As we march towards a ‘new India’, a move that certainly seems to be endorsed by the equity markets (which continues to cheer whatever the Centre is doing by scaling new highs), disturbing trends and events are ripping through the rich, colourful and variegated fabric that is supposed to represent the idea of India.

While in the north it is goondaism in the name of gau raksha that is terrorising people, not to mention the utterly racist and stupid comment made by former BJP MP Tarun Vijay about tolerating “black South Indians”, in Tamil Nadu in the South, moral policing has travelled from UP to a corporation park in Chennai which has put up an atrocious sign saying “students and lovers not allowed”. Also, in Tamil Nadu, a bypoll in Jayalalithaa’s consistency was cancelled, following allegedly massive distribution of cash for votes.

I am foxed by this newly defined and increasingly unpopular entity called “lovers” in India!

Taking the most violent incident first, from Alwar in Rajasthan a scary video clip has emerged of a Muslim man, Pehlu Khan, and others travelling with him, being thrashed mercilessly by self-appointed gau rakshaks for transporting cows from a cattle mela in Jaipur. Following the mob violence and acting on a PIL to ban cow vigilantes, a division bench of the Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Centre and the States of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Jharkhand to respond within three weeks on why such gau rakshaks should not be banned.

Beaten mercilessly

The attack also ended the dream of Azmat Khan, 22, from a village in Haryana, who had accompanied Pehlu Khan and others to the cattle market in Jaipur to buy a milch cow, as he wanted to set up a small dairy business in his village in Haryana. While Pehlu Khan died in a hospital two days after the brutal attack, Azmat has been left with multiple fractures. He was quoted by an English daily thus: “Before we could say anything, they started beating us mercilessly. We were pulled out and beaten with sticks, belts and other weapons, and they tore the transportation permit we got from Jaipur Municipal Corporation.” Such a permit is required for the movement of cattle in Rajasthan and several other States.

While Pehlu Khan’s sons claim their deceased father had the valid documents, Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Singh Kataria has reiterated that the document was not a valid one and made the fantastic statement: “Whoever breaks the law, will be punished. He must have transported the cows illegally, hence he was penalised. The people, then, took the matter in their own hands.” He then generously promised to “take action on both the sides”.

Even more fantastically, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has denied the “incident took place the way” Opposition leaders had said in the Rajya Sabha. “This is a sensitive issue. A message should not go out that this House is supporting cow slaughter.”

Students and lovers banned!

Move over to Tamil Nadu, and another kind of harassment is just beginning. It has not yet come to the stage of couples being beaten up in UP by the anti-Romeo squads for holding hands and similar displays of affection, but a sign has quietly cropped up at a park near the Ethiraj College in Chennai, which is managed by the Chennai Corporation banning “students and lovers”! An English daily quoted a chowkidar of the park, who made this comic, and yet scary, statement: “I was instructed to monitor activities of couples. If I find any boy and girl sitting close together, I go and make them sit apart. I have been told not to allow couples to put their hands over each other”.

The youngsters who led the jallikattu movement recently, certainly have another, and perhaps more worthwhile, cause to fight for! The city also set a new record for corruption and vote buying in the RK Nagar bypoll to elect an MLA for the constituency held by the late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. The poll has now been cancelled. The newly anointed AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala’s nephew and deputy chief of the party, TTV Dinakaran, was contesting from the ruling dispensation, though sans the party symbol (two leaves), which was frozen by the Election Commission.

Following complaints of mammoth amount of money being spent to buy votes by the Sasikala-Edappadi faction of the AIADMK, income tax raids conducted on the premises of TN health minister Vijaya Bhaskar, a Sasikala loyalist, and some others, found that a whopping amount of ₹89 crore was distributed to the voters in the RK Nagar constituency. And some of us naïve people thought we were moving into a cashless society!

The rival faction of AIADMK, led by former chief Minister O Panneerselvam, created another low in Indian politics by using a dummy coffin of Jayalalithaa to garner votes. Mercifully, the poll has been cancelled, and through some unfathomable system of justice, a section of the janata has got a sliver of the money that really belongs to them.

Can things get more bizarre, more sanctimonious, more scary, more violent or more corrupt in the “new India” we are all aspiring for?

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