The dastardly killing of a tailor in Udaipur in Rajasthan trembles the conscience of the nation. Two Muslim men beheaded Kanhaiya Lal in broad daylight inside his tailoring shop. Two significant moral and political questions are stirring: “How can a man become so 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’s laxity, inefficiency and inaction in protecting the life of Kanhaiya Lal and also mishandling the communal frenzy has made it an accomplice and a partner in the Udaipur beheading incident.
On June 28, 2022, two assailants entered the tailoring shop of Kanhaiya Lal in Dhan Mandi market in Udaipur posing as customers. When the tailor started taking measurements, one assailant attacked him with a cleaver and beheaded him for supporting the remarks of ex-BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma on social media. The other man shot the brutal murder on 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, “They are avenging an insult to Islam”. They also “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 the local SHO to the Police Station and the matter was settled. Kanhaiya Lal started coming to his shop only one day before his murder. The gruesome murder had triggered communal violence in Rajasthan. The preliminary investigation indicated that it was a “premeditated murder”.
The Udaipur murder has shocked and surprised social and political scientists working on communal violence in India. Before Udaipur violence, 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” which was planned earlier to stab and behead the tailor in sync with an ISIS style of killing. Two, there was a foreign hand in the murder. NIA probe finds murderers were affiliated 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 proudly celebrated the gruesome murder 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 terrorist organisations 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 horrific Udaipur incident shows that Rajasthan grapples with a worse form of communal hostility. From Baran (2021) to Udaipur (2022), there have 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, Rajasthan has 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, the Gehlot Government has been blaming Prime Minister Narendra 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 worsened toleration level of individuals. Consequently, it develops distrust and antagonism among the 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 society too. The State plays significant role in ending discrimination and appeasement.
Since ancient time to the present day, the Indian state has relied on the principles enshrined in Shanti Parva and Digha Nikaya. Like Western social contractualists Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau as well as 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 Shanti Parva and also disobeyed the morals mentioned in Digha Nikaya. The Gehlot Government is grappling with development deficit and infighting within the ruling party. The Gehlot group is competing with the Sachin Pilot group for grabbing, managing and sustaining power 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. The Gehlot Government does not have adequate time to devote to managing communal tensions and charting the development trajectory.
The development deficit in Rajasthan indicates that more or less, 29 lakh small scale farmers are seriously in debt trap. 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 20.67 lakhs unemployed graduates. The total number of unemployed people is also the highest in Rajasthan which is equal to a whopping 65 lakhs”. Rajasthan still has 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. 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. 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 “State complicit violence”.