Mob lynchings, crackdowns on dissent: Are these the reforms the BJP regime promised us in 2014?

The Narendra Modi government is trapped in a congratulatory echo chamber.

On June 12, officials of Tamil Nadu’s animal husbandry department transporting cattle from Rajasthan were attacked by a mob, which suspected them of trading in beef. Such lawless actions by vigilante groups that believe they have state sanction have become all too common.

When the Narendra Modi government took office in 2014, it pledged to avoid ending up discredited like its predecessor UPA regime, in which corruption and nepotism appeared pervasive. The Bharatiya Janata Party government came in looking like tough and disciplined achievers. They spoke of protecting women and lifting millions of Indians out of poverty with fast-paced development.

Three years later, there are growing concerns about the government’s authoritarianism and populist campaigns targeting religious minorities. The BJP government and its backers are cracking down on dissent. It is not just the authorities going after critics, discrediting them with corruption investigations or forcing them to defend themselves under various laws that curb free speech. Sundry backers of the BJP, too, feel emboldened. Student and community organisations directly or indirectly affiliated with the ruling party, its fervent supporters in the media, and organised internet trolls are all out to promote the regime at the expense of labelling any dissent as anti-national.

These efforts have engendered a chilling effect and self-censorship.

Perilous path

Unfortunately, while a congratulatory echo chamber is attractive to any ruler, it eventually hurts the state. Killing the messenger does not make the problem go away. Governing a billion-plus people – spread across a range of economic brackets and subscribing to their own identities – means that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. In a federal structure, many of these issues should be handled by state governments. At the same time, public-private conversations, consultations with civil society and dialogue with dissenting voices are essential when it comes to handling complex problems such as farmer distress or ridding the economy of stolen cash by changing currency.

Instead, human rights protections guaranteed to the citizens are being undermined. India’s proud United Nations troop-contributing Army is now disgraced, not just because one officer decided to tie a Kashmiri civilian to a military vehicle as a warning to other protesters, but because so many, including senior officials, chose to commend this horrendous abuse. At least 100 people have died during street protests in Jammu and Kashmir over the last year as the government ignored warnings of increasing discontent over human rights violations.

There are confusing orders about the cattle business even as Muslims are being killed over allegations of consuming beef or trading cattle for slaughter. It is hard to understand why a country that is unable to feed its population properly wants to restrict what citizens should eat.

Inter-caste or inter-religious relationships and marriages are under attack from groups that claim to be BJP supporters. The government refuses to heed advice that when people feel persecuted, they are easy recruits for regressive violent resistance.

The prime minister has repeatedly said he does not wish to engage in the politics of appeasement, that he intends to work for every Indian regardless of their religion, caste or ethnic identity. If that is indeed the case, his government and its supporters must stop selectively targeting various groups. The administration should not use unjustified lethal or excessive force against protesters. Nor should it fail to prosecute its vigilante supporters. It should not silence the media or activists it dislikes while allowing its favourites to deal in hate politics. It short, it should not jeopardise the promised efforts at reform and modernisation.

Meenakshi Ganguly is South Asia Director, Human Rights Watch.

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Advice from an ex-robber on how to keep your home safe

Tips on a more hands-on approach of keeping your house secure.

Home, a space that is entirely ours, holds together our entire world. Where our children grow-up, parents grow old and we collect a lifetime of memories, home is a feeling as much as it’s a place. So, what do you do when your home is eyed by miscreants who prowl the neighbourhood night and day, plotting to break in? Here are a few pre-emptive measures you can take to make your home safe from burglars:

1. Get inside the mind of a burglar

Before I break the lock of a home, first I bolt the doors of the neighbouring homes. So that, even if someone hears some noise, they can’t come to help.

— Som Pashar, committed nearly 100 robberies.

Burglars study the neighbourhood to keep a check on the ins and outs of residents and target homes that can be easily accessed. Understanding how the mind of a burglar works might give insights that can be used to ward off such danger. For instance, burglars judge a house by its front doors. A house with a sturdy door, secured by an alarm system or an intimidating lock, doesn’t end up on the burglar’s target list. Upgrade the locks on your doors to the latest technology to leave a strong impression.

Here are the videos of 3 reformed robbers talking about their modus operandi and what discouraged them from robbing a house, to give you some ideas on reinforcing your home.


2. Survey your house from inside out to scout out weaknesses

Whether it’s a dodgy back door, a misaligned window in your parent’s room or the easily accessible balcony of your kid’s room, identify signs of weakness in your home and fix them. Any sign of neglect can give burglars the idea that the house can be easily robbed because of lax internal security.

3. Think like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone

You don’t need to plant intricate booby traps like the ones in the Home Alone movies, but try to stay one step ahead of thieves. Keep your car keys on your bed-stand in the night so that you can activate the car alarm in case of unwanted visitors. When out on a vacation, convince the burglars that the house is not empty by using smart light bulbs that can be remotely controlled and switched on at night. Make sure that your newspapers don’t pile up in front of the main-door (a clear indication that the house is empty).

4. Protect your home from the outside

Collaborate with your neighbours to increase the lighting around your house and on the street – a well-lit neighbourhood makes it difficult for burglars to get-away, deterring them from targeting the area. Make sure that the police verification of your hired help is done and that he/she is trustworthy.

While many of us take home security for granted, it’s important to be proactive to eliminate even the slight chance of a robbery. As the above videos show, robbers come up with ingenious ways to break in to homes. So, take their advice and invest in a good set of locks to protect your doors. Godrej Locks offer a range of innovative locks that are un-pickable and un-duplicable. To secure your house, see here.

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