Updated: September 23, 2021 9:12:11 am
The attack on the residence of Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi in the heart of the national capital marks a dangerous new low. That activists from a Hindu right-wing organisation are emboldened enough to gather at one of Delhi’s most secure neighbourhoods, vandalise a parliamentarian’s house, and chant communal abuses is a sign that the footsoldiers of polarisation have a disturbing confidence in their impunity. The Delhi Police, which has arrested five members of the Hindu Sena, must disabuse them of such notions — and ensure that the guilty are held accountable. Without any surprise, the Hindu Sena activists have defended their violent actions by accusing Owaisi of making “anti-Hindu” speeches. Owaisi had reacted to UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s abba jaan slur in a recent speech about government welfare schemes. The attack on the MP’s house is just another example of how the right to take offence is being legitimised by self-appointed custodians of religion and enforced by muscle power at the expense of constitutional freedoms of speech and expression.
This is not the first time in recent months that anti-minority rabble-rousing spectacles have been staged in the national capital — and its surrounds. Last month, at a Jantar Mantar gathering — again in the high-security Lutyen’s Delhi — members of several Hindu right-wing organisations called for violence against the Muslim community. Not only was the alarming aggression on public display recorded on video by the activists, but also spread further through the velocity of social media. While arrests were made in that case, too, the growing clout of groups that preach violence in the name of religion must not be taken lightly. Indeed, across the country, a crude simmering mobilisation appears to have licensed violence against ordinary Muslims, whether it is a bangle-seller in Indore or a rickshaw-puller in Kanpur. It has led to umpteen instances of moral policing of women by proponents of the paranoia of “love jihad”. It will also further ghettoise cities and villages into spaces for “us” and “them”, and sow conflict and disharmony.
The history of this subcontinent has grim lessons on the consequences of such lawlessness. By hurling stones and axes at an MP’s house in Lutyen’s Delhi, the vandals of the Hindu Sena attempt to send a message to their radicalised base. But, for the Delhi Police, which reports to the Union home minister, the stakes are definitely higher. It must crack down on such displays of brazen aggression against the Hyderabad MP. Doing otherwise would run the risk of allowing a communal contagion to spread out of control.
This editorial first appeared in the print edition on September 23, 2021 under the title ‘Draw the line’.
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