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Time To Act

Time To Act

It is frightening to read in the newspapers a series of lynching by mobs in different parts of India based on the rumours of child lifting and killing of cow. Unfortunately lynching has become an everyday event.  That could be the reason for the news of lynching being moved away from the front pages of newspapers and night-time debates of TV channels. Within a month, 14 Indians were killed as a result of lynching, two people each in Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Telangana and one each in Gujarat and Karnataka. Five persons were beaten to death by a mob in Maharashtra’s Dhule district on June 29, on suspicion of child lifting. The social media, especially WhatsApp, played the role of a villain in majority of the cases.

The Indian Express conducted an investigative study of the menace of lynching based on the rumours of child lifting and on July 7 published an extensive report:  27 killings within a year in 9 states, from Assam to Tamil Nadu.  In all these cases, the victims were not known to the accused and were merely passing through. One of the findings of The Indian Express study is that distance of the police station has not been an issue. On an average the police stations were within 10 km distance. The findings point to the pressing need for a more effective police response, as a first step in preventing such killings.

 

 

Sl. No

Name of the State

Number of People Lynched

1

Maharashtra

9

2

West Bengal

2

3

Chhattisgarh

1

4

Karnataka

1

5

Telengana

1

6

Tamil Nadu

1

7

Jharkhand

7

8

Assam

2

9

Tripura

3

 

Total

27

                             Source: The Indian Express, July 7, 2018

 

In many cases in spite of repeated calls, police normally arrive after the lynching is over. In some cases, more as an exception rather than norm, the police have done exemplary deed in preventing/rescuing the survivor of lynching. In the case of lynching in UP’s Hapur, the police reached after the lynching had resulted in the death of Muhammad Qasim, an animal trader, in spite of repeated pleas from his family members. Adding salt to the wound, a policeman was seen walking ahead of the mob that was dragging the body of Qasim!

Aakar Patel in an article, “The story of India and its lynch mobs” published in Deccan Chronicle on June 30, highlighted the indifference of the authorities to tackle the menace. “There is no Mann ki Baat on lynching and no front page advertisements against such violence and what damage it does to our society and our nation”. Ever since the BJP came to power at the centre there has been an unprecedented spurt in cow vigilantism. IndiaSpend web portal claimed that 25 persons were killed in 60 incidents of cow related mob violence between 2010 and 25th June 2017 and 97% of the incidents occurred after the BJP took over reigns of the Central Government in 2014. 84% of those killed in cow related mob lynching incidents were Muslims. The remaining 16% lynched on accusation of cow slaughter are dalits and other marginalised sections.

The Supreme Court on July 3 said that cow vigilantism is unacceptable and the onus is on the state government to prevent lynching. “This kind of incidents cannot occur. It can’t be accepted in remotest sense. The states have obligation to ensure that such incidents do not occur,” the apex court observed. The Supreme Court also sought response from Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh governments on a plea seeking contempt action for not following its order to take stern steps to stop violence in the name of cow vigilantism. The soft approach by the BJP governments towards the cow vigilantes seemed a license for the mob take law into their hands on any pretext and to indulge in violence.

The actions and statements of some BJP ministers and leaders create an impression in the public that they justify lynching by the cow vigilantes. On July 06, the union minister of state for civil aviation, Jayant Sinha, garlanded eight men convicted for killing a meat trader last year. A meat trader in Jharkhand, Alimuddin Ansari, was dragged out of his car and beaten to death by a mob at Ramgarh town on the suspicion that he was carrying beef. His car was also set on fire. 11 men including a local BJP leader were convicted of life imprisonment by a local court, but 8 of them got bail from the Jharkhand High Court. Felicitating the culprits by a union minister is nothing but an encouragement to the vigilantes to indulge in the heinous crime of lynching. Ajoy Kumar of the Congress expressed his shock at Mr Sinha, "openly" supporting people convicted for killing an innocent. "Do they have no work to show except playing politics on dead bodies and dividing society?" he said in an attack on the BJP.

The failure of the Prime Minister to take action against the errand ministers and BJP leaders creates suspicion in the minds of the people regarding the sincerity of the government to prevent mob lynching. Our eloquent PM often remains silent when he is expected to speak.   

One of the reasons for the increase in the abuse of social media for spreading rumours and lynching is the venom of hatred injected into the veins of the Indian society by certain organizations. The social media are being used lavishly by these organizations for polluting the minds of the people of India with the poison of hatred towards certain communities.

Some of the laws passed by the state governments like ban on cow slaughter, beef ban, freedom of religion etc. directly or indirectly encourage certain groups to indulge in violence against certain communities and provide a kind of justification for lynching.

Because of the politicization of the police administration and failure of the criminal justice system to deliver justice to the aggrieved citizens within a reasonable period, people are losing their confidence in the system. The very low rate of conviction in many criminal cases creates a feeling of helplessness in the people. The culture of acceptance of summary justice is harnessed by certain religious groups to justify punishments for perceived crimes committed by other religious communities. The lynch mob want instant justice without investigating into the guilt of the victim and the punishment meted out is as inhuman as possible for the mob, and with the motive of revenge. Muhammad Qasim in Hapur died requesting for water after being lynched. Qasim’s body was then dragged by his hands on his stomach behind a policeman. The Dhule mob wanted to ensure that their victims loaded in police vehicle were dead.

The religions in India in general have failed to impart spirituality to their followers in spite of increasing religiosity of rituals. Spirituality makes a person compassionate and sensitive and as a result he/she is able to see God in other human beings. A spiritual person will never attempt to take the life of another human being. On the other hand religiosity often divides people on the basis of rituals, practices and dogmas and leads to conflicts and violence. The complicity between religious leaders and political leaders results in politicisation of religion. Like communal violence, lynching incited by religion is also a consequence of politicization of religion. As the BJP failed to deliver most of the promises made at the time of Lok Sabha election in 2014, particularly job creation and improving the conditions of the farmers, indications are visible that the party may turn to communal polarization to win the election in 2019. Jayant Sinha felicitating the culprits in the lynching case is pointer in this direction. 

Neglect of value education in the educational institutions is another reason for the increase in crimes including lynching and abuse of social media. Authentic value education enables a person to distinguish between right and wrong and respect the dignity of every human being despite the differences in religion, culture and language. A person of values will not go after the crowd, but he/she will be able to stand apart from the crowed and challenge the crowd. The tragedy in India is that the number of those people who have the courage to challenge the crowd is declining while the crowd of hate mongers is increasing at an alarming rate.

It is the responsibility of the citizens to arrest the frequency and brutality of lynchings by compelling the state to act against the lynch mobs in accordance with law. Lynching not only dehumanizes the targeted community, but also the entire society. The citizens also have to put pressure on the government to reform the police administration and the criminal justice system in order to restore the confidence of the people in the rule of law. The civil society has to take initiative to create awareness among the people about the dignity and value of human life and motivate people to take recourse to law instead taking law into their hands for instant justice. 

(jacobpt48@gmail.com)

(Published on 16th July 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 29)