The BJP in Madhya Pradesh has committed the unforgivable in democracy: targeted and branded newly recruited backward and scheduled caste and tribes constables with their caste identity before a medical examination. Bearing SC or ST or O (for Other backard castes) on their chests the men had no option but to go through the humiliating, derogatory procedure or less lose the job that they must have secured after trials and tribulations. The photograph and video now in circulation brings out the horror of the act, that the State Director General of Police Rishi Kumar Shukla claims was just a “precautionary measure to ensure there was transparency in the physical measurements for these categories.” Really? Of course now that the news has made it to the media, directions have been given to “the district police to remove the markings, if any, and to ensure there is no recurrence.” That may be so but the branding it itself indicates a mindset being legtimised by an elected government of the Republic of India. And given the close proximity that the state police has to the ruling party of a state with the top officers handpicked by the dispensation, it is clear that the police and of course the medical authorities carrying out the examinations were following directives. Or if not that, then were clearly comfortable in the knowledge that this discrimination had political sanction and hence ensured impunity.

There has been a dramatic rise in crime against SC/STs in Madhya Pradesh giving the BJP government here the dubious credit of topping the list of states with a 49.4% rise in crime against Scs and a 15.6% hike against STs. This is according to the National Crime Records Bureau in December last year. This year MP Chief Minister Shiv Raj Singh Chouhan kept up the good anti-Dalit record with the latest incident recording at least eight deaths in police firing on Dalit protests during a national mahabandh. Reports of large scale harassment of Dalits at the hands of the police and the administration have been appearing on the media as well as the social media on a regular basis.

The state has become completely unaccountable as it moves to legitimise discrimination, this time in the ‘branding’ of bonafide citizens of India in a manner that should have elicited immediate action and sacking of the police officers involved. The CM has to be made accountable for the discriminatory, anti SC, ST, OBC stance of his administration in what has become a clear cut effort by the BJP to isolate the marginalised sections of society further. The branding violates every tenet of the Indian Constitution and the Idea of India that rests on equality, rights and justice. This is such a major issue that it cannot be left to a small departmental probe or a couple of statements by the police men in charge. It requires the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, elected under the Constitution to represent every single citizen of the country without prejudice to apologise to the constables personally, and to explain to the people of India why under his watch blatant discrimination is being legitimised.