The absence of social justice

The Pioneer, 21st August 2000

The confinement and torture of a Dalit lorry driver and cleaner (by former Bihar Minister of State for Cooperatives Lalit Yadav, now absconding) deserves to be condemned.

The incident highlights the need for a firm resolve to restore law and order in a state that has steadily sunk into chaos and anarchy during the last decade.

Merely booking a case under non-bailable sections of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes Act against the minister and five others involved in the event is not just enough. Since the Minister, though sacked and expelled from the primary membership of the ruling party, is still absconding, he has to be brought to book swiftly. Ostensibly, as a face saving measure, the State Government has ordered payment of Rs 50,000 to the kin. The Government cannot however escape blame in the whole unsavoury episode. More so because the victims were unnecessarily kept under illegal confinement, mercilessly beaten up merely on the suspicion that the duo stole the Minister s truck, despite the fact that the truck was recovered long back. Shockingly enough, the toenails of the victims had been wrenched out by pliers and the Minister s henchmen even urinated into their mouths.

The barbarous treatment meted out to the two men is only a tip of the iceberg taking into account the killings carried out by private armies of the social elite in Bihar over the years. It is appalling that some black sheep contest and win elections despite the Law Commission s recommendations to debar chargesheeted persons from contesting elections. Some reports indicate that Mr Lalit Kumar Yadav, a close associate of the Chief Minister s brother, has been evading arrest for the past six years in a similar case of vandalism where the victim was tattooed after being waylaid by Mr Lalit Kumar Yadav and his associate.

Primarily, a majority of the people of Bihar, divided and exploited by inequitable relations, have been literally at the receiving end of cynical politics. In the unending cycle of violence and counter-violence, the Dalits, typically continue to be the worst sufferers of Bihar s grossly iniquitous social system. Ranbir Sena, a banned organisation that was formed to protect the interests of the upper caste, including feudal landlords and private armies of landlords in the State, reportedly enjoy political patronage and even support from the administration and State policy-makers. Going by the reports of various recurring incidents, including caste and class violence, it is apparent that one can pit the landlords and the State on one side and the landless and the socially oppressed on the other. This division is attributed to the social and economic backwardness of Bihar, notwithstanding that the State has abundant forest, minerals, water resources and manpower. It mainly highlights the degree of criminalisation of politics.

While healthcare is inaccessible for the deprived, many schools in Bihar lack even the basic teaching aids like chalk or blackboard. Where there are teachers there are no students and vice versa. Caste and class getting mixed up in this vile ferment, the society criminalised and brutalised, symbolising that the law and order situation in Bihar, has slipped further into an abyss of bafflement and confusion.

With no easy remedies, the task ahead is an onerous one. It is essential that besides effective agrarian reforms and implementation of social development programmes, communal forces are kept under check. Since various studies indicate that political interference adversely affects the functioning of the police force to a great extent, only a judicious mix of policing can help to tackle extremist violence. Detecting such crimes religiously and bringing the culprits swiftly to book merit consideration. It is imperative for the State Government to move in the direction of economic progress with social justice.

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