BJP-ruled Jharkhand makes a mockery of Modi’s new addition of “sabka vishwas” (trust of all). The video of 22-year-old Tabrez Ansari being tied to an electric pole, thrashed by a mob for suspected theft and forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram…Jai Hanuman” going viral, blurs the vision of a “New India’ on the horizon.
The arrest of 11 men and two policemen being suspended for the shocking incident and his death can be no solace for Ansari’s family, or for that matter the community, for the State is known to have had at least 18 mob lynching cases reported since March 2016. What is worse is that the men in uniform, instead of arresting the culprits, took action against Ansari. He was remanded to judicial custody for four days without any medical aid and when rushed to the hospital declared dead on arrival.
The police justification for its action was that he had admitted the theft, but is it such a crime in India that one has to pay for it with life? His uncle’s words that Ansari’s “mistake was that he was a Muslim, otherwise he would have been alive,” hit the nail on the head. Modi’s words on Wednesday last in Rajya Sabha of being “pained” and action must be taken are not enough! Much water has flown since former CJI Dipak Mishra’s ruled for creation of “a separate offence for lynching and provide adequate punishment for the same”. Is it asking for too much? New Delhi can no longer be a mere spectator to mobocracy. Act it must and sooner than later.
Optimism in Kashmir?
Will winds of change blow in Jammu & Kashmir? The question arises as the separatist outfit, the Hurriyat has on the face of it softened its stand by saying its ready for talks and Governor Satya Pal Malik says it’s because things have started to change in the Valley. Presumably for the better, as the Centre has adopted a tough posture to tackle both terrorism and separatism. On the one hand, internationally it has got the global community to put pressure on neighbour Pakistan to stop supporting terrorism across the border, and on the other back on the home front, it has had the NIA and the ED tightening the screws on the separatists by investigating their links to cases related to money laundering and terror funding. Obviously, for Hurriyat chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq talks seem to be the only way forward for sheer survival, in the additional background that Assembly polls may be held before year-end and once a government is in place, their voice may not be relevant. Plus, the formidable Amit Shah has sent a strong signal that troubled Valley tops priority with his maiden visit to Kashmir as Home Minister. Not just to oversee arrangements for Amarnath yatra but review development projects too. North Block has a plan alright, but what precisely it is needs a closer watch.
AP’s Clean Up Act
A combination of investigation and demolition is the flavour of the month in Andhra Pradesh. The target is no surprise — the State’s former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu. On Wednesday last, his successor Jagan Mohan Reddy ordered a probe into ‘corrupt’ deals that Naidu’s TDP government had signed with various companies. So far 30 agreements have been zeroed in on and the number is bound to go up once a separate Cabinet sub-committee to review all deals comes into play. And as of now Rs 2,636 crore is stated to be the loss to the State exchequer in just solar and wind power schemes. The CID, Anti-Corruption Bureau and Vigilance and ED departments are on the alert, while the demolition squad has already got into top gear. Its first task — demolish ‘Praja Vedika’ conference centre, on the banks of Krishna river, which is adjacent to Naidu’s official residence and was used to hold party meetings and official gatherings. Jagan has justified his decision saying it’s a ‘shameful symbol’ of how Naidu bypassed laws, objections and illegally built it. But TDP leaders term it as ‘political vendetta.’ The YSR Congress must prove them wrong.
Maoist-hit Chhattisgarh may either get North Block thinking or seething. For in his speech at Niti Ayog, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel suggested a reassessment of the Centre’s policy on surrender and rehabilitation i.e. legal cases must go on against senior Maoists who submit. His reasoning is that there are many Naxals who are of the rank of Central Committee, involved in violent activities for 25-35 years, ‘surrender because they are unwell or getting old and because of the present policy, they escape any punishment’. While the current policy does not dismiss any pending cases on surrender of senior cadre, it is rarely that harsh legal scrutiny follows because Maoists who surrender often insist they stay out of jail. So the big question to consider is whether Baghel’s suggestion would be for the better or worse. Arguments against the latter weigh more as given Baghel’s condition, Maoists would not be willing to surrender and the State would face a bigger loss. While New Delhi has time to ponder, Baghel would do better if he concentrates on development and act to gain the confidence of the tribals.
Haryana & MP’s Cows
Two States add an interesting dimension to India’s diversity. Their action relating to gau mata (cow) reveals priority, poles apart when it comes to protecting life per se – of the cow or the human being. Thus, while BJP-ruled Haryana strengthens the anti-cow slaughter law, the Congress-ruled Madhya Pradesh proposes stricter law against gau rakshaks (vigilantes). On Tuesday last, the Khattar government amended its earlier law of 2015 by proposing ‘Haryana Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan (Amendment) Bill, 2019’ which shall authorise police to search the premises and seize vehicles involved in transportation of animals. The State, which has 3-lakh cows in 400-odd gaushalas(cow sheds) and around 1.5 lakh stray ones and 18 lakh at homes, has thus made a strong statement that it means business and there can be no messing around when it comes to the safety of its cows. More precious than human lives?
On the other hand, on Wednesday last Chief Minister Kamal Nath had his Cabinet give the nod for changes to a law ‘Agricultural Cattle Preservation Act’, which makes cow vigilantism a punishable offence, wherein it now proposes a jail term ranging from 1-5 years and a fine of Rs 50,000 for anyone taking part in such acts. Earlier, such offences were dealt under IPC and CrPC. Additionally, the government enhances such persons’ safety by providing a SDM’s permission, which they must carry all the time. This is because normally these persons do not carry documents to show whether the cow being transported is going for slaughter or for sale, and ‘often end up being harassed or beaten up by gau rakshaks’. The amended law, it is hoped should act as a deterrent and provide a sense of safety to those who transport cow and cattle. Will it be so?—INFA