From Maoists to Uber, why Home Minister Rajnath Singh fails to impress
From his silence on the activities of Hindutva fringe groups to flip-flop on Maoists, Union home minister Rajnath Singh appears listless.
Is Rajnath Singh measuring up to his task as the country’s Home minister? While his government has been accused of talking too much and focussing solely on scoring publicity points without doing little on the ground, the performance of his ministry has been singularly disappointing. From his silence on the activities of Hindutva fringe groups to flip-flop on Maoists, the minister appears listless.
The timing of the Agra “home coming” drama shows it’s the Sangh Parivar that is pulling the strings in the ministry. It just waited for the major phases of polling to be over in Jammu and Kashmir before going the whole hog about its communal programme. The Modi government sought to wash its hands of the Agra event saying the Centre had no role in it as it was a subject that the Uttar Pradesh government had to handle. Faced with pressure from the opposition, the Home minister had to speak on the matter. But he chose a proxy – Venkaiah Naidu.
Describing conversions and re-conversions as “national challenge” Naidu resorted to sermons. “Let us introspect. Let there be anti-conversion laws in all states as also at the Centre” so that all religions practices and beliefs are preserved. “Let us all seriously work towards progress.”
BJP-run states like Madhya Pradesh which have enacted such laws showed a couple of months ago how they can help RSS affiliates draw mileage through coerced reconversion. It had arrested nine Dalits for converting to Islam without seeking the government’s permission. Some of them were brought to back to the faith after elaborate ‘Shuddhi’ or purification.
There was no condemnation of what is happening around. With no promise of action from the Home ministry to stop the Indeed, his remarks were a subdued endorsement of the activities of the Hindutva fringe groups.
The knee-jerk action to ban Uber, a cab provider, in the wake of the latest Delhi rape incident, reflects the ministry’s eagerness to please the ‘instant justice’ crowd on the streets and elsewhere. This is at best an escapist move and does answer the real question on women safety in no way. We had seen something similar happening in Punjab at the peak of extremist violence during the 1980s. The then government in its wisdom banned pillion riding on motor bikes after some riders had set off explosions. As the situation grew worse the government banned motor bikes for some time. The extremists responded by using bicycles to carry out the job.
Little seems to have changed for women in Delhi since the Nirbhaya case of 2012. Stiffer laws and quicker dispensation of justice haven’t deterred criminals. Surely, the problem lies elsewhere as does the solution. We haven’t heard anything practical from the Home minister yet. Rajnath is only following a tradition of his party: talk nice, talk tough, sound credible, impress the audience; and the rest can take care of itself.
In September, the Home minister told the police chiefs in all states not to be unduly worried about human rights authorities while dealing with Maoists and dreaded criminals. “As Uttar Pradesh chief minister, I had assured the police force of full freedom from hassle of the human rights commission while dealing with the Maoists. I told them that they need not worry about the commission as I was there to face its ire,” Singh had said.
In a subsequent speech he had said there was no question of talks with the Maoists. After another big incident – on December 1 at Sukma where 14 CRPF personnel were killed - he said Maoists were welcome to talks if they offered to join the mainstream. The Maoists’ audacity remains unchecked and Singh has gone silent on the issue.
The new government’s policy to deal with Maoist violence has been awaiting cabinet sanction for the past two months. Besides Singh’s Home ministry the ministries for Tribal Welfare, Panchayat Raj, Road Transport and Highways, Forest and Environment are required to endorse it but the bureaucratic delays have forced the government to hold it back.
Mediocrity of performance wouldn’t have aroused public ire as much if the BJP had not run down the previous government and sold dreams of instant solution to the nation’s problems. Now, it has to show that it really means business.
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