Muscle power: Editorial on 'bulldozer' politics
Muscles are necessary for the body. But a muscular regime need not be necessarily healthy for the body politic of a secular democracy. Of course, the Bharatiya Janata Party is forever eager to flex its muscles — and not always in the ideal way. In a bid to demonstrate its aggression, usually directed at India’s minorities, BJP leaders love using intemperate rhetoric whose symbolism must not go unexamined. Yogi Adityanath, for instance, has not had a problem with being christened, by foes and friends alike, as ‘Bulldozer baba’. His government’s propensity to conceive of and then employ strong-arm tactics, going against the imperatives of democratic ethics and civil liberty, lies at the heart of such problematic sobriquets. Apart from crushing the spirited public movement against the polarizing Citizenship (Amendment) Act, Mr Adityanath’s government also attempted to make protesters pay fines for alleged damages to government property. The sangh parivar, of course, has no qualms about sharing such titles. So Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, has now decided to emulate his peer from Uttar Pradesh. After stones were apparently pelted on a Ram Navami procession in Khargone, it was Mr Chouhan’s turn to send in his bulldozers —stormtroopers — razing to the ground several properties that, it is being speculated, belong to Muslim families.
What is shocking is the nature of this model of justice perfected by popularly elected leaders. This template has neither the respect nor the time for due process. It is not clear how many of those families whose houses were razed in Khargone were actually complicit in the violence perpetrated earlier. This kind of institutional thuggery can only threaten — not strengthen — the rule of law. The motive seems to be to send a larger message — that of fear — targeting a specific religious community. This messaging is, unfortunately, integral to New India’s politics. From brazen calls for genocide against Muslims to attempts to vilify their ways of living, dressing, eating and livelihoods, to provocative assemblies outside their places of worship, the discrimination against India’s largest minority community is taking grotesque forms with each passing day. Ominously, public resistance towards these blatant acts of transgression remains muted. The consequence of such embedded prejudice is predictable. India’s pluralist edifice, built with the blood, sweat and tears of bona fide nationalists, is being bulldozed brick by brick.