Lawlessness does not begin to describe what is transpiring in India, the land of the Buddha, Mahavira, Jnaneshvar, Guru Nanak, Kabir, Badshah Khan, and Gandhi. “Ahimsa paramo dharma” [Nonviolence is the highest duty], says the Mahabharata, but few in this ancient land appear to be in any mood for nonviolence. A spectre is haunting India—the spectre of unfathomable rage, wanton cruelty, and a ravenous appetite for retribution and on-the-spot justice.
India has been awash with news of what are called “mob lynchings” over the last few years and another case has come to light of a Muslim man in Jharkhand who was tied up, beaten, and forced to chant Jai Shri Ram over a period of 12 hours. The man, Tabrez Ansari, died several days ago. Horrific as this atrocity is, it is also, we might say, part of an orchestrated chaos. One atrocity follows another; attention shifts from one ‘event’ to another, and we do not pause long enough to consider the moral implications of any one atrocity. It is in the light of this that it behooves us to return briefly to what transpired at Kathua, which has receded into the background just days after the court adjudicated on the matter, and consider whether India has not already entered into a phase of moral collapse from which it may never fully recover.