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Vote Out Lynchpin

Vote Out Lynchpin

The Union Home Ministry has asked states and Union Territories to ensure that no mob lynching takes place in their domain, following a warning from the Supreme Court. The subject has gained undivided attention of the country and the media has been able to report it without fear or favour mainly because the recent spate of mob murder did not manifest a political angle.

According to a national daily, twenty-seven people have been killed in a year in 9 states from Assam to Tamil Nadu by different mobs, following rumours spread mainly via Whatsapp and other social media platforms about strangers who kidnap children. Many of the mob members had little in common. All the victims were strangers and all of them were victims of paranoia spread by a technological advancement made in the twenty-first century.

The question is why the Centre and states have waited for this to happen and why there should even be a warning issued from a court or a directive from the Centre for states to ensure rule of law.

By the turn of this decade, it was evident that smartphones were being employed to spread fake news and rumours. One exodus of North-East migrants from Bengaluru should have been enough to alert anyone in authority with a sense of duty to put in place various mechanisms to curb the menace of fake news, rumour, hysteria and hatred.

But why did this not happen? Why did all the rumours and hatred increase? It went on because the BJP was ascending to power and its leaders and cadre alike used all fake news, rumours and hatred spread through social media. They indulged in trolling and intolerance. News channels, meanwhile, indulged in one-sided media coverage and hateful debates. All of this attained fruition when the BJP came to power.

The UPA Government on its last legs should have cracked down on the mass media and social media when it violated the basics of freedom of expression. It should have put curbs on social media platforms and arrested all those spreading fake news and rumours.

However, the lame-duck Government of Manmohan Singh did not want to be portrayed as ‘authoritarian’ and Congress did not want BJP to cry that the days of Emergency were back, even while its administrators tactlessly dealt with RSS-sponsored ‘mass movements’.

With Narendra Modi assuming power on the backing of such an intolerant atmosphere, most BJP supporters thought it was their birth right to abuse those who opposed them and troll them on social media. They thought this was the order of the day, the new dawn for a prosperous India. They received endorsement from Modi, who started following those who used filth on Twitter. To this day, Modi remains the only PM in the world to follow filthy and perverted trolls on Twitter.

The lynching of strangers by flash mobs is just the logical next stage of growth. Those who endorse monsters and think they can control them may have realised that this is not an easy job. But it may be too late.

Troll Daddies

BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav has written a piece in a leading daily where he belatedly acknowledges that it was wrong for the BJP trolls to target External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Madhav’s advice came after the media highlighted that among top BJP leaders only Rajnath Singh stood by Swaraj. However, Madhav betrayed his true feelings in the piece when he pointed out to his trolls that they had got their focus wrong.

It did not look that he was saying trolling was bad though he began by preaching ‘one should not do unto others what one doesn’t expect others to do unto one’. His grouse seemed to be that the trolls had not focused on the Muslim cleric who gave a Muslim name to solemnise a Hindu woman’s ‘nikahnama’ to a Muslim man.

Madhav eulogises the courage of the woman who refused to convert (not the equally important stand of her husband who was willing to marry her without conversion) and then advises his trolls that they should have “taken on the cleric who insisted on writing a different name in the nikahnama.”

Those who thought that Madhav was giving a sage advice to trolls, including the editor of the newspaper who published the piece, may have made a mistake.

Categorise Subjects

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi does not have independent powers and cannot act as an obstructionist to recommendations made by the elected Government of the National Capital Territory.

On the face of it, Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party got a verdict in their favour. However, things are not working thus. While saying that the L-G had to adhere to the advice of Delhi’s Council of Ministers, the Supreme Court has also said that on matters of importance the L-G can make a reference to the President.

A Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, which had Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan deliberated on the of powers of the Delhi Government — which came into existence in 1993 with a special constitutional provision of Article 239AA, and continued without constitutional crisis despite having 4 CMs and 3 PMs belonging to rivals BJP and Congress till such time Kejriwal became the Chief Minister — but the verdict has failed to bring clarity on division of powers and whose word remains supreme on each administrative matter.

The ‘landmark verdict’ held that the L-G cannot act as an obstructionist while giving him powers to refer important matters to the President. Five judges made three separate though concurring judgements but failed to settle the issue, unlike initially portrayed by the media.

The judges unanimously held that Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal does not have independent decision making powers and is bound to act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. However, by giving L-G the discretion to refer important issues to the President of India (who acts on the advice of the Union Council of Ministers) but not defining what all fall under ‘important issues’ where the L-G has the right to refer the matter and what all would fall under ‘minor issues’, where the elected CM and his Council of Ministers will have their way, the verdict has left things at square one.

The officials of the Delhi Government showed that things have not changed by refusing to listen to the Delhi Government’s directive, a day after the verdict. Hopefully, the Supreme Court would quickly categorise all administrative subjects for the CM and the L-G and clear the confusion soon.


(Published on 09th July 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 28)