Vendors of hate exist in all societies

To those driven by their own hatred of the Narendra Modi government, the Bisara lynching is an inevitable consequence of the growing intolerance against what has been described as India’s Pink Revolution. 

Last week in London, a group of about 200 rowdies claiming to be from a group called Class War attacked a small eating house, colourfully named Cereal Killer Café, on Brick Lane—a Bangladeshi-dominated street of East London. The café, which specialised in serving breakfast cereals, was painted by the angry crowd as epitomising everything that was wrong with gentrification and capitalism in a city where the very rich coexist with the down and out. Class War, in its Facebook posting, called for an assault on the café to protest against “communities being ripped apart—by Russian oligarchs, Saudi sheikhs, Israeli scumbag property developers, Texan oil-money twats and our homegrown Eton toffs…We don’t want pop-up gin bars, we want community.”

The list of those hated by this anarchist group is quite impressive. Indeed, apart from Indian tax exiles that have also made London their nominal station of domicile and have helped drive up property prices in Central London, the group seems to hate nearly every group that can be said to be privileged. Note also that the denunciation of “Israeli scumbag property developers” is a thinly disguised euphemism for Jews—a community that has traditionally been at the receiving end of populist derision since at least the beginning of the 20th century. Note too that the targeted communities don’t include Bangladeshis, the dominant group in this part of London, for the possible reason that they aren’t by any means rich.

What this attack that ended up targeting the establishment of two entrepreneurial Irish brothers reveals is simple: hate exists in all societies and the pedlars of hate thrive in all societies. In the United States, for example, every couple of month sees a gun attack—possibly because of the free availability of lethal weapons—on schools and colleges by some deranged individual with a chip on his shoulder.

I refer to these attacks organised by either a self-styled political group propelled by a fierce desire to ‘do something’ or an individual fighting his/her own crusade against some symbol of their hate for a good reason. Last week, in Bisara, a small village of western Uttar Pradesh, a man was lynched for the supposed crime of either slaughtering a calf or merely having beef in his possession.

To those driven by their own hatred of the Narendra Modi government, the Bisara lynching is an inevitable consequence of the growing intolerance against what has been described as India’s Pink Revolution. Part of this movement against the slaughter of cattle livestock, mainly for export to Bangladesh and the Gulf countries, is no doubt based on the belief that in a Hindu-majority India there is no place for cow slaughter or beef. In other words, the strictures against ‘forbidden’ meat that exist in many faiths, must be extended to India too, And, if the law proves ineffective to deal with the ban, citizens must take matters into their own hands. The logic, to my mind, is flawed but it is no different from that of the left-wing, anarchist Class War in London. Both sets of protests are no doubt political; but it is a politics that exists outside of all responsible political parties.

The naturally indignant would disagree and claim that the organised political forces cannot be exonerated from their responsibilities. In London, the so-called ‘right wing’ will blame the attack on the Cereal Bar on the type of anti-enterprise, pro-welfare culture that has taken centre stage after Jeremy Corbyn made the opposition Labour Party even more unelectable. In India, on the other hand, the Left-liberal critics of the BJP would trace the Bisara attack on the impulses generated in the wake of the election of an avowedly pro-Hindu government and the strictures against beef by BJP-led state governments in different parts of India. Their logic is that the attackers in Bisara felt that they enjoyed some kind of immunity for doing the ‘right’ thing against social deviants.

Both arguments are borrowed from examples in totalitarian states. In the Germany of the 1930s, it is said, not every attack on Jews was undertaken at the behest of Hitler and his Nazi organisation. Some were on the initiative of local people, often neighbours, who had scores to settle and used the larger ideology of anti-Semitism as a cover. Likewise in China during the dreaded Cultural Revolution, the harassment of ‘capitalist roaders’ and ‘bourgeois deviants’ were often the handiwork of locals who waved Mao Zedong’s Red Book and dubbed themselves Red Guards.

In a democracy, however, the political culture is based on accommodation and tolerance of differences. However, it is undeniable that there is often a serious transmission loss (or, rather, distortion) in the way a big message is received in the communities. Those familiar with the Gandhian movements during the movement for freedom will know that everything done in the name of ‘Gandhi Maharaj’ carried the blessings of the Congress organisation.

This does not lessen the responsibility of political parties: it makes it more imperative to ensure that the Lakshman rekha of protest is not crossed. I cannot speak for the political establishment in London and how they cope with mobs undertaking social protest. In India, however, those in government have a special responsibility to ensure that socio-religious causes are kept within Constitutional norms. There may be different attitudes to beef eating ranging from the permissive to the intolerant: that is part of life. What, however, cannot be a part of life is for groups to claim a monopoly of all wisdom and debunk all those who think differently as ‘scumbags’ and ‘toffs.’

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