Lynching: Bhagwat’s outlandish denial

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat addresses during the 'Vijayadashami Utsav 2019', at RSS headquarter in Nagpur on October 8, 2019. PTI

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has sought to deny the vicious practice of mob lynching and its underlying reasons like cow vigilantism, strangely by disowning the word lynching as un-Indian and calling it an alien practice. In his Vijayadashami address, Bhagwat tried to analyse the problem of lynching but completely missed the point. He refused to accept the acts of lynching, most often committed in the name of cow, as brutalities emanating from a sense of intolerance and impunity and defiance of the rule of law. Sentiments connected with religious and caste identities have been seen as mixed up with and even driving lynching incidents. They have taken place mostly in BJP-ruled states and after 2014 when the Narendra Modi government came to power at the Centre. They cannot be dismissed as alien practices that belong elsewhere. Bhagwat’s attempt was to make out that lynching is an import from foreign religions and cultures and is not part of the Indian tradition. But will the problem go away and the killings end if the word is banished from India?

The problem is not one of nomenclature or origin. Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, lynching by any other name would smell of blood and denote intolerance as much as it does now. Bhagwat went to the extent of saying that using the word lynching for the recent incidents of mob attacks is defaming India, and he has told those who condemn them to desist from hurting national pride and social harmony. This is the same mentality that dubs criticism of lynchings seditious. What Bhagwat wants is clear: lynchings should not be considered as acts of intolerance involving religion or caste and criticised for what they are. The statement that all acts of violence are wrong does not make his view any less unacceptable. In fact, he dilutes the gravity of the crime of lynching by saying that the violence may be mutual and that there is incitement, fabrication and twisting of facts in many cases.  

While the dismissal of lynching as a videshi construct is disturbing, the reiteration of the importance of swadeshi themes like indigenous culture, indigenous language and indigenous attire is equally significant. They underline the idea of the need for oneness and sameness of everything, and all aspects of life, which the RSS has believed in but does not agree with the realities of the country’s diversities and democratic culture. Bhagwat defended and extended support to the Modi government on a range of issues including the scrapping of Article 370. But what stood out was the outlandish explanation of an indefensible crime on the most contentious grounds.

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