The dastardly killing of a tailor in Udaipur city of Rajasthan trembles the conscience of the nation. Two Muslim men beheaded Kanhaiya Lalin broad daylight inside his tailoring shop. Two significant moral and political questions arestirring:How can a man become so much cruel towards another human in the defence of religious faith?What was the role of the state in combating such a dangerous communal frenzy? The article examines the changing nature of violence in Udaipur. It argues that Udaipur murder is a clear case of ‘state complicit violence’. It emanates from several factors such as appeasement policy,state opacity, infighting in ruling party and development deficit. The Rajasthan state laxity, inefficiency and inaction in protecting the life of Kanhaiya Lal and also handling the communal frenzy has made it an accomplice and a partner in Udaipur incident.
The Gruesome Killing in Udaipur
On June 28, 2022,two assailants entered into the tailoring shop of Kanhaiya Lal in Dhan Mandi market in Udaipur posing as customers. When the tailor started taking measurement, one assailant attacked him with a cleaver and beheaded the tailor for supporting the remarks of Nupur Sharma on social media.The other man shot the brutal murder with his mobile phone.The two murderers fled from the scene and later posted the video on social media. In another video,“they were showing two daggers used for beheading, and claimed responsibility for the crime.They asked other members of their community to continue with similar attacks”. The assailants said “theyare avenging an insult to Islam”. Theyalso “threatened the prime minister for lighting this fire”. “Kanhaiya Lal, who was earlier booked in connection with his post and questioned by the city police, had closed his shop in the Maldas Street area for a week and told the police that he feared danger to his life” (The Hindu, June 29, 2022). Both the parties were summoned by thelocal SHO to the police station and settled the matter. Kanhaiya started coming to his shop only one day before his murder.The gruesome murder had triggeredcommunal violence in Rajasthan. The preliminary investigation indicated that it was a “premeditated murder”.
Changing Nature of Udaipur Violence
The Udaipur murder has shocked and surprised social and political scientists working on communal violence in India. Before Udaipurviolence, thousands of communal violence had been studied by renowned political scientists to understand the nature of violence. But this violence has added new contours to the nature of communal violence.One, this was a “premeditated murder” whichwas planned earlier to stab and behead the tailor followed by anISIS style of killing.Two, these assailants had foreign hand.NIA probe finds the murderers wereaffiliated to Pakistan-based outfit Dawat-e-Islami (The Hindu, June 30, 2022). Three, the murderers filmed the incident and posted the video on social media. Four, in another video, they celebrated the gruesome murder with so much proud and self-pleasant and were showing two daggers used for beheading the tailor.They openly provoked other members of their community to continue with similar attacks. Fifth, this murder will be first of such a kind of violence where the murderers dared to take responsibility for the crime on public platform as the terrorist organizations do. They also dared to threaten the Prime Minister of India with “dire consequences”. Also, they said that “their knife will get him as well”.
The State Complicit Violence in Udaipur
The horrific Udaipur incident shows that the Rajasthan state grapples with worse form of communal hostility.From Baran (2021) to Udaipur (2022), there has been a series of routine communal violence potentially triggering the state for more violence, arson, casualties and loss of public properties. In all these incidents, the state has been miserably failed to combat the violence that turned the state into a communal volcano in Rajasthan. Unfortunately, instead of promoting trust building mechanisms among communities, Gehlot government has been blaming the Prime Minister Modi for communal clashes and advising him that he should “issue an appeal to people for peace” (The Hindu, June 30, 2022).
Rajasthan government’s appeasement policy has severely harmed the social harmony of Rajasthani society and worsen the toleration of individuals. Consequently, it develops distrust and antagonism among people.Appeasement politics results in discrimination and implants suspect theory among communities which gives birth to communal animosity in society. In a constitutional democracy no one should be treated unequally which can help in strengthening the society too. The state plays significant role in ending discrimination and appeasement.
Since ancient time to present day, Indian state has beenrelied on the principles enshrined in Shantiparva and DighaNikaya. Like western social contractualists Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, both these two Indian literatures believe that state is a contract between the king and subjects to protect the life, liberty and property of people. Kautilya clearly urged that “it is the responsibility of the kings to maintain the safety and security of their subjects”.Similarly, Manu said that “the main duty of the king is to protect good people and punish the bad ones”.
Rajasthan government has defied and disrespected the principles of Rajdharma stated in Shantiparva and also disobeyed the morals mentioned in DighaNikaya.Gehlot government is grappling with development deficit and infighting within the ruling party.The Gehlot group is competing with Sachin Pilot group for grabbing, managing, sustainingpower in the state. However, the state is performing badly in health, education and economy. Unemployment has been a serious issue in the state which is also contributing to the escalation of communal tension in the region. Gehlot government has not adequate time to devout for managing communal tensions and charting the development trajectory.
The development deficit in Rajasthan indicates thatmore or less, 29 lakh small scale farmers are seriously in the trap of debt. The Congress had promised for the loan waiver in the state during the election time but nothing has been done so far. On the other hand, “Rajasthan has 20.6 lakhs unemployed graduates. The total number of unemployed people is also the highest in Rajasthan which is equal to a whopping 65 lakhs”.Rajasthan has still 10 million people living under poverty. According to the Niti Aayog’s National Multidimensional Poverty Index Baseline Report 2021, 29.5 per cent people are multidimensionally poor in this mineral-rich state of India.Despite having huge potentiality in agriculture, minerals, and tourism, Rajasthan contributes only 5.15 per cent of India’s GDP. Total food grain production has come down to 225.20 lakhs MT which is lower than previous years like 2019-20 and 2020-21. Industrial production has also been decreased in 2021-22 comparison to 2017-18 and 2018-19 (Rajasthan Economic Review 2021-22, iv).As per Census 2011, the state has 66.1 per cent literacy rate whereas national literacy rate is 73 per cent. Sex ratio is 928 which is again lower than the national ratio. Rajasthan is facing challenge in infant mortality rate which is 35 per thousand live births and maternal mortality rate is 164 per one lakh live births. These ratios are much higher than the national ratio. Rajasthan did poorly perform in Human Development Index.Although, it had slightly improved in 2018. However, “Rajasthan ranks 29th among Indian states in human development index”.
The development deficit in the state is, now, established to be an immoral, unrighteousness and violent state.For appeasing 9 per cent of Muslim community in Rajasthan, the state is pushing remaining population into dangerous communal frenzy.People in Rajasthan have lost faith over the rule of law and equality before the law. It has not been able to protect the life and liberty of good people. Rajasthan has failed in maintaining constitutionality and the rule of law.It is a state which has failed to protect the life of a duty-bound citizen from the scourge of religious fanatics.The free speech of an individual is dishonored not only by the assailants but also by the state agencies.Alas, Kanhaiya was also harassed by the state agent for posting his views on social media in support of Nupur. He was arrested by the police for the posts and later came on bail on June 15, 2022. One of the murderers posted a video on June 17 and said, “he will post it the day he carries out the murder”. Kanhaiya told the “police that he was receiving threat calls”. The state didn’t alert its agencies against these threats to Kanhaiya. The state insensitivity towards communal frenzy brought Rajasthan to this level of a violence prone state. Series of routine communal violence in more than one year proves thatthe state has no administrative mechanism and social management for curbing the communal violence. If the local police administration had been alert, sensitive, transparent and timely taken action against these two murderers, probably Kanhaiya Lal could have been saved and protected.
The police have not only failed in the case of Kanhaiya Lal but also in every communal incident that took place from Baran to Jodhpur.While neglecting the fundamentalists, harassing Kanhaiya and ignoring threats to his life, the state became a partner and perpetuator of the violence in Udaipur. That is how, Udaipur violence can be called as “state complicit violence”.
(Kamalakanta Roul teaches Political Science in the University of Delhi. He can be contacted at [email protected].)