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A soft state is a soft target

A soft state is a soft target

A journalist is shot dead in her car in the early hours of the morning on the empty streets of Delhi. A nun is raped in Orissa by thugs who pretend to speak for a religion. A CEO is beaten to death in Noida by striking workers.

These three well-publicized cases are all part of a disturbing trend of senseless violence against ordinary citizens and of the growing inability of the state to do anything about it.

But what is equally shocking is the insensitive way politicians have responded to these incidents. Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit asks why the journalist was adventurous enough to leave her workplace so late in the night. Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik has done precious little to crack down on those who have unleashed violence against Christians in his state. And Union labour minister Oscar Fernandes initially said the murder of the CEO was because of the simmering discontent in the working class.

The primary task of any state is to protect its citizens against violence, through the defence of national borders against external attack, and the prevention of aggression against life and property of citizens internally. What the likes of Dikshit, Patnaik and Fernandes are implicitly saying is that we have to take care of ourselves. The government can do little to protect us.

This is truly astonishing — and also worrisome. Telling citizens that the state cannot look after them will also send out a signal to terror groups that are waging a low intensity war against India. Letting extremist groups such as the Naxalites or the Bajrang Dal get away with murder is as much a failure as the inability to crack down on Islamic terror groups that have bombed cities across the country.

The Indian state is becoming increasingly soft against external enemies as well as those who challenge the rule of law internally. Physical violence against citizens — in any form — should not be tolerated. Let us not forget: A soft state will also be a soft target for terrorists.

Is the Indian state failing in its primary responsibility? Write to us at views@livemint.com

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