he gruesome killing of Kanhaiya Lal in Udaipur in Rajasthan by two persons who have apparently acted in defence of their Islamic faith has, far from offering any reassurance to their community, made it even more vulnerable. The manner in which the violence was captured on camera and circulated, the premeditated nature of the murder itself, and the celebration that followed — all point to the peak of a communal volcano that India has climbed up through a relentless campaign of political parties and a cohort of pathetically irresponsible television anchors. The Rajasthan police have acted with alacrity and arrested the criminals, whose trial and punishment must be quick and exemplary. The State deserves credit for swift action, although the police should have been alive to the threat faced by Kanhaiya Lal. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot who has noted the deteriorating situation, of communal hostility, in several parts of the country has requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to issue an appeal for peace. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on the contrary, has accused the Congress in Rajasthan of appeasement of a community — in a reference to Muslims, who are at the receiving end of police violence and discriminatory policy at the national level and in many States. The Udaipur killing marks a major turn in the communal situation in India, and could potentially trigger more such violence.
No violence can be condoned; sadly, in India, some of the arms of the state are among the perpetrators. The clamour from BJP followers for collective punishment of Muslims — which the party’s governments in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Assam, for instance, are doing anyway — has become louder, aided by the party’s official policy, following the Udaipur killing. An uneven application of law has led to serious disenchantment among Muslims. While Hindutva violence is being promoted and protected by the state in several instances, Muslims have been at the receiving end of police