Mayhem on Bharat bandh

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The Supreme Court’s nod to the review petition on its guidelines to check abuse of the law of arrest under the SC\ST Atrocities Act should calm the streets after a day of anarchy and bedlam in large parts of the country. That the Centre sought urgent hearing of the review petition a day after the large-scale violence on Monday tells its tale of under-preparedness by several states and the inability of the Centre to comprehend the enormity of apprehensions about its actual intentions. The discourse on the street for quite some time has been about how the BJP-led government, under the guise of changing the existing arrangements, might revise the allowances afforded in the Constitution for the country’s most socio-economically marginalised groups.   The NDA’s choice of a Dalit as a President of India apparently failed to quell the uneasiness harboured by the Dalits and STs against the present dispensation, especially after the RSS chief called for a review of reservations in the middle of the Bihar Assembly elections in 2015. The constant refrain against reservations on social media — the  bandh saw a spike in similar posts — strengthened the impression that despite disclaimers by the BJP, a hidden agenda against reservations is at work. Yet, the Modi government could have retrieved the situation and kept large sections off the streets. Oddly, its penchant for effective communication deserted it when it was most required, thus fuelling further doubts about the Centre’s actual intentions. The extra-long weekend that preceded the bandh may have impacted bureaucracy-driven communication. But, in this case, a parallel political effort was also found wanting, barring under-played declarations about the government’s intent to file a review petition. The PM’s monthly radio address, Mann ki Baat, too dwelt on endorsing Sanskrit than tackling the most burning political issue at hand. As states pick up the pieces, there is need to ensure the arsonists feel the full brunt of the law. Simultaneously, the Modi government needs to convey to the states that it is equal-handed towards any attempt at violent disruption of normal life by vigilantes of every ideological stripe.

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