Lawless enforcement of law

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Law requires to be enforced. We do have several enforcing agencies in our country and  the  police is the chief among them. But today unfortunately, some among us have taken up the work of  police in our society.  It is paradoxical that these gangs try to uphold law by breaking the law. This is very clear from the activities of several outfits of the right wing forces. These organizations are mushrooming everywhere in our country and are on a rampage of upholding one law by breaking another. Goa is also not insulated from these kinds of groups. The violence of these groups is often condoned in silence by us because of their visibly high nationalist and religious intent.  Often they play the saviour or protectors of what they deem as of national import. Such a positioning of their violence provides cover and justification for what are often simply crimes and atrocities against ordinary humans. Hence, it may be important that we subject these groups and their activities to a dispassionate scrutiny. Maybe we can ask: is 21th century India and Goa progressing or regressing on the wings of these fringe elements? Though these hordes of militant activists think that they are agents of justice, we may still ask, ‘do they promote a just society by becoming self-appointed police, courts and punishing authorities?’ There are hordes of these militant groups spread across the length and breadth of our country. Almost all of them enact violent politics of intimidation. Here, let us draw our critical attention to the politics of cow injected into our society by the Gau Rakshaks. 

A few days ago some meat vendors claimed that they were harassed by Gau rakshaks in the Ponda area in the vicinity of the Goa meat complex. The violence of these and other such groups do not raise eyebrows both in Goa and elsewhere.  Six precious Indian lives are already lost in the last two years on mere suspicion of a procession of beef or smuggling of cows. One of the Ministers of the central government attempted to provide more ammunition to these violent militants by stating in the parliament that cow protection is nothing new, it was part of the freedom movement. Although Mahatma Gandhi opted for cow protection, it was within his overall non-violent attitude to life. He in fact equated cow slaughter to manslaughter and taught that they were two sides of the same coin. What we have in the 21st century is not the Gandhian method of cow protection but one that is completely opposite to it. Unfortunately, today manslaughter is preferred to prevent cow slaughter.  Besides, today we have passed laws for the protection of the holy cow. Therefore, actually, there is no room for these groups to indulge in violence when they can let the law take its course to protect the sacred cow. But sadly that is not the case. When the law is in favour of cow protection and the central government and other agencies are also willing servants of the sentiments of the majority in this regard, we may rightly ask: ‘why do we need these violent groups to break the law to protect the holy cow?’  

We may have to say that the kind of vigilantisms that has held us captive is serving some other political agenda rather than simply cow protection.  Cow protection did serve to mobilize the majority community during the freedom struggle. Given the tempers around the cow, we can also trace how cow vigilantism fed into the Muslim-Hindu divide and was even responsible for several riots. We may trace a portrait that shows how cow politics has served to strengthen both Congress in the past and BJP in the present. Although cow politics yields huge political dividends, we will have to agree that it has normalized a culture of cruelty in our country. We seem to have shelved our constitution and forgot the protection that it gives to every individual citizen and have steadily migrated from a welfare state to a warfare state, a state at war with its people through these vigilante groups. This migration from the welfare state to a warfare state seems to serve a need to cover up the gains and losses of the neoliberal economy. The fact that failures have to be hidden from the people is understandable. But why do our Government has to hide away the gains? The answer may lie in ‘the tickle-down-effect’ economics that is aggressively followed by our Government. It only strengthens the rich and widens the gap between the haves and the have-nots. That is why the attention of the ordinary people has to be deflected from the real issues. Therefore, we will have study how all kinds of vigilantisms is providing covering fire to the Government who is thus enabled to dodge the real issues that afflict our people.  As social Darwinism or the survival of the fittest ethos becomes the main stay of our society, we are steadily led to forget solidarity and compassion flowing from our civilization. 

The violence enacted by these ruthless vigilante groups serves to break and ban solidarity and compassion in our society and help unbridled capitalism to enjoy a free ride. Can we allow ourselves to become drunk and intoxicated on the militarized cultural conflicts that only keep us fighting each other while a small powerful minority sport on the gains of the privatisation of our public wealth? While we engage in a lawless upholding of the law, we may have to critically analyse who is the real Victor? Perhaps, the economics that needs vigilantism and authoritarianism in our society also nurtures nurses and uses the vigilante groups. Maybe those who want to control and exploit our public wealth also have to rob our peace to prevent us from checking their loot.  That is why we need to analyse the politics of vigilantism on the grain of economics backed by neoliberal policies of our Government.  Yes.  It is true that we do not need to break the law to uphold the law. But the fact that we have lost the difference between lawful and lawless upholding of law in our society is a grave matter of concern.  Although there is a law to check every lawless defender of law, somewhere on the way we have all lost our will to enforce the same. Hence, to save our public wealth from being swallowed up by a powerful minority in our country, we will have to break the back of vigilante politics.  We have to destroy this politics of disposability (that beats up, kills and function on and use and throw basis) that only serve a market of disposable culture. We cannot let ourselves become a stateless, faceless and functionless motley crowd. We have to reclaim our sovereignty and resist all forms of disenfranchisements forced on us.    

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao