The Shiv Sena is proud of the sainiks who blackened the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni and if media reports are to be believed, Uddhav Thackeray has felicitated them. Of course, Uddhav could not have disowned them. He could not have been apologetic about the incident either. It would mean compromising on ideology. What ideology? One might ask. But let it pass. For the Sena, the definition of the term has always been highly elastic. After taking a position, it could not have simply backed out. For a party which revels in its muscularity, it would have been demeaning.
The culprits – or should we call them 'heroes'? – would be very happy men today. It’s not often that the party chief comes visiting low level party workers. It’s not everyday that they get such media attention. The minor matter of the police case would be taken care of later. If they are already plotting their next big attention-grabbing move, and planning to make it more outrageous than this one, it’s only normal. Since the issue involved in the Sudheendra episode was nationalism, the party may call them national heroes. But we have to wait for that.
So what are we getting at? Well, it’s the near legitimisation of low conduct through the political acceptance and why it is dangerous. Let’s bring in the khap analogy here.
In their fairly insulated social environment where the penetration of modern judiciary is low, khaps draw their moral power and sense of authority from social acceptance. Killing someone at their orders may look like a ghastly criminal practice to the outsider, but the social legitimacy extended to the act does not necessarily make the killer a criminal for the insider. After jail terms, many of them come back to villages as heroes. And there are others always ready to carry out the khap’s orders. The law so far has proved to be a weak deterrent.
Now, consider the case of the Shiv Sena workers who used black ink on Kulkarni. Their act may appear disgusting to the outsider, but its strong defence from within the party virtually exonerates them from all sense of guilt. The party has brought in a strong justification for the attack: nationalism. It’s the same way khaps use ‘honour’. With the law not assertive enough or law enforcers habitually tending to look the other way, in-house acceptance is good enough excuse for acts of vandalism.
That’s what is happening nationally at the moment. Fringe forces have become powerful because the State has ceded space to them. There’s a clear absence of will – political and otherwise - to take them on. In a civilised society, governments are meant to protect citizens. They have just abandoned that responsibility. In the process, the justification for its own existence is getting weaker. Meanwhile, the other justification just keeps getting stronger.
The trend is dangerous because it goes against the idea of order. You cannot have a society where one survives at the cost of the other and coercion and threats become the language of communication.
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Updated Date: Oct 14, 2015 07:35:24 IST