ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Open Season for Bullies

By directly and indirectly endorsing lynch mobs, the government is whipping up lawlessness.

The lynch mobs of right-wing Hindu nationalists have become more brazen than before. Lynching is defined as an act of extrajudicial punishment by a group, usually an informal one. Vigilante gangs who take the law into their own hands have been rather active in recent times: from Dadri in Uttar Pradesh when a mob killed Mohammad Akhlaq in September 2015 for allegedly storing beef in his home to July 2016 when four young Dalit men were publicly flogged in Una, Gujarat, on the unsubstantiated suspicion that they had killed a cow. The lynch mentality that pervades sections of the current ruling regime has gone beyond turning a blind eye towards their supporters who physically attack the weak and the vulnerable. Those in positions of power and authority are tacitly and overtly encouraging the intimidation of those whose views are different from theirs. The message that is being sought to be conveyed is loud and clear: do not meddle with us; we can make your life miserable.

At a public function in Pune, Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar remarked: “One actor has said that his wife wants to live outside India. It was an arrogant statement… the company which he was endorsing was… an online trading company. Some of our people are very smart… There was a team which was working on this… The company should learn a lesson… they had to pull his advertisement… Such people who speak against the country need to be taught a lesson…” His utterances were bound to raise a controversy, and when they did Parrikar disingenuously said he had not named any person. Everybody knew who he was referring to. In November, actor Aamir Khan had publicly spoken about his “sense of insecurity” because of growing intolerance in the country and stated that his wife had expressed apprehensions about the future of their child if they continued to live in India. Soon afterwards, Snapdeal, a company engaged in electronic commerce, decided not to renew its endorsement contract with the actor reportedly after many of its customers had uninstalled its app from their phones. What the defence minister confirmed is common knowledge: the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) engages the services of online supporters, most of them anonymous and described as “trolls,” who do much of the cyberbullying on its behalf.

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