It is a sordid reflection on criminal dereliction of a Constitutionally-mandated duty. Using uncharacteristically powerful language, the Supreme Court has held the Central and state governments accountable for the unchecked spate of mob lynching that has raised doubts over whether we are living in a civilised society in which the rule of law prevails.
Unquestionably it is a collective shame, but Raisina Hill cannot wriggle out of taking the lion’s share of the blame. For this is no ordinary break-down of law and order: most of the lynchings have an underpinning that indicts the overly religious slant of the present dispensation ~ cow vigilantes are the creation of a minority-targeted campaign over the consumption of beef.
That, conveniently, extends to all bovine flesh though the slaughter of buffaloes is not illegal. It is no mere coincidence that allied targets are those sections of the Dalit community who eke out their existence by skinning dead animals for the leather industry.
To deem the police responsible for allowing mob rule to dominate the streets is a sinister over-simplification ~ the cops were wary of acting against those who enjoy political patronage: witness two union ministers felicitating persons duly convicted for cow-related lynching.
Both retain their places in the political establishment, as do the several others who escaped retribution for telling beef-eaters “to go to Pakistan”, or who divided society into “Ramzadas” and “haramzadas”. The silence of those in power has fuelled the bloodletting, permitted a climate to spread in which, now, rumour-mongering unleashes the genie that cannot be put back into the bottle ~ more so since that genie also delivers votes.
Only token comfort can be drawn by the ruling party that the court ~ several of its comments and observations will surely become oft-quoted passages of judicial scripture ~ has called upon Parliament to enact lynching-specific legislation (many might wonder if that was necessary, if only the existing laws were faithfully implemented) for it will be the Treasury that will have to pilot the legislation that actually exposes its own incompetence, or skewed thinking.
Coming as it did on the eve of the apex legislature’s session, the order from the bench headed by the Chief Justice of India will definitely exacerbate the turbulence in the colonnaded citadel of Indian democracy. Sadly, political mud-slinging ~ like vigilantism and lynching ~ is the forum’s equivalent of the “new normal” that their Lordships have so forcefully deprecated.
The court has issued a series of directives to both the Central and state governments, how effectively it will monitor how those are being implemented will be anxiously followed by all those who honour what the Founding Fathers had commanded. That the Supreme Court had to draw the attention of government(s) to fundamental responsibilities is a pathetic projection of the prevailing quality of governance. India stands shamed, self-denigrated.