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Preventable Embarrassment

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The Supreme Court’s directions regarding the proposed Dharam Sansad in Roorkee are an embarrassment for the Uttarakhand Government. Even the handling of the case by Uttarakhand’s counsel was weak and the subject of the court’s comments. And, as is often the case, the matter went beyond the strict legal requirements and led to a lecture on how to handle those indulging in hate speech – essentially, ‘stop them before they speak if they have expressed hate before’. Questionable, but for another day!

The government did prevent the Roorkee ‘Dharam Sansad’, but there is no doubt that it could have acted earlier and escaped the embarrassment. It is not just a matter of law and order but, politically also, allowing such activism does not bring glory to the Dhami Government. Owing to the BJP’s successive victories at the Centre and the State, a number of organisations have mushroomed to take advantage of the Hindutva wave. However, they are no way in sync with the ideology and are bringing a bad name to ‘Saffron’ politics by doing exactly what Muslims and other minorities fear. It is one thing for Chief Minister Dhami to be respectful of the seers and saints but timorous behavior against those challenging his regime is entirely unacceptable. There are many ways to lay down the line without antagonising the mainstream spiritual leadership.

The damage has been done, however, but the necessary lessons must be quickly learned for the future. Apart from such technical matters as having better representation in the courts, the message should be subtly communicated by the Dhami Government to the saffron brigade to toe the BJP line, which focuses almost entirely on nationalism and progress. (This principle was reiterated by none other than the Prime Minister in his praise, on Tuesday, for Sree Narayana Guru, the Kerala Saint and Social Reformer.)

After all that has happened in the politics of Uttarakhand over the past two decades, it should have become clear to the leadership that, while effective public relations is a necessary part of winning votes, delivery on the essentials of governance is a must. Former CM Harish Rawat was a good example of smooth talking affability but could not impress when it came to the nitty-gritty of administration. It would be well for CM Dhami to draw a lesson from this and exhibit the ability to be tough where required. Maintenance of law and order has always been the first and the highest test for whoever has ruled over the ages.