Election season upon us – 2

With UP elections round the corner, almost everything appearing in the mainstream media should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Cow vigilantism is another fancy term coined by the Indian main stream media in the run up to a major state election. Remember ‘intolerance’? Although not as abstract but certainly more potent. If ‘intolerance’ set the stage for a counter attack, this is the actual event.

So whats ‘vigilantism’? According to etymonline.com a vigilante is “member of a vigilance committee,” 1856, American English, from Spanish vigilante, literally “watchman,” from Latin vigilantem (nominative vigilans) “watchful, anxious, careful,” from vigil (see vigil). Vigilant man in same sense is attested from 1824 in a Missouri context. Vigilance committees kept informal rough order on the U.S. frontier or in other places where official authority was imperfect.”

Wikipedia says, “Vigilante justice” is often rationalized by the concept that proper legal forms of criminal punishment are either nonexistent, insufficient, or inefficient. Vigilantes normally see the government as ineffective in enforcing the law; such individuals often claim to justify their actions as a fulfillment of the wishes of the community. 

Various articles like this , this and this with loaded statements have appeared off late in the media. The second last one appeared in NYT whose author was previously associated with several “exposes” for an organisation whose founder worked for Tehelka. And ofcourse, the last being an article by Congress MP Tharoor in an elite publication. Not surprisingly, Tharoor starts off by painting these random, unrelated and sporadic acts of crime as being more generalised, planned and well entrenched. In the process, tries to whip up a heightened sense of fear. Dismissive and condescending references to large parts of North India as “Cow Belt” (strangely even mentions “the refusal to eat beef” as common in these states, as if its the norm elsewhere in India) is also not surprising considering his political identity. After the crushing defeat of the Congress party, it has cranked up its ally machinery viz., business associates (read media houses) whereby abstract concepts are conjured up and thrown around liberally. Unrelated acts of crime are sought to be publicised and a relentless coverage (sometimes even misreporting is resorted to) to create a politically charged atmosphere before elections, only to subside after the elections get over. If it were “Church attacks” before Delhi, “Intolerance” and “Dadri” before Bihar, it is now, on expected lines, “Una” and “Cow vigilantism” before UP. Not to deny the criminal act of assault, they happen everywhere on the planet as much as they happen in India, but a broad generalisation and painting it with a broad brush is uncalled for.

If the target audience of “Intolerance’was the minorities, the target audience this time includes the lower castes. The strategy of maligning the government in front of a global audience had worked back then. A similar ploy is at play now.

Even the recent silver medal winning performance of an India shuttler PV Sindhu wasnt spared the lethal caste angle when little known The News Minute website in its factually erroneus article had implied how “millions” of Indians were searching for her caste rather than couple of thousand (as a % of total population is neglible). A superb rebuttal by Sanu . Not surpringly, it got stupidly picked up ToI and Indian Express. Really guys? A couple thousand random searches means India searching ? Wow!


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