If this weekend Delhi, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka saw violence on the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti, last weekend it was Ram Navami that was besmirched by clashes across Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and West Bengal. India really is the country of festivals, one of them is always around the corner. Their enmeshment in rioting not only wreaks tragic disruption of lives and livelihoods, but also clouds the basic festival spirit itself. The celebration is vitiated, its heritage pitifully lessened.
Police failures are writ large across these episodes, reportedly both of omission and commission. Political parties are only pointing fingers at each other, which is hardly the most constructive approach under these somber circumstances. Some of them are crying conspiracy, but logically that too is a failure of government. Kneejerk state bulldozers after the fact also only multiply the lapses of law. The political class really must stop playing with fire.
The social divisions underlying these episodes may be complex and of long standing. It would therefore be disingenuous to pretend that these can be repaired at speed. So the immediate focus of all the organs of the state has to be on everything that is in its direct control, and a lot is. Sensitive areas along festival procession routes often even remain the same year after year, so there is little excuse to not take proper preventive actions here including adequate deployment of police personnel. Professional investigation and prosecution of the current cases, such that all these have widespread credibility, has to be the first order of business. But thwarting the next conflagration is just as critical.
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