This is an alarming state of affairs as it amounts to rampant misuse of arms.
In the midst of an ongoing spree of communally motivated events in several parts of northern India, marked by mob violence, murder and arson, a railway guard shooting his own superior officer and three Muslim men dead onboard the Jaipur Express at a Maharashtra station has threatened to spread the hate crime epidemic to western and southern parts of the country.
While the Railway Protection Force tries to assuage public concerns by claiming that the crime was not religiously motivated, the guard shooting dead “bearded men” from across multiple coaches of the train does lend credence to the incident being anything but. The ugly incident played out as a microcosm of a country on boil, given the communal violence between indigenous communities in Manipur and the more recent communal clash in Nuh and Gurgaon of Haryana.
Add to it a history of alleged excesses by the armed forces that Northeastern state groups have been repeatedly protesting, and it becomes imperative that the killing spree not be brushed under the carpet as an exception or a random incident of rage. Any repetition of it must be nipped in the bud now, by clamping down on communal violence, especially when India is reaching a political crossroads, with elections set for next year.
The RPF claimed that Chetan Singh, who has been arrested, went on a random killing spree due to repressed rage after being denied leave. But multiple media reports claim that he argued about communities with his superior, who, despite being a Hindu, was shot dead.
This is an alarming state of affairs as it amounts to rampant misuse of arms besides the gunning down of a superior officer whose worldview did not align with an extremist view. Eyewitnesses were addressed by the guard, who ranted about Pakistan and religious communities, before murdering three Muslim men whom he sought out and shot in a cold-blooded manner.
The political will to clamp down on hate crimes is the need of the hour.