Gujarat model: Is Rajasthan BJP's new Hindutva lab?

Gujarat model: Is Rajasthan BJP's new Hindutva lab?

As the BJP celebrated the fourth anniversary of the Vasundhara Raje government in Rajasthan, the year 2017 will also be remembered for incidents of intolerance that stoked nationwide outrage. The 'peaceful' state witnessed some of the most controversial and communal incidents of violence that started with the murder of Pehlu Khan by a mob of cow vigilantes, then the protests and threats against the makers of the Bollywood movie Padmavati, and most recently the gory, video-recorded murder of a migrant Muslim labourer in the name of 'love jihad'.

The reasons could be, firstly the way the Rajasthan government dealt with the cases reported. Secondly, Chief Minister Raje's silence while fanatics overran the state, unafraid of the law.

A timeline of unforgettable incidents starts with the sealing of Jaipur's Hotel Hayat Rabbani by cow vigilante groups on the night of March 17 over rumours that it served beef. The restaurant could be reopened only 74 days later after a Forensic Sciences Lab report revealed that the meat samples confiscated were not of beef.

Other incidents include the death of a 20-year-old woman, burnt alive for protesting against the felling of trees in Pipda city (March), the killing of Pehlu Khan (April), a suspected case of honour killing when a 30-year-old civil engineer was shot dead in Jaipur (May), the lynching of Zaffar, a CPI(ML) activist who was allegedly beaten to death by civic officials in Pratapgarh after he objected to some women being photographed without consent (July), the killing of a Muslim Manganiyar singer in Jaisalmer (October), the suspicious suicide of a man at Nahargarh fort in an alleged protest against the movie Padmavati, with provocative graffiti found near his body (November), the alleged killing of Umar in Alwar district for ferrying cows (November), followed by two shootouts by police at suspected cow smugglers, and most recently the 'love jihad' killing of Afrazul, a labourer from West Bengal by Shambulal Regar in Rajsamand district (December).  

Surprisingly, none of the cases have been solved so far. The police is either still in search of the accused or, as in the case of Pehlu Khan, where six of the 16 held in connection with the lynching were set free by Rajasthan Police.  

The latest NCRB data is also suggestive of Rajasthan's rising crime graph. The 2016 data reveals that the state is ranked fourth in the number of crimes against women. Despite special women squads and GPS-enabled buses, women are unsafe. Crimes under SC/ST atrocities Act are high, too. The state is ranked second in the number of atrocities against STs. The state also accounts for nearly 18% of the 8,057 human trafficking cases across the country, followed by neighbouring Gujarat.  

Rajasthan Police, however, is ever ready to boast about initiatives such as the Abhay Command Centre, Police Jawabdehi Samiti, public hearing of grievances, the chief minister's helpline, which they believe have improved the law and order situation. "Law and order has been the first priority of the BJP government in Rajasthan. How can we only focus on controversial incidents? There were success stories also. Rajasthan police was able to nab the gangster Anandpal Singh in an encounter," Home minister Gulab Chand Kataria told DH.

However, social activists allege that BJP leaders like Kataria and Gyandev Ahuja are among the leading offenders in terms of hate speech and endorsement of regressive communal sentiments. "Rajasthan has emerged as the next laboratory of the RSS, after Gujarat. In the past year, since the BJP's choice of Yogi Adityanath as  Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, communal and regressive forces and organisations have felt emboldened. Muslims are being lynched and slaughtered on every conceivable pretext, noted social activist Kavita Krishnan told DH. "The Rajasthan government is lowering the quality of education and poisoning young minds by forcing schools to take students to fairs organised by Sangh outfits that propagate divisive ideas against minorities and women".

Silence is licence?

The state government has come under criticism as CM Vasundhara Raje has not condemned these acts or initiated action against the killers. Opposition and social activists have demanded her resignation and accused her of turning a blind eye to the woes of the minority community. State Congress president Sachin Pilot said, "As a chief minister, she has been a total failure. She has only been successful in dividing society along caste lines".  

Interestingly a few leaders from BJP, too, had asked Raje to step down. The bold voices
include those of senior BJP leader Ghanshyam Tiwari, who had repeatedly held her responsible for law and order troubles.  

"The incidents recently reported  are gruesome, which is likely to dent the image of a peaceful and touristy state and is equally alarming for citizens. Some 15% of the state's population is dependent on tourism, which will be affected", opined Rajan Mahan, a senior journalist.  

The BJP government in the state completed four years on December 13 and Vasundhara Raje rolled out a slew of sops at a mega rally in Jhunjhunu, including relaxation in age for government jobs for unreserved category, 48 hours of free treatment for accident victims in the nearest hospitals (private or government) and free angiography surgeries in government hospitals.  

If she has to repeat her success in the forthcoming 2018 assembly polls, however, Raje will need to address the issue of growing intolerance in Rajasthan.

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