Kanwaria violence, abetted by govt

The Kanwaria yatras that are held around this time of the year in some North Indian states have become an annual menace and episodes of open terror. These yatras are pilgrimages of devotees of Shiva to holy places and temples in Uttarakhand and in other states. The pilgrims have generally had a reputation for bad conduct, ill-treating people they encounter along their route and violence. They have created law and order problems and communal strife in some places. Last week, there was vandalism by groups of devotees in places like Delhi and Bulandshahr and Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh. A minor traffic incident escalated in Delhi with the Kanwarias attacking and smashing vehicles. The police were also attacked in some places and traffic blockades were enforced. The mobs carried weapons and no-one could even protest. Cases have been registered against some, but in such a way that nobody would have to even answer any questions. 

The Supreme Court has criticised the Centre and UP governments for not taking steps to prevent or stop the lawlessness. But the Kanwarias were actually patronised and encouraged by the administrations, especially in UP. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had flowers showered on them from a helicopter. Senior officials and police officers were seen greeting and felicitating them. The state police issued “red card” warnings to Muslim residents of a village on the Kanwarias’ route and demanded that they sign bonds of good conduct. In the past, there used to be a ban on loud music from the vehicles used by the Kanwarias, but this year it was not imposed. Kanwarias have always behaved with scant respect for the law. With the feeling that the administration is on their side, they have become even more lawless and aggressive. 

Kanwarias are thriving in the same atmosphere that allows cow vigilantes to take the law into their hands, attack and kill people. There is no spirituality in the conduct of drunken people who carry weapons, attack and terrorise neighbourhoods and villages on their way. Governments should not countenance and encourage such conduct on political considerations because it increases social strife and deepens communal and religious fault lines. It is the responsibility of governments to ensure peace and order on highways and in all public arenas and to deal strictly with people who violate the law. This is not being done in the case of Kanwarias. Thousands of pilgrimages and religious processions take place in the country without any untoward incident. Those like the Kanwaria yatra spoil the sense of the sacred that goes with religious activity. Even more worrying is the dangerous message that has gone out from the governments at the Centre and in UP — that certain sections of society enjoy their support and, therefore, impunity.

 

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Kanwaria violence, abetted by govt

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