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Dear Vasundhara Raje, Holding The BJP Accountable For Cow Vigilantism Is Not ‘Prejudice’

Especially not when the Rajasthan Home Minister makes excuses for perpetrators…

28/08/2017 8:43 AM IST | Updated 28/08/2017 8:43 AM IST
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On 27 July, Vasundhara Raje wrote quite a weak op-ed—"The notion that anybody or any political party supports lynchings is prejudice"—that sought the intellectual shelter of Kurosawa's 1950 film Rashomon. Worryingly, she sought to appropriate Kurosawa's message to justify her party's shortcomings.

She argued that many crimes that have occurred in the state of Rajasthan, particularly those relating to the harassment of minorities and lynching of Muslim cattle owners, have been viewed with a biased lens and should not be attributed to the BJP and RSS. She also argues that no single aspect should be attributed to be the cause of the crime, and it's usually a mixture of individual motivation, circumstances and delayed police action.

Raje suggests that because multiple perspectives exist, one cannot be entirely sure about the present fact-based narrative about violence against minorities... [she tries to] justify her administration's failure in appropriately addressing such crimes.

Kurosawa, against the backdrop of a grotesque crime, imparted a vastly important philosophical idea—that it is impossible to achieve complete objectivity, and at best, we could strive for a collective universal subjectivity. This phenomenon has come to be known as the "Rashomon effect", and many social scientists regard overcoming it as a goal in their academic work.

The arduous task in academia, particularly in areas relating to human affairs, is to navigate through the obstacles of ethnocentrism and cognitive biases to reach a fact-based narrative. Vasundhara Raje, in her op-ed, attempted to misappropriate this very effect to adulterate the discourse regarding the rise of Hindutva-hued fascism. She suggests that because multiple perspectives exist, one cannot be entirely sure about the present fact-based narrative about violence against minorities, and to perversely justify her administration's failure in appropriately addressing such crimes.

Besides, the mere possibility of a different perspective doesn't give it legitimacy. Further examination of Vasundhara Raje's bogus claims in the article only proves the point. She argues that it is prejudiced to extrapolate an individual's action to the whole group, but that argument fails as one learns that Rajasthan's Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria made excuses for the murderers of Pehlu Khan and insinuated that the victim was somehow to be blamed even though there was no evidence of any wrongdoing on his part. In such a scenario, how can one not hold the BJP accountable at least to a degree?

Instead of crafting disingenuous essays, perhaps BJP leaders such as Vasundhara Raje can take tangible action to show their bonafides and rectify their errors.

In the Rajasthan Bovine Animal (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export) Act, 1995, there are two problematic clauses that must be removed.

Instead of crafting disingenuous essays, perhaps BJP leaders such as Vasundhara Raje can take tangible action to show their bonafides and rectify their errors.

Clause 11 puts the burden of proof on the accused, and hence increases the chances of harassment and blackmail of the cattle-owner. Now, most cattle- owners live hand to mouth—the hassle of a criminal case, the possible legal costs and the cost of losing out on a day's employment together can cripple their life. Furthermore, it must be the responsibility of the prosecution to prove that accused is guilty and not the other way around. Vasundhara Raje herself noted the ideal of "innocent until proved guilty" in her op-ed.

Clause 14 calls for protection of persons acting in good faith. This devious clause empowers so-called cow vigilantes to wreak havoc on cattle-owners, and get away scot free after harassing, beating or even robbing them. The use of citizen-watchdogs in this law has allowed for nefarious parties to bully the weaker sections of the society. The government must insert a clause that brings about criminal proceedings against "vigilantes" that take the law into their own hands, and cause harm.

Nigel Farage, the racist UKIP leader, who railed for Brexit and has on many occasions demonised Islam was apparently shocked at the Charlottesville incident. The irony of this escaped no one. There is not much difference between his hypocrisy and that of Vasundhara Raje and other BJP leaders who subtly and not-so-subtly encourage communal polarisation and then express faux neutrality and condemnation when lives are lost and the media trains its lens on them.

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