In a civilised society, violence is a word that should be taboo. Never can violence be the answer to settling differences, however deep the disagreements might be. Nor can violence be a means of venting fear and suspicion, when there is a law and order machinery in place. Two incidents, rather one incident that took place this week and one trend that has been developing over the past several weeks were disturbing, to say the least. One was the attack on a well-known journalist and his wife by goons belonging to a political party and the other is the violence being meted out to healthcare professionals by people misled by wild rumours and pathetic superstitions about the treatment of coronavirus. In the first instance, India’s political parties need to understand that no one is above criticism, however high and mighty any political personality might be. And it’s the media’s job to criticise and ask questions and hold those in public life accountable for as much as their inaction as their action. In this particular case, the political activists who attacked the media personality’s car allegedly belonged to the youth wing of the Congress. It’s obvious that they thought it fit to carry out the attack to protect the name of their acting party president. But through their hooliganism they brought calumny to their party and their seniors. In this context, it must be mentioned that this sort of intolerance is not exclusive to the Congress. Most political parties are guilty of it, if not all. Of course in the dynastic set-up of the Congress, any slight to the Family is taken very seriously, with young workers taking it upon themselves to protect the name and honour of their presiding deities. The affliction is perhaps not as great in other parties. However, almost all parties are adept at filing lawsuits and FIRs all over the country against anyone who dares to stand up to them, with the aim to tangle that person in years of legal battle. And this utter misuse of the legal process is taking place in this journalist’s case as well, with a clear message being given that anyone saying anything against the First Family will be hauled over coal. Obviously, Congress may have lost its importance in Indian politics to a large extent, but not its arrogance—in fact its arrogance is one of the reasons why it is in such dire straits in the first place. Also, it must be investigated if any senior leader was involved in instigating the attack on the journalist and his wife. The least that Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray can do is allow a fair probe, without fear of being hauled up by his alliance partners. The attack on the journalist amounts to muzzling of the press and must be condemned and the Congress party must distance itself from its workers who carried out the attack with the intent of doing bodily harm.
As for the attacks on healthcare workers, these are reprehensible to say the least. So an ordinance that threatens a punishment for seven years and a fine of Rs 5 lakh for attacking healthcare workers should be applauded for its intent. But the malaise is much deeper. Health being a state subject, every state has enough provisions promising action against those who attack doctors. But that has not stopped doctors from being attacked. The problem, therefore, is of implementation. Too many attackers have been allowed to go scot free, for the message to go down that no such attacks will be tolerated and the harshest punishment will be given. Unless and until what is already available is implemented, this ordinance will not be of much use to prevent violence against healthcare workers. Also there must be sensitisation of the public that violence against doctors is both illegal and morally wrong. Unless and until there is an attitudinal change on the ground, all such ordinances will be futile.