Our governments - be it at the Centre or state levels - have a strange propensity of being defensive whenever they are caught on the wrong foot.
This trait was on display once again today when the Karnataka government - which finds itself mired in a controversy due to Sunday's brutal attack on a Tanzanian woman - refused to accept that the attack on the 21- year old student was racially motivated.
Karnataka Home Minister G Parameshwara denied that the girl was stripped by the mob - who assaulted without reason. The minister believes that Bangaloreans are not capable of racial discrimination. "This is not a racist attack, this is just a response to an accident. Bengaluru doesn't have such kind of attitude", was his refrain.
He went on to add:
"Had the Sudanese man not killed someone in the accident maybe this incident wouldn't have happened."
For the uninitiated, the Tanzanian student was beaten and then stripped by a group of locals in Bengaluru on Sunday night after a Sudanese national ran over and killed a 35-year-old woman.
Why is the Karnataka government's defence unacceptable?
A number of issues have been highlighted by the Karnataka Home Minister's statements.
First, the minister seems to be unable to comprehend the difference between Tanzanian and Sudanese national.
Second, there was an inherent desire for mob justice in the group of people who resorted to such inhuman behaviour.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is a crime.
When did beating up a person, stripping them and burning vehicles become the right response to a road accident?
When the minister justified the mob's behaviour as being only a reaction to the accident, he lent a certain legitimacy to their action.
When did beating up a person, stripping them and burning vehicles became the right response to a road accident?How is this line of bizarre reasoning any different from Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma calling the Dadri incident "an unfortunate accident" or a Sangeet Som justifying the Dadri lynching "in the name of "cow protection"?
Discrimination is sensationalised only when the vote-bank is involved
When the Rohith Vemula suicide led to a backlash for the BJP, the ruling party displayed a similar kind of reluctance to accept the suicide as an issue of caste discrimination by HRD Minister Smriti Irani. In a high-decibel press conference - which turned out to be low on facts - Irani confidently declared that Vemula's death was not a result of "Dalit vs non-Dalit confrontation".
Till date, BJP Ministers are busy negating his Dalit identity.
Meanwhile, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi was quick to latch on to the Dalit discrimination angle. Outdoing all other politicians, he visiated the University of Hyderabad campus twice and also sat on a hunger strike with the protesting students - demanding justice for Vemula.
Unfortunately, the Congress-ruled Karnataka government's response has undone all of Rahul Gandhi's anti-discrimination activism. The BJP is now trying to turn the heat onto Rahul, asking him why he hasn't visited the Tanzanian woman and the other students who were assaulted.
The Congress high command has asked for a report on the incident from the state government. But the incident doesn't seem to have garnered any significant interest from political parties across the board. Why? Because the discrimination does not involve any vote-bank.
The AAP government - which has become the de-facto opposition on many issues despite it not being a national party - has kept quiet on the issue for obvious reasons. Who can forget the "vigilantism" unleashed by the party's former Law Minister Somnath Bharti where his men harassed Ugandan and Nigerian women in a midnight raid in New Delhi?
The elephant in the room
Why it is difficult for our governments to address problems by their right name?
In the Rohith Vemula case, a Union Minister was involved - something that other parties latched on to and milked dry. But one wonders what incentive the Karnataka government sees in defending a racist, violent and absolutely inhuman reaction from a mob.
One wonders what incentive the Karnataka government sees in defending a racist, violent and absolutely inhuman reaction from a mob.
The only way to treat a disease is to diagnose it right. But denial will only mean that justice for all - a constitutional right that prohibits discrimination over caste, creed, sex or religion - is still sadly, a distant dream.