“Childhood means simplicity. Look at the world with the child’s eye – it is very beautiful.”
– Kailash Satyarthi
At a time when the Centre claims to have taken steps to control mob lynching, Union minister Jayant Sinha has sparked a political row by felicitating eight men convicted in the Ramgarh lynching case. Photographs of the event, believed to have been organised on Friday, have gone viral. They show the minister welcoming the eight men at his house on the outskirts of Hazaribagh and even garlanding some of them. The eight were earlier convicted by a fast track court for lynching a man named Alimuddin Ansari. Ansari was lynched by a mob of more than 100 cow vigilantes on suspicion of carrying beef in his car on June 29, 2017. The vehicle was later set on fire. After being caught on camera felicitating the eight persons, who were released on Tuesday after granted bail by the Jharkhand High Court, the Union Minister, as expected, found himself under fire from several quarters. Even his father Yashwant Sinha has censured his action. The senior Sinha wrote on Twitter: “I do not approve of my son’s action. But I know even this will lead to further abuse. You can never win.” Faced with growing condemnation, Sinha, an IIT Delhi, Harvard Business School and McKinsey alumnus, took to Twitter to clarify his stand. He wrote that he had only been “honouring the due process of law”. It was not expected from such a highly educated person like Sinha. Unlike many in the current government, Sinha’s educational qualifications are an envy to many.
The news comes at a time when the Supreme Court is hearing petitions seeking directions to frame guidelines to curb such violence. On Tuesday, the top court said it was the responsibility of states to check cow vigilantism and reserved its verdict on the pleas. These men went straight from jail to the minister’s house where the marigold necklaces were waiting to celebrate their achievement — a temporary legal reprieve. They posed for a celebratory photograph with the BJP minister. Has Sinha forgotten that a release on bail is not an acquittal? Since the Union Minister represents Hazaribagh, where this dastardly killing took place, it is clear that the garlanding is done with a political agenda directed at being projected as a hero to the majority populace. There is no denying that Sinha has obviously given in to vote bank politics but at what cost. He has opened himself up to the charge that he supports cow vigilantism and he took sides of those eight on the basis of the party affiliation of the convicts.
Yet, besides the standard yelps of protest from the Opposition parties and even veteran politician Yashwant Sinha there seems to be no action taken against the man for acting in bad faith and rank bad taste. Why is the BJP frontline not appalled by this conduct? Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP chief Amit Shah are maintaining a stoic silence on the issue. The big question is what will be his and his party’s stance if these eight are found guilty by the High Court?