The Terror of Vigilante Politics

Image Source: National News

‘Democracy’s fatal flaw: there are more dumb people than smart people. Welcome to the new dark ages!’, Writes Oliver gaspirtz.  As we see the political right emerging as a global political force, humanity seems to be stepping into new dark ages. It appears that liberalism is dead. It has been successfully murdered by populism, anti-intellectualism, nationalism, authoritarianism and the like. We are in the midst of aggressive cultural wars waged by the power elite against their own people. In our country, we are facing what has been described as cultural terrorism that is threatening the very idea of India. Unfortunately, it appears that this terrorism is state sponsored. This appears to be so as the state seems to play a lap dog and does not act as a watch dog against the lawlessness of the vigilante groups. The law and order machinery seems to have gone to the dogs as the self appointed cow protectors and champions of sentiments of the people hold everyone to ransom. We are trapped into raging storm of unreason as rising tempers and passions of some emboldened groups have a gala time when the government seem to choose to show a nelson’s eyes to the tantrums of these vigilante groups. There is a rainbow coalition of these vigilante groups across India and intolerance is mounting against creative freedom, food habits of the minorities and right to disagree with the Government etc. Violence has become the norm of silencing dissent, creative freedom, minorities, dalits, tribals and women. Blood thirsty lynching mobs are on the prowl. The new India that is proudly inaugurated by the Prime Minister is pushing us into deep echelons of darkness. Most of our democratic institutions have become weak.  Media has become a caged parrot and the only hope that Indians seems to be left with is the judiciary which is also sought to be weakened day in and day out.  

The accelerated collapse of morality in our society is an important indicator about the new decadence that has been unfortunately named a new India. But the moral chaos and a collective loss of moral compass seem to have raised few eyebrows.  Most of us are concerned about economic misadventure of our Government in recent days. Economic collapse should certainly concern us and along with it we have to be equally alarmed about the loss of public morality in our country. Economics, politics and culture are intertwined and cannot be viewed in isolation.  The way several fringe groups have taken upon themselves to defend what is largely a thwarted cultural nationalism, it may not be wrong to say that we have cultural terrorist on the prowl in our society. The politics of intimidation, violence and vandalism that is being employed by theses vigilante group is spreading terror among innocent people in our country. Our policing system has become mute spectator if not active collaborator of the violent drama that is played against a section of people in our country. Governance too does not seem to exist as our Government appears to have abdicated its responsibility to check these rampaging cultural terrorists. Within this decadence, we can painfully trace what maybe nothing other than hate crimes being passed off as acts of pride and love for our nation.  Where can we place these violent vigilante groups? Do they have space within the law, outside the law or beyond the law?  How are we going distinguish between the criminals and non-criminal? Do the vigilante groups enjoy impunity from our law?  How are we to place this vigilante groups and their terrorising activities within the complex politico-legal matrix of our society? Our task becomes difficult because these vigilante groups more often than not criminalize as well as denationalize their victims.  We are indeed trapped into a weird situation where a victim begins to look like a criminal. 

Criminalising the victim is an important strategy of the cultural terrorist. It provides cover to their violent criminal actions and makes it look just and in accordance to the right order of things. This often masks the fact that the violent action directed to uphold some law, tradition, history or right is itself illegal and therefore criminal. These make us condone what is crudely lawless and support these lawless upholders of law, culture, faith or rights.  For a moment, we seem to forget that we are a republic and we have a constitution, constitutional authorities and bodies/organs to take up the issues that are taken up by these self proclaimed vigilante groups.  These means we are somehow rendered numb to the fact that these self appointed vigilante groups are weakening our constitutional apparatus and in this manner are weakening our nation.  This means, what becomes a war for culture, faith, rights, history, tradition ends up becoming a war on the nation. Our country is not just threatened by terrorists and non-state actors from across the borders but also by these self-appointed and self-proclaimed vigilante groups.  Hence, if we are truly led by a patriotic spirit, we shall not just understand the treat that these groups pose to our nation and its institutions of democracy but will take steps to see that they are held in check. We do not need this violent vigilante groups to mediate for us to uphold law, history, tradition, faith, culture etc. We have our democracy and its powerful institutions to do that job. A nation that forgets its democratic traditions and culture will plunge into anarchy and lawlessness. We are at the door step of such a disaster. Hence, we have to initiate steps to recover democracy and our freedom that is dwindling very fast.   We cannot allow violence and crime to become a public spectacle and entertainment. Unfortunately, we seem to have become a society that has got used to consuming public crime and violence.  This seems to have animalized us. It’s time to humanise our self again and embrace our country and its entire people with its complexity and dynamism and let genuine democracy take all into a prosperous future. It’s time to become smart Indians.    

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao