The felicitation of murderers by union minister Jayant Sinha, who recently posed with six garlanded men out on bail after being convicted for lynching a person in Jharkhand, in the name of cow protection is not only shocking but is a sign of the social and moral decline into which the BJP is pushing this country. Noted economist Amartya Sen said earlier last week that India had taken a quantum leap with respect to economy in the wrong direction. It may be added that the quantum leap in the wrong direction is true of the social and political discourse as well. Has the country reached a point where criminals and murderers will be lauded and honoured by those who rule? The present case indeed reflects that there is a systemic effort to normalise lynching. It also betrays the hollow claims of the government that it is taking enough action against mob lynching, the numbers of which are rising. At least 27 people have been lynched across the country and many more attacked in the last four years by cow vigilante groups. The Supreme Court observed recently that state governments should be held accountable for any lynching that happens under their watch. The apex court said that mob lynching and vigilantism are crimes no matter what the motive is and should be dealt with by relevant sections of the law. Records show that such lynching are more rampant in BJP ruled states be it Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Maharashtra or Assam. In the Jharkhand case, a fast track court had found the 12 people accused in the Ramgarh lynching case, guilty and awarded death sentence to 11 of them since one is a minor being tried in a juvenile court. The case is pending before the high court which gave bail to eight convicts, who were last week seen in a shamefully iconic image sharing space with a union minister, not by default but to be honoured by the latter. Sinha’s defence of his actions is as shoddy and ugly as his horrifying and open patronage to the convicts. He said he was “honouring the due process of law”. He condemned violence and rejected vigilantism but added in the same breath that he had “misgivings” about the fast-track court verdict sentencing each accused to life imprisonment. There is a vast difference between nursing misgivings and open support to those guilty of mob lynching. Just as there is a huge difference between condemning lynching and maintaining silence that comes from the top echelons of power. The absence of a strict and prompt response from the government has encouraged such violence. By not taking strong action, the state is complicit in its perpetuation. Such silence, which was broken two years ago under much political and international pressure by prime minister Narendra Modi with very feeble words, foments this violence which has been on a rise sharpening the socio-political and religious cleavages. This silence amounts to impunity for murders and attackers and encourages an atmosphere where such incidents become the norm. When ministers begin to openly patronize murderers, this trend is not only normalized but also glamourized. The violence that started with cow-related vigilantism but it is now building up more violent behaviour and recent mob attacks have shown that any petty reason including rumours of child-lifters perpetuated through fake news and social media messages could be the trigger. According to IndiaSpend, in previous years around 56% of the persons attacked were Muslim, who accounted for 88% of those killed in such violence. In 2018, 100% of victims attacked in these hate crimes were Muslim. These figures are alarming and worrying and reflect that the BJP is unveiling its hate soaked Hindutva agenda more and more. With elections to Lok Sabha less than a year away, in all probability this is likely to be further accelerated.