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Mainstream, VOL LX No 14, New Delhi, March 26, 2022

Letter to the readers, Mainstream, March 26, 2022

Friday 25 March 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, March 26, 2022

Brutal social violence and revenge killings in which numerous people were burnt to death in Rampurhat, in West Bengal made big news recently [1]. A village council political functionary was murdered triggering counter-violence leading to 8 people being burnt to death. These killings are being read as part of the prevalent culture of ‘political’ violence? Why do political actors use violence? A police investigation may tell more about the case but not much as why is our society so violent? Why is there so much acceptance in society for taking the law in their own hands in the absence of police? Such violence is not specific to Bengal, and there are countless examples of comparable acts of violence from across India from other states whether ruled by the Congress party, by the BJP or for that matter the various regional parties or local parties. The opposition parties in Bengal raise the law and order bogey implying that only police & state machinery can stop the violence but have little to show in terms of their own report cards as social actors that can act to promote a non-violent culture in society. The BJP in power in UP and many other states of India have selectively dealt with violence; it uses state violence or state agencies to curb opposition and turns a blind-eye to extra-judicial killings, mob violence [2], lynchings [3], rape [4] or other violence in society when it has its own members or affiliated social groups to protect [5]. It took a long time to get the police to act against the four-term MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar [6] accused of rape and murder or the matter involving the accused son of a Minister of State for Home Affairs whose car mowed down protesting peasants (accused of murder charges the Central minister’s son is on bail now [7]). How many people have been brought to book over the continuing spate of tit for tat political violence in Kerala? Do we remember the Kherlanji massacre in Maharashtra [8], public flogging of Dalits in Una [9], in BJP ruled Gujarat, the public lynchings of men accused of sacrilege in what was Congress-ruled Punjab [10] (The then Punjab state Congress President demanded public hangings for the sacrilege accused) or the racist public beating of an African national tried to a lamp post in AAP ruled Delhi [11], or yet again the public beating of a Christian priest in Delhi tied to a post at a crossroad, we wonder how many have been punished or ’reformed’. But the point is, how do we as a society deal with growing violence, political or social, is punishment, coercion, incarceration, and punitive measures the only panacea. Will placing a cop on very tree make our cities or countryside free of violence? Very doubtful. Long years ago, Mahatma Gandhi a national figure in our society tried and promoted a message of peace and non-violence in society. But, today as you look around, there are practically no spaces, schools, NGOs, Trade unions or political organisations in our society that actively promote or teach non-violence. We seem very ill equipped to quell violence in a society seething with anger and living with violence. Sloganeering can’t get us non-violence we have train, think and push hard for this in society, our homes, in public places and here social and political organisations must stand up to the challenge and promote active non-violence.

Tribute:

Mallu Swarajyam, who was associated with the Communist Party of India and had participated in the Telangana peasant armed struggle of 1946-51, passed away on March 19, 2022.

Sara Suleri, the Karachi born much-acclaimed author of the poignant memoir ’Meatless Days’ and a teacher of English literature in an American university passed away on March 22, 2022

Russian journalist Oksana Baulina, who worked for the Latvia based news site The Insider, was killed on March 23, 2022 by Russian shelling in Kiev while reporting on a previous shelling attack which had struck the Podil district of Kiev.

Jacques Rougerie, the French historian of the Paris Commune passed away on March 24, 2022

Sudhir Bedekar, a prominent member of the independent left — the late-sixties Marxist group Magowa and later the editor of Tatparya the very influential journal in Maharashtra in the 1970s passed away in Pune on March 25, 2022.

We pay our tributes to all of the above people

March 26, 2022 – HK

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