When the bharatiya janata Party (BJP) was elected to power at the Centre following a sweeping victory in General Election 2014, and subsequently triumphed in several state legislative assembly elections, notably in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Goa and Tripura, the popular expectation was that the party would provide robust governance and rule of law after the corruption scandals, drift and policy paralysis which characterised the Congress-led UPA-II government. However, this expectation has been cruelly belied. On the contrary under the indulgent watch of the BJP-led NDA coalition government in New Delhi, the world’s most populous democracy is rapidly transforming into a giant mobocracy.
On October 8, a mob of youth and supportive elders ran amok in a KGBV (Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya) in Bihar — there are 2,578 KGBVs, all-girls boarding schools established countrywide by the Central government for the education of historically oppressed Dalit girls — and viciously thrashed 30-40 adolescent girls with sticks and iron rods. Their transgression was that they had protested the sexual harassment and lewd behaviour of village youths. At the other end of the country in Gujarat, a sexual assault on a small child by a migrant worker from Bihar, provoked flash mobs to begin pogroms against migrant labour from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Earlier, soon after the BJP came to power, a huge mob killed a Muslim citizen in rural UP for allegedly storing beef in his refrigerator. Moreover since then, gangs of gau rakshaks (‘cow protectors’) have been routinely attacking and often killing Muslims engaged in the meat and leather trades in UP.
The obvious cause of the accelerating downward spiral of the world’s most populous and high-potential liberal democracy into a mobocracy, is that rabble rousers and politically connected criminals have lost all respect and fear of the law, order and justice machinery. With government profligacy (establishment expenses, defence, unmerited subsidies and untargeted welfare handouts) at the Centre and in the states having gone out of control, there’s a severe shortage of resources for investment in the law and order system. Contemporary India has the lowest global police-population (13:100,000) and judge-citizens (2:100,000) ratios.
However at a deeper level, the creeping anarchy that 21st century India is currently experiencing is the inevitable outcome of sustained neglect of public education. Continuous under-investment in human capital development has resulted in a young nation infused with resentment against an iniquitous socio-economic order defined by sharp income inequality, massive unemployment and historical identity prejudices — a regressive society in which illegal, and punitive mob attacks against linguistic and religious minorities have become normative.
The worst elements of a struggling nation are pushing the world’s most promising democracy into a mobocracy hurtling towards anarchy.