or is it the chilling message that the red-shirted man left for Muslims and fellow Hindus in the videographed killing? The barbarity in Rajasthan’s Rajsamund surpasses the methods followed in abattoir kill floors.
Official Silence Only Emboldened Vigilantes
The question that looms before us today is why has Rajasthan suddenly become India’s lynchisthan where a Hindu, even if he belongs to the criminal fringe, is at liberty to attack, maim or kill a Muslim whenever he pleases?
While it would not be fair to suggest that the law and order machinery in Rajasthan has collapsed, the sickening regularity with which attacks on cattle traders by Hindus styling themselves as gau rakshaks has taken place points to an inescapable conclusion: By maintaining silence on this grave issue, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia has lent her tacit approval to such violence. Official silence only emboldened the vigilante groups.
Not once since the lynching of Pehlu Khan in Alwar in April, followed by a few more instances of Hindu mobs flagrantly violating the law and taking the lives of other Muslim cattle traders, did Scindia make so much as an appeal to the self-styled gau rakshaks to end their violent and murderous ways.
Last year, the frequency and intensity of the attacks by the so-called gau rakshaks, since his government assumed power in May 2014, inspired Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak up against the vigilante groups, though he stopped short of calling upon state governments to take legal action against these thugs. The main salience in Modi’s remarks is that he “said so little about such violence in the past”.
Even Those Skinning Dead Cattle Hide Were Not Spared
Attacks on Muslims, especially those involved in cattle trading, spiked after the BJP took over power at the Centre. Not even Dalits engaged in the menial job of skinning the hide of dead cattle were spared. Incidence of violent Hindu mobs running amok were recorded across several parts of the country, but mostly in BJP-ruled states, leaving little doubt that there was a degree of tacit support from the party to these vicious ruffians.
But the situation in Rajasthan deserves special attention because Scindia’s political fortunes have been on the wane for a couple of years now.
While the BJP enjoys a huge majority in the Rajasthan Assembly, Scindia’s government tried to take draconian measures, mostly recently in October when it sought to issue an ordinance that would protect civil servants from investigation and undermine the judiciary.
Scindia backed off by putting the ordinance in cold storage when her government was faced with massive public outcry, reflecting the downward trend of her popularity graph.
Karni Sena Supports Barbaric Practices
Then came the issue over Padmavati and the role played by the Shri Rajput Karni Sena (SRKS) which threatened to turn violent in the event the film was released in Rajasthan. Founded in 2006 and fuelling the insecurities of the community the organisation seeks to represent, the SRKS successfully stopped the release of Jodhaa Akbar in 2008. It subsequently resorted to thuggery and violence over several other non-issues – acts which certainly do not behove well of a community that has a rich heritage of battlefield gallantry and chivalry.
While history, not folklore or fictional accounts of non-existent figures, does not quite acknowledge the existence of Padmavati, the SRKS’ stand over the so-called issue was to sharpen the Hindu-Muslim schism in Rajasthan (and perhaps in poll-bound Gujarat too) by claiming that sultan Alauddin Khilji never cast his eyes upon the nubile queen Padmavati. Frighteningly, the SRKS’ stand over Padmavati reveals the organisation supports the barbaric practice of jauhar.
Several on Scindia’s Cabinet are Rajputs and are associated with the Karni Sena.
Crimes Against Women in Rajasthan Far Greater Than National Average
While the Rajputs are prepared to turn violent over a mythical Padmavati or Padmini, they have nothing to say about the pitiable condition of women across Rajasthan. Female literacy is just 44.34 percent (according to the 2001 Census), which is slightly better than Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh. The claim to chivalry is belied by the fact that Rajasthan has the dubious distinction of ranking third in terms of rape cases: 3,644 cases were registered in 2015, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data.
The NCRB recorded that in 2015, the rate of crimes against women in Rajasthan was 81.5 percent as against the national average of 53.9 percent.
Just as claiming that Rajasthan’s law and order situation has deteriorated to a point where it cannot be salvaged would be an exaggeration, it would be injudicious to say that the state has slipped into medieval barbarism. But what can be said with certainty is that turning a blind eye to the attacks on Rajasthan’s Muslims and taking little or no action against Hindu vigilante groups is the “majority community’s way of telling a minority population that the law cannot protect it”.
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