NEW DELHI: Whenever the government is placed in the dock for violence even by the more ‘genteel’ of its supporters, Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes a statement to mollify the constituency and assure them that he is as committed to peace as Gandhi, the apostle of non-violence.

As now when the BJP governments at both the centre, and Haryana have drawn flak for not trying to, and not being able to control the violent supporters of rapist Gurmeet SIngh from wreaking havoc across Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and in parts of Delhi. PM Modi in his Mann ki Baat again evoked Gandhi with, "India is the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Lord Buddha. Violence is not acceptable in the nation, in any form."

He added, "I want to assure my countrymen that people who take the law into their own hands and are on the path of violent suppression - whether it is a person or a group - neither this country nor any government will tolerate it. Each and every person will have to abide by the law; the law will fix accountability and the guilty will unquestionably be punished.”

But again the words were general, without even mention of the terrible violence in Haryana. Not a word. Very similar to an earlier statement extracted from the Prime Minister by public fury, when a young boy Junaid was killed in a train by a lynch mob for being little more than a Muslim. At this time too many of those who had supported PM Modi had joined protests leading him again to issue a statement against violence, reminding the people that this was the land of Gandhi. Of course, it is the BJP and the RSS that seems to forget the undeniable fact, and erase a history where Gandhi, Nehru and others with them had led the struggle of non-violence to gain Independence.

Today I want to say a few words and express sadness on some of the things going on. We are a land of non violence. We are the land of Mahatma Gandhi. Why do we forget that. No one spoke about protecting cows more than Mahatma Gandhi and Acharya Vinoba Bhave. Yes. It should be done. But, killing people in the name of Gau Bhakti is not acceptable. This is not something Mahatma Gandhi would approve. As a society, there is no place for violence.” He added at the time, “No person in this nation has the right to take the law in his or her own hands in this country. Violence never has and never will solve any problem.” And again, “let’s create an India our freedom fighters would be proud of”.

But again there was no mention of Junaid Khan on the Delhi-Mathura train. And no mention of course, of any of the lynchings that had preceded this with Muslims being targeted, beaten and killed by cow mobs on the charge of carrying beef. In fact even as he spoke a man was lynched in Jharkhand.

The first time PM Modi spoke on this controlled and targeted violence was in August last year, after the Una incident in Gujarat, where cow mobs attacked Dalits for skinning dead bovines. Here too he had not mentioned the instance, that was videographed and posted on the social media, creating a huge wave of anger, particularly in the marginalised community.

Why does PM Modi not define the incident, and instead seek the refuge of generalities to get away from the specifics of each horror attack that has sent a chill up the spine of India. Three reasons come to mind:

  1. By not being specific he does not have to castigate his governments or his chief ministers. The worst incidents of such violence have taken place in BJP ruled states---such as the Una incident in Gujarat, lynching of Junaid Khan in Uttar Pradesh, and now the Dera violence in Haryana. In each instance the Chief Ministers have got away, in that the party has not moved to hold them to task for the incident, and then the subsequent inaction. In Haryana the BJP has now dug in its heels behind CM Manohar Lal Khattar despite the fast spreading demand for his resignation, or dismissal.
  2. PM Modi in the three instances has spoken of non violence, and of Gandhi. Again by not specifically mentioning the incident he has been able to assuage sentiment, bring back the momentarily angry supporters, and yet not target those who stripped and flogged the Dalits in Una, or lynched Junaid Khan on the train, or for that matter set Panchkula and Haryana on fire just because a rapist was arrested. PM Modi has not spoken a word for or against rapist Singh, and thus avoided taking a position even on this issue that has the Punjab and Haryana court up in arms against the ruling party reminding both the PM and the CM that they hold these positions for India, and not for the BJP.
  3. The third reason, of course, is not to narrow the discourse and thereby take away the cutting edge from the RSS cadres and supporters who have been left largely free to take law into their own hands. Specifics again would mean action, against the CM but also action to prevent such incidents from occurring again, and thereby alienating a constituency that has been given the freedom to violence. The rapist who supported the BJP in the general and the Haryana elections is a case in point. He was praised by the Prime Minister, and nurtured by the Haryana CM and his Ministers, one of whom is on video touching the Dera chief’s feet. Specific mention of the incident and the Dera followers would have alienated those who supported and worked for the BJPs victory in the state, and hence the general comment against violence that is applicable equally to those who indulge in arson against the state, and those who do not. In that every potential offender is roped into the comments, when actually there is a clear specific as to who is responsible, and who should be acted against in all the three incidents that compelled the PM to speak out.