The politics of violence and what follows it

Political violence is a fact of life in India, unfortunately. We have, more than once, been witness to the killing, assault of people due to their political opinions and beliefs. These crimes represent the fact that we are an underdeveloped polity, where rule of law takes a back seat to the aims of the ruling party of the day. The lack of proper policing and prosecution systems is where the crux of the problem lies. But let us take a 90° turn and talk about how the media has covered the recent violence in West Bengal, particularly the gruesome murder of 20-year-old Trilochan Mahato. I have already written about this, but I’d like to dwell on it a little more.

Political violence is rampant in Bengal and has been the case in the earlier Communist regime and the current Trinamool Congress government. The Panchayat elections held earlier this year witnessed countless instances of violence, and the Supreme Court stepped in to ensure that free and fair elections be conducted in the state. In the most revolting action reported, a pregnant relative of a BJP Candidate was raped by Trinamool Congress goons.

The violence, however, did not stop after the elections. Trilochan Mahato, a 20-year-old Da BJP worker was killed and hanged in public, with the words “This is for doing BJP politics from age 18. Been trying to kill you since the vote. Failed. Today you are dead” written on the back of his T-shirt. Rajdeep Sardesai meanwhile, tells us not to ‘play politics over dead bodies’ when it was politics itself that led to the murder of a young life.

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When a Bajrang Dal activist named Prashant Poojary was murdered some days after the Dadri lynching, Sardesai wrote a whole article on how there was ‘political context’ to the murder and therefore incomparable.

“Poojary has been allegedly involved in cases of intimidation and violence in the region. He was fighting the “beef Mafia” as part of the anti-cow slaughter agitation.” he wrote in his Scroll article. Poojary was ‘allegedly involved’ and his activism against cow slaughter can also be framed in a positive manner. His attempts were, after all, meant to ensure compliance with the law, not meant to create extra-judicial terror. The very fact that such an article was written should show you the bias of the media establishment.

Rajdeep’s wife, Sagarika Ghose had also given ‘context’ to the murder of Poojary, as given under this Times of India Op-Ed about how the media was not “Anti-Hindu” she wrote:

“Utterly condemnable as it was, the Moodbidri killing occurred in the context of spiralling political violence and was not a single attack on an apolitical citizen as in Dadri.”

She’s basically saying that there is a hierarchy for outrage in the case of murders. What comment does she have to make about the murder of Trilochan Mahato?

Apparently, none. She did share a Hindustan Times report about the police claiming that death of another BJP activist in Purulia was suicide. Otherwise, she has made no comment on the murder of Trilochan Mahato.

A similar search on tweets from Barkha Dutt yielded no results, while she was more than proficient in covering the Dadri Lynching case. If this is not a case study on the bias, what is?

Take another tweet of Rajdeep when asked about his hypocrisy vis-a-vis Gauri Lankesh’s murder and Mahato’s murder:

For context, here is what the Twitter user, @Vijendra3004 posted:

Did Rajdeep not play politics over the death of Gauri Lankesh? Look at how he has phrased the tweet ‘critic of Hindutva’ – clearly factual. But he could have avoided mentioning that, or he could have mentioned that the murdered journalist was a person convicted of defamation. The phrasing of the tweet shows the intention behind it, and a twitter search on Rajdeep’s tweets clearly reflects the same.

I am not in any way condoning the murder of Gauri Lankesh, but rather pointing out how the media frames that murder to go along with their narrative. While the murder of Gauri Lankesh is still being actively discussed, we have forgotten the murder of Sudip Dutta Bhowmik, another journalist murdered 15 days after Ms Lankesh in Tripura. We have forgotten one murder but not the other. That is the power of the narrative that has been framed.

You will see that people in the left-liberal establishment will only mention and pontificate about the ‘right’ kind of violence. This can clearly be seen in the now defunct Hindustan Times ‘Hate Tracker’. The tracker was meant to show instances of ‘Hate Crime’.By design, this ‘tracker’ only featured a particular format of violence and completely ignored the violence originating from the ‘wrong side’, as brilliantly exposed by Anand Ranganathan.

Rajdeep will say not to play politics over death with respect to Mahato and the murder of other BJP workers, he will call for an independent enquiry by the CBI and till then we are to ‘remain silent’. It is a wonder that Mahato’s murder was ever brought up in English mainstream media, and I guess at the end we must be satisfied with that. His murder and his murders will be soon forgotten, only occasionally remembered by the Bharatiya Janata Party and its sympathizers. His murder did not provoke outrage among a great many public intellectuals of yore, or among the otherwise hyperactive ‘members of civil society’. Mahato’s murder does not scale high on the outrage meter, for he believed in the wrong ideology. His death could not be marketed and fit into the preexisting narrative of ‘majoritarian violence’ threatening the ‘idea of India’, so he will be forgotten. Political violence, or any violence for that matter, is not created equal.


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