Herald View: All violence must be equally condemned

Values of non-violence and equality need to be reflected in our public and political discourse

Visuals from Birbhum
Visuals from Birbhum

Herald View

The violence unleashed by the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal’s Birbhum district is both barbaric and horrifying. One cannot contemplate how even women and children could be locked in a home and burnt to death on the mere suspicion of having killed a party worker. This kind of brutality, however, has one precedent – when the BJP and Shiv Sena were in alliance during the demolition of the Babri Masjid and had burnt down whole families at a chawl in a Mumbai suburb on suspicion of killing their supporters. One had hoped that incident was an aberration in human behaviour and would not be emulated. However, it seems wherever the BJP goes violence follows and it is no secret that the Trinamool Congress and the BJP are locked in a battle of supremacy over Bengal and the two parties are feeding off each other. They are two sides of the same coin in terms of violence, brutality and barbarism towards people who are helpless against their structured atrocities which seem not spontaneous but part of a well-honed strategy to keep the people terrorised and oppressed.

That is why it was refreshing that Prime Minister Narendra Modi lost no time in condoling the victims of the Birbhum violence and immediately called upon the state government to ensure that no fresh violence recurred. One only wishes he were as prompt to condole and condemn the violence that routinely occurs in BJP-ruled states in the country. Already his supporters were swift to take advantage of the return of Yogi Adityanath to Uttar Pradesh when some cow vigilantes beat up a Muslim driver of a pick-up truck disposing animal entrails under a cleanliness drive in Mathura on suspicion that he was carrying beef. We did not hear the honourable prime minister speak up against this incident or urge the UP government to take prompt action against the perpetrators of the crime. The BJP routinely complains about violence against its workers in West Bengal but there is hardly a peep in the media and elsewhere when Dalits, Muslims and opposition party workers are attacked by Hindutva bigots in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and elsewhere

Clearly what’s sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander in the BJP book – that book is obviously not the Constitution. For if Constitutional values were being upheld by the BJP at the Centre, its leaders in West Bengal would not have to complain about the TMC’s violence against its workers. Already West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in a sharp retort to Modi has pointed out how her party’s delegation to Hathras was not allowed to visit the village where a young girl was raped and died in 2020. “We are not stopping anyone from visiting Birbhum,” she said.

It is disturbing that the Indian political discourse has descended to the level of choosing between two evils – is the TMC better than the BJP? – rather than giving the people a clear option between the good and the better where neither choice endangers their lives or leaves them with regrets about one or the other. We have to return our political and social discourse to the values of non-violence and equality that our founding fathers had based the nation on. It is because we are unequal today that we face brutalities and barbaric attacks. And this is true as much of West Bengal and BJP as it is of BJP and the rest of India.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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