Hypocrisy, Powerlessness and the State
A gruesome murder in Udaipur has once again brought the issue of Nupur Sharma into the limelight. A poor tailor who dared to put up a WhatsApp status supporting Nupur was beheaded by terrorists, who made a video of him to show an example. According to reports, the tailor’s own neighbors from the offended community were watching him and passing information to the attackers when he reopened his shop after a few weeks.
As usual, the murder was followed by the same indignation, the same hypocrisy or whitewashing, and the same monkey game that people have grown accustomed to on different sides. Religious killings have become such an integral part of public discourse that even the most gruesome ones like the one in Udaipur no longer stand out. Most of us can write a religious murder social media post template and share it with necessary customizations every week, and it would work for people on all sides of the ideological spectrum. A fatigue has set in, a feeling of helplessness in the face of what we are facing.
There is some truth in this impotence. Winston Churchill, while referring to the two largest communities in India, had observed that while one works out its arguments, the other sharpens its sword. This is the underlying reality for those who feel helpless as they go from one episode of outrage to the next. They believe that their own community has swallowed the pills of Gandhi’s ahimsa, India’s idea of the Nehruvian stable and economic growth as the ultimate panacea. The agency of their own community has therefore gradually eroded. It is against people who have not yet absorbed the fancy delusions that cloud their own vision, ready to do whatever it takes to impose their religious beliefs and plant their flag in every nook and cranny of India. . Indeed, as incident after incident and the reactions to them demonstrate, values such as non-violence, pluralism and individualism, which are supposed to be imposed by the state in various ways, are actually practiced in a very one-sided. Based on these assumptions, and history in general, the feeling of sitting on a ticking time bomb set in.
The state hasn’t helped his case either, considering that at the most fundamental level, any social contract upon which the whole idea of the state rests involves the surrender of certain freedoms in exchange for protection. In fact, it is now increasingly common to believe that the state is not fit to handle what it faces. The role of the state needs to be examined in detail, however, there is another side to the whole debate that has been omitted. Today, a great outpouring across the country occurs for every such Hindu murder. Hindus have even taken to the streets for it, and the story is dominating news cycles and public discourse because millions are aware and furious. It can be said that this ultimately equals zero. But in the past, entire exoduses from particular regions, and the complete and convenient erasure even of genocides and pogroms from our records, have aroused less outrage than that. Perhaps this newfound awareness is only a fraction of the awakening needed for Hindus to change tact. The fact, however, is that he is much more than he was. Large swaths of the Hindu community refuse to let their helplessness turn into complacency.
Ultimately, it is difficult to predict how quickly the Hindu community will change tack. It’s even harder to predict what the change in tact will entail. This is where the state comes into play. In theory, the state has a monopoly on violence, and any erosion of this monopoly weakens it. Transgressions on one side have already weakened it considerably, especially since 2019 when the street veto replaced the electoral veto that a large party exercised in the past. A free-for-all situation, in which transgression meets transgression, is the least desirable outcome of Hindu revival from the standpoint of the state.
If the street veto is the substitute for the electoral veto once enjoyed by one of India’s two great communities, the obvious conclusion one would draw is that recent political mandates and hence control of the power of the state passed into the hands of the other great community. However, the repeated failures of the state to crush the street veto and communalism in other forms seem to indicate that such an assessment is inaccurate. Political slogans might paint a different story, but the realities on the ground indicate otherwise. The beheading of Udaipur is a good example. Calls for Nupur Sharma’s beheading have been made across the country, but the state has taken a nonchalant approach. When the violence erupted, the state repressed in retrospect. The whole saga unfolded for weeks and culminated in a decapitation now.
Even more shocking is the behavior of the state at the local level in this case. Reports suggest the man who was beheaded had informed police that his life was in danger, indicating that the failure of law and order was far more acute than in the case of a spontaneous transgression. The argument that Rajasthan is an opposition-run state can be made by the ruling party, but that would not hold up in the larger scheme of things due to incidents like the killing of Kamlesh Tiwari.
It is quite possible that the Hindu community will never change tact. It is also possible that in parallel, the state will continue to bear the brunt of the unilateral approach to things, and this suicidal combination will guide India until the advent of the kingdom. What if this impotence that refuses to die out retaliates? What if he retaliated only because the state remained complacent? It is impossible to accurately predict the factors and forces that will act at different intervals. The state, on the other hand, must do some honest introspection, not only about the possibilities for which it is prepared, but also about its real objectives, whatever the results that fate has in store for it.
Ajit Datta is an author and political commentator. He is the author of the book “Himanta Biswa Sarma: From Boy Wonder to CM”. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the position of this publication.
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