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Posted at: Dec 7, 2018, 12:15 AM; last updated: Dec 7, 2018, 1:29 AM (IST)

The logic of Bulandshahr

Shiv Visvanathan

Shiv Visvanathan
It’s not development that inspires the regime but violence as a substitute for justice
The logic of Bulandshahr
It just won’t stop: Hinduisation is spreading like a civic epidemic.

Shiv Visvanathan
Academic associated with Compost Heap

One of the most touted indices of performance that the Modi government flaunts is ‘ease of doing business’. The index is paraded around like a medal. But what marks the government more ‘is the ease with which violence in committed’. The ease of violence index is something the government is equally proud of. In fact, what is unique about mob violence is the absence of regret. This was clear in the Bulandshahr violence where the local leader of the Bajrang Dal openly flaunts his violence as a sign of his newly discovered masculinity. Yogesh Raj, the local don, admitted to violence openly. What is interesting is the logic of articulation. He paints himself as an incarnation of Bhagat Singh and claims to be a protector of cows. The reified cow once a symbol of peace eliminates more people demographically than ever before. 

News reports on violence like the Bulandshahr incident follow a standard script. It does a bald narrative on who got killed and how, then lists out reactions, both pro and con. The emphasis is not on understanding violence but to display a sense of political correctness. The local magistrate and the local perpetrator get equal time. 

Critics of it, even the most seasoned journalists, are also predictable. The writing is more a display of ideological preferences than a sociological critique of violence. Even violence, in all its primordiality and pathology, is reduced to an antiseptic label, ‘law and order’. The Modi regime is then accused of being silent about ‘law and order’ and the matter ends. There is a tacit understanding of the limits of critique under the current dispensation. 

Bulandshahr, like all the incidents of violence in the Modi era, has to be seen systematically. One has to confront the fact that violence is the rationale that governs the logic of the regime. It is a three-tier logic and operate in terms of different symptoms and symbols. Each level involves a different logic of legitimation. 

The first layer is national, expressed in terms of the logic of history or an exorcism of the past. Here, violence is seen as inevitable, and virtually a duty expressed through concepts like patriotism. The persona involved at this level would include leaders like Modi. The riots in Gujarat are a good example of how narratives of violence built the logic of the regime.

The second level is more communal and involves people like Adityanath, where the logic of violence distorts religion to create a rationale of coercion. Adityanath along with Uddhav Thackeray are masters of communal logic. The Ram mandir battle is a powerful expression of this phase. Amit Shah is also a powerful expression of this violence but Shah as the BJP’s mascot for violence is protean enough to be a national and a local leader. 

It is the third level of mob violence, as a prelude to elections, as digitally inspired that has become pervasive. The mob as the hero of history is another level of regime violence and mythical unconscious of the regime displaying, its suspicion of the outsider, its inferiority regarding the West, its use of fetishised symbols from Rana Pratap to the cow. The mob becomes the Rorschach of the regime, where violence is seen as legitimate and justifiable. Violence is exorcism and the victim but a scapegoat of history. It is always the victim who is to blame for violence. Mediating between the state and the mob are three groups — the Bajrang Dal, VHP and RSS — which provide both lumpen and organisational power and the legitimations of violence. Violence becomes a festival, a celebration of agency, an act of civics enacted out by mob. Violence like sexuality becomes a release from the categories of politics and the threats of history. 

The narratives on Bulandshahr is surreal while pretending to be routine. At one level, one mourns the death of a cop, one sees picture of the family mourning and then one realises that the human as cop or citizen is dispensable. What matters is the alleged sanctity of the cow. The carcasses and the display of carcasses becomes an easy way of stirring suspicions. It is a trigger-happy violence where the crowd resonates the state in a mutuality of brutal approval. At all three levels, Hinduisation spreads like civic epidemic.

The blatant nature of violence is matched by the narcissism of display. Yogesh Raj almost preens about his masculinity. Masculinity seems to be the new demand of regime citizenship. It is no longer the vote. Murder has to be followed by a confession on selfie or Twitter, or the civics of new violence as a ritual display of aggrieved citizenship is not complete. What adds to the hypocrisy is that the side victims of such an act are dispensed through the dole or the job. The minor functionary who dies receives his compensation and his progeny a job. The ritual of riot compensation reveals the indifference to the sanctity of life. A probe is promised but by now a probe can be defined as an empty act of procedures which postpones accounting, accountability and responsibility. Adityanath must be parading probes as his index of violence.

Bulandshahr where a cop was murdered over a rumour of carcasses cannot be reported empirically. Bare facts say little about the truth of the event. Every act of mob violence enacts out the monstrous myth of the regime as Modi, Rajnath and Adityanath stay silent. It is not development that inspires this regime but the logic of violence as a substitute for justice. The regime knows it can wish away violence by rewriting history. Probes are one additional way of doing that. 

Meanwhile, the media will add human interest items like the fact that SK Singh, the inspector killed, was investigating the Akhlaq case. The UP Government will enable erasure through a dole of Rs 50 lakh. The sordid tale of Bulandshahr is now complete.

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