On 16 January 2016, in Aklera, a town in the Jhalawar district of Rajasthan, a mob led by Kanwar Lal Meena, the local representative of the Bhartiya Janata Party, rampaged through the streets, aiming their lathis at a group of activists and their vehicles. The activists belonged to the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), a non-profit organisation in Rajasthan, founded by Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey. It is not clear what caused this uproar. The activists had been carrying out a rally—the Jawabdehi Yatra, which culminated day before yesterday in front of the state parliament—to spread awareness about state welfare schemes and record local grievances against the administration. That day, a gathering of about 60 had reached Teen-Battitiraha, an intersection in Aklera at around 4 pm. An hour later, they found themselves under attack.
Meena, the local BJP legislator, represents the Manohar Thana constituency in the state assembly. His brightly-dressed figure is conspicuous in the images and video recordings of the incident—leading a pack of hoodlums, swinging lathis at people. The mob injured about a dozen people, broke cameras, and shattered windows of the vehicles standing nearby.
The parliamentary constituency of Jhalawar has been the BJP’s backyard since 1989, when Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje won her first Lok Sabha seat from the district. Raje kept the seat until 2003, when her son, Dushyant Singh, took over. Singh has been successively victorious in the elections since then, and still represents Jhalawar in the Lok Sabha. So complete has been the control of the BJP, that the Congress leaders of the state refer to Jhalawar as “Madam ka zilla”—“Madam” Raje’s zilla. Since 1998, Meena told me he had been working at the Block Office in Aklera, eventually becoming the Block Officer. In 2014, he was elected to his current post.