The (un)Sacred Games of lynchings

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New Delhi | Published: July 31, 2018 2:47:35 AM

It is blindingly obvious that there is nobody in charge, or that those in charge really don’t give a shit, or that local hoodlums persist in such activities because they are encouraged by those in charge.

Lynchings and mob violence have become everyday affairs. (Representational Image)

Finished seeing all eight episode of Sacred Games on Netflix last week. It was great—really fast-paced, a chatpata taste of the Bombay I remember, and a frighteningly prescient story. The production and casting were terrific, although I did feel the sex was too gratuitous and, worse, didn’t have anywhere near the furious intensity of the rest of the show.

But, the most striking aspect to me was the language—foul, filthy and full-time. But it felt real. And the truth is that, back when I was a kid in the 1960’s and 70’s, a lot of people, and not just on the street, spoke like that. In fact, I have an old friend, chairman of a multi-billion rupee company, who even today scatters MCs and BCs in his social conversation. I guess it was a reflection of the time—people were fed up with how things worked (or didn’t), frustrated by the system, and it all poured out.

And this was not just in India. I remember when I lived in New York in the 1980’s, it was impossible to walk down the street without hearing loud shouts of “Mother….er” and the like; and it seemed that every yellow cab driver several times a day hung the upper half of his body out the window and screamed, “c…sucker, get out of my way”.

Today, of course, it is a whole new world, at least in some places. I was in New York recently and in a whole week I only heard one loud expletive on the street. Mumbai, too, is verbally sanitised as compared to Bombay. And it isn’t just the white boys—I asked Richard, my driver, who spends a lot more time on the streets than I do (and, who, incidentally, turned off Sacred Games because of the language), and he agreed with me that you hear a lot less cursing than you used to. As an amateur psychologist, I would venture that this reflects lower anger and violence, even though, certainly in Mumbai, the systems are stretched beyond breaking point. Or, perhaps, a lot of it has moved indoors. I don’t know.

But, what is clear is that the situation in the rural reaches of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, UP and several other parts of the country has moved beyond the pale. Violence is ratcheting up terrifyingly; lynchings and mob violence have become everyday affairs and I would bet that a soundtrack as foul and inhuman as in Sacred Games bathes the ongoing attacks against Dalits, Muslims, women and, sometimes, just some unfortunate who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Law and order has fallen out of bed in Bharat. And, it is blindingly obvious that there is nobody in charge, or (more likely and worse) that those in charge really don’t give a shit, or (equally likely and much, much worse) that local hoodlums persist in such activity because they are encouraged by those in charge, whether by the police or local (and, sometimes, national) politicians.

Since law and order is a state subject, all state governments need to be put on immediate notice that they will be dismissed and the President’s rule, with the army in charge of law and order, will be imposed if there is a single incident of lynching or mob violence. In states whose people have already suffered these horrible indignities, the home ministers must be immediately sacked and replaced, again, with someone from the military.

If this sounds radical, I must stress that personal safety is the most basic of human rights, and if a government—or, the government—cannot ensure that this can be taken for granted, it has no place in office. Of course, all this presupposes a military that is free from political interference, which may be far from reality, but it is hard to see how things could get any worse.

In parallel, the police in every state have to be made both free (from political interference) and accountable, and MPs and MLAs with criminal records and/or serious cases against them should be dismissed from Parliament.

I know, I know, I am prescribing an ideal revolution but, to my mind, if just 10% of what the media reports is true, we need more than a revolution. The ruling party, who is continually broadcasting how great things are, obviously cannot move in this direction—it would be tantamount to admitting grievous failure.

On the other hand, there are elections coming up all over the place in the next few months and the opposition parties—although, to date, few, if any, of them have ever shown themselves to be particularly caring for the people or law and order—need a platform other than ABB (anyone but BJP). Each one should grab this critical issue with alacrity and build their campaigns for state governments around not just a potential chief minister, but also a home minister in waiting, announce the changes they would implement in terms of police reform and, importantly, ensure that NOBODY standing for election under their banner has any criminal record.

A tall order, indeed, but without such a platform, we may be doomed to five more years of (un)Sacred Games.

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