Reminiscent of the 2016 Una assault on four Dalit youths over the skinning of dead cows, a 30-year-old Dalit ragpicker was beaten to death over suspicion of theft on the outskirts of Gujarat’s Rajkot last Sunday. Four persons have been arrested and a minor held for the crime. The victim’s wife alleges that the accused had first inquired about their caste before the assault. What’s truly shocking is that a video of the attack showing two persons taking turns to beat the victim with a stick while a third holds him by a rope tied to his waist has gone viral. This clearly highlights a sense of impunity on the part of the accused as they were confident enough to videograph the incident.
At a basic level, the case shows fear of the law is missing. And this isn’t an isolated incident either. Recently, a Muslim man was lynched and his friend seriously injured by a mob on suspicion of cow slaughter in Madhya Pradesh’s Satna district. Here too the villagers involved in the attack thought they were in the right for taking matters into their own hands – the police, incidentally, have slapped cow slaughter charges against the injured victim. All of this goes to show that an atmosphere was created where people felt they can turn vigilante without repercussions.
This in turn could be because of two reasons – either the local administration takes a lenient view of vigilantism or people think the police is incapable of ensuring justice. Ensuring law and order is the basic job of the state, which in turn enables other positives such as economic growth. Incidents of vigilantism in BJP-ruled states contradict the party’s message of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’. This must be fixed if BJP hopes to retain its country-wide political advantage.