In the recent past, one has witnessed violence being increasingly inflicted by actors such as Gau Rakshaks, Anti Romeo squads and Hindu Yuva Vahini. Violence by Hindu senas, Ram senas, Bajrang dal was always there. These are extra-constitutional actors aiming to impose a culture through usage of physical violence. Under the current National regime and State regimes in BJP ruled states; these groups have become more emboldened. Violence by these forces has followed.
These extra constitutional groups work towards changing equations at the level of culture. They aim at creating a favourable environment for a Hindu Rashtra. This happens in the name of protecting the Indian culture. The Indian culture according to them is the ones which confirms to the norms set by Manu Smriti. Restrictions on eating, mixing, defining man-women relations, defining whom and whom not to worship, determining what to celebrate and not to is part of their role as cultural terrorists.
Such groups pose themselves as the Moral police. They try to impose their concept of morality. Society based on morality is the one which confirms to the laws of Manu. Hierarchy at the level of relations among people (beef eaters and non-eaters, meat eaters and non-eaters, upper castes and lower castes, man and women, majority religion and minority religion) are the ones they aim to bring back. A democratic and progressive culture prevents mainstreaming of an anti-democratic culture. Hence these groups aim to attack the democratic norms in the name of ‘protecting Indian culture’, ‘morality’, ‘Indian ethos’, ‘hindu sentiments’.
To impose their norms, they resort to the act of using physical violence. Recently, a mob of Gau Rakshaks in Alvar in Rajasthan dragged out a 55 year old dairy farmer named Pehlu Khan and whipped him up with belts and rods. He died three days later due to grievous internal injuries to chest and abdomen. Vipin Yadav was responsible for the death of Pehlu Khan. A self-proclaimed Sadhvi even went on to describe the act of murder by the Rakshak with that of Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev.
In a sting operation by a news channel, the modus operandi of similar such groups was revealed. According to Nagendra Kumar, spokesperson for the Rashtriya Gau Raksha Dal in Moradabad “When we set out, we have a single objective. We carry lathis matching our heights. If they (cattle traders) don’t spare you or resist, you got to at least break their legs so that they cannot walk for the rest of their lives. We inflict injuries that leave no visible bruises. They don’t realise how seriously they might have been hurt. They should be hit hard. But there should be no bleeding. This is what our team in Aligarh mostly does,” he claimed.
Anti Romeo Squads is one more addition to the emergence of non state actors. These have been created in the name of checking eve teasing, stalking, harassment of women and checking ‘love jihad’. Though it is to be placed within the police system, instances of civilians and sometimes even from Hindu Yuva Vahini posing themselves as preventers of eve teasing actually harassing in the name of Anti-Romeo squads have come to light. These have even been described as ‘part II of Love Jihad” campaign. Instances of their harassing young couples in public places are witnessed. According to some women’s groups while these squads may not really address the issue of harassment and violence against women, but will limit women’s freedom in the name of moral policing.
With Yogi Adityanath becoming the Chief Minister, a fanatic youth group started by him has entered into mainstream spaces. Recently a couple was attacked by Hindu Yuva Vahini in Meerut on the suspicion of ‘’Love Jihad”. Banners with messages such as ‘India against Love Jihad’ and ‘I will rape you like Nirbhaya’ were carried by these groups. While on the one hand it talks of protecting women from harassment, on the other hand it provides rape threats to women.
The increasing accommodation of these non-state actors in BJP ruled states is with the aim to legitimise their presence in mainstream spaces. It is to legitimise a deviant behaviour and lumpenism in the name of ‘moral policing’. The saffron forces create and need them to impose their mythical concept of a ‘’Hindu culture”. They cultivate and promote them. The increasing activities of these groups are an attack on a liberal, democratic and progressive culture. It is important for progressive forces to expose the reality of these non state actors.
T Navin works with an NGO as a Researcher. He did his M.Phil from Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University