Op-Ed: Attack on Agnivesh Symptom of a Larger Malaise

The irony was hard to miss. The near-lynching of eminent social activist Swami Agnivesh at Pakur in Jharkhand by a mob came on a day when the Supreme Court came down hard on ‘mobocracy’ and talked about putting it down with an ‘iron hand’. The ‘mob’, allegedly consisting of ABVP and BYJM activists, hit back with a vengeance making it clear what it thought of the apex court warning. The mob punched the 80-year old activist, kicked him around and showered him with the choicest swear words as soon as he came out of his hotel en route to the venue of a meeting he was scheduled to attend there.

The worst thing about the attack was several hours after it happened, no one knows for sure what provoked the mob to pounce on Swami Agnivesh. There was nothing that the activist said or did before or after reaching Pakur that could have enraged the mob to unleash violence on the octogenarian. But Jharkhand BJP spokesperson P Shahdeo did provide a clue about what could have led to the assault when he such an attack was not entirely unexpected given Agnivesh’ ‘track record’. As everyone familiar with the ageing activist knows, his ‘track record’ is one of an uncompromising stand against the Hindutva brand of politics. Swami Agnivesh has said he offered to talk to the protesters but they had no time for such niceties.

The scary part about the Pakur assault was that it was not a one-off incident provoked by some local factors. Instead, there are tell-tale signs now that such assaults are part of a nationwide policy of the larger Hindutva family to subjugate and browbeat those who have a worldview different from that of the Sangha Parivar. There is a common thread running through recent incidents across the country; from UP to Gujarat to Maharashtra to West Bengal to Odisha. The BJP never loses an opportunity to gloat over the fact that it now rules, on its own or in alliance with others, in 21 out of the 29 states. But what it doesn’t talk about is how it has swelled its ranks after coming to power at the Centre. In its desperate pursuit of power, the Sangh Parivar, of which the BJP is a part, has clearly roped in rogues, thugs and charlatans who would bludgeon anyone not falling in line into submission.

These anti-socials masquerading as cadres of a political party have not appeared out of the blue. They are the inevitable result of an ecosystem that goes out of its way to court such elements. The rogues have been literally able to get away with murder because they know they have the backing of the highest quarters in the larger Hindutva family. It is pertinent to mention here the recent incident where the suave Union Minister for Civil Aviation, an MBA from Harvard and a former McKinsey hand, felt obliged to ‘felicitate’ party members convicted of lynching Alimuddin Ansari, a meat trader, in Ramgarh after they were granted bail by the High Court. But then there is no point blaming Sinha because the rot goes to the very top and he was only following the lead of the ‘Supreme Leader’, who continues to follow people on Twitter who issue open threats of murder and rape against anyone opposed to the Hindutva forces despite outrage by the Twitteratti.

India has always been a tinderbox waiting to explode in communal or caste frenzy and the numerous riots and incidents of caste violence since Independence are testimony to that. And no party, national or regional, can plead ‘not guilty’ when it comes to polarizing voters on communal or caste lines for electoral benefits. But never have such rogue elements got the kind of open and unapologetic support from the highest quarters in the political establishments as they have done during the Narendra Modi government.

The damage done to the social fabric of the nation during the last four years has been immense and it would take years – may be even decades – to undo the damage. But if the BJP returns to power in 2019 and rules the country for another five years, the damage may well be beyond repair.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same).