Ten people have been beaten to death by a group of villagers in the northern Indian state of Bihar, officials say.
Every time I read an item like the above, I think, “Those people who got lynched were probably Denotified Tribals,” the report doesn’t tell you who the people who were killed were, who killed them, and the story always ends in the same way–nobody was punished for lynching a defenseless person.
And then if you wait for a bit, you find out that they were Nats, a Denotified Tribe from an article by the tireless Mahasweta Devi, who has to remind readers, yet again of the terrible injustice done to India’s Denotified Tribes, and has to conclude the article with:
Dalits, caste Hindus, Muslims, everyone who feels like it can kill them. When will the state government start doing something to ensure that the Nats do not have to live in fear of being lynched any more?
This week Tehelka (thank you, Anant) has a harrowing report by S. Anand about the pattern of brutality visited upon those who exist on the margins of the margins.
Here is a picture of a man who was accused of stealing a gold chain. He has been tied to a motorcycle in preparation of being dragged through the streets of Bhagalpur in Bihar. Two policemen are part of this mob.
Lest you think that this is the problem only of Bihar, think again. A ‘Gypsy’ woman was attacked in Kerala, woman were killed in Assam for being “witches,” and a community of Pardhis were unlawfully evicted from their homes in Madhya Pradesh.
S. Anand argues that the State in India is very weak, and these incidents aren’t about a brutal State savaging its citizens, but citizens brutalizing those they consider non-citizens.
While, I don’t think Anand is wrong, I wonder what the role of the police is in all of this. They are an arm of the State, yet are the most flagrant breakers of the law. They are often in collusion with corrupt politicians, powerful criminals and the rich and powerful in the area (who are often one and the same person). These are the people who constitute the State as most people experience it. I suppose there is the state and then the State.
Update: Two policemen involved in the incident in the picture above were exonerated by an inquiry committee set up by the State Government, one of the policemen is I believe the man on the motorcycle. What a disgrace.