Mob lynching: Politics, Law and Solution

A bare reading of the definition of lynching states,

“To punish (a person) without legal process or authority, especially by hanging, for a perceived offense or as an act of bigotry”

One clear understanding from the above-mentioned definition is that there is no place for Mob lynching in a civilized land and especially in the world’s largest democracy.

The drafters of the Indian Constitution knew that laws in the country could be twisted to challenge the Fundamental Rights which were assured to the citizens and that’s exactly why The Right to Constitutional Remedies, that is, a process to seek justice through courts, was included in it.

Also going to through the epics, it holds no substantial, memorable or any quoted reference to this stated vicious practice.

Thus, in today’s world, Lynching stands as an exception.

The biggest irony and misfortune of our country is that everything and anything is politicized for insignificant political interests and vote bank. The same is true with most inhuman and abominable activity of mob lynching.

Early political context has been witnessed in the Kherlanji massacre in 2006. It was when four people were lynched over a land dispute at Kherlanji in Maharashtra. A mob of at least 50 villagers captured Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange’s house, and lynched four members of his family. Bhotmange’s wife and their daughter were marched naked in the village and sexually abused before being brutally murdered. The attack was after these women filed a police complaint against 15 villages who thrashed a relative. And despite such chaos, there were efforts to normalise the lynching later saying it was a casteist outrage against Dalits by the politically dominant Kumbi caste.

The next lynching that shocked the nation happened in Dimapur in 2015. A mob of least 7,000 to 8,000 infuriated people broke into Dimapur Central Jail, dragged Syed Farid Khan accused in a rape case out, marched him naked, stoned him, thrashed him, dragged him for over seven kilometres. There were attempts of tying a rope to his waist from a motorcycle. Ultimately, killing him and displaying his body on a clock tower. The brutal punishment was for the rape on a superficial level but what the mob thought was that they were lynching a Bangladeshi migrant. Khan, originally from Assam, had been living in for over Dimapur eight years. What is conflicting in this case is that the medical reports about the rape initially said the woman, who filed the complaint, was raped and then denying the same. Khan’s family claimed he was framed and said that the woman invited Khan to a hotel, forced him to drink and demanded Rs 2,00,000 from him. Ironically, this horrific mob violence executed was quoted by many as an example of serving justice.

Not much time later, Dadri lynching was witnessed. A 52-year-old Muslim man, Mohammad Akhlaq and his son, were attacked by a village mob with sticks and bricks, accusing them of stealing and slaughtering a cow calf and storing and consuming beef. The son was severely injured in the attack. Akhlaq was beaten till he died. This incident in Uttar Pradesh’s Bisara village near Dadri, was the first case of a Muslim lynched by a Hindu mob in the name of cow and beef. A primary inquiry by the Uttar Pradesh Veterinary Department said the meat recovered from Akhlaq’s refrigerator was not beef but of “goat progeny”. After a year in Mathura’s forensic department, the report said that the meat was of a cow or its progeny. And not much to surprise, the report was said to be politically motivated to normalise the lynching saying the mob was “emotionally charged” since cow slaughter is an extremely emotional issue for Hindus.

India is a multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-dimensional and diverse country where people belonging to various faiths and religious denominations live together in peace and tranquillity. In such a diverse country, mob lynching in the name of protecting cow has the potential of leading to communal disharmony which may lead to national disintegration when national integration is badly required for peace, economic development and societal upliftment of the country.

Even since, Government imposed a ban on the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter at animal markets across India, under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals statutes in 2017, it flashed a new wave of cow vigilante throughout the country. Though the SC suspended the ban on the sale of cattle in its judgment in 2017, giving relief to the multi dollar beef and leather industries and several states where beef is one among the primary foods, there was a rise in attacks on Muslims accusing them as beef eaters. Several innocent Muslims were murdered in such mob attack.

Law and order is a state subject and therefore all State Governments should deal with this inhuman activity strictly to maintain the rule of law and its supremacy. No one should be allowed to tinker with the law and the law violators and unruly mobs that resort to mob lynching should be put behind bars and severe punishment should be given to them so that this issue will be curbed and the country is saved from disturbance and violence. The primitive mindset and mob lynching are alien to our culture and should as such be discouraged and the secular democracy saved for the welfare of its citizens without any distinction of caste, creed, color or sex. Otherwise we will stoop to the 18th century which will take us back to the days of ignorance and illiteracy.

The government, though, has taken initiatives as it has asked States to appoint a nodal officer in each district to prevent the incidents of mob lynching. It has also asked to set up a special task force to procure intelligence reports about the people who are likely to commit such crimes or who are involved in spreading hate speeches, provocative statements and fake news.

Two high-level committees have also been constituted by the Centre to suggest ways to deal with incidents of mob lynching. One of the committees is being headed by Union Home Minister and the other by Union Home Secretary. The move came a week after the SC asked the Centre to enact a law to deal with incidents of lynching and take action on mob violence. The government respecting the directions of the Apex Court on the issue of mob lynching has issued an advisory to the State governments urging them to take effective measures to prevent such incidents, and also take severe actions as per the law.

Mob lynching should be dealt with an iron hand as it has the ramification of disturbing communal amity and peace in the diverse society and as such should not be tolerated and no one should be allowed to take law into his or her hands. It cannot be associated with any particular religion as it is a criminal activity and the criminal mindset does not come into people of any specific community. Thus to associate it with majority community is unjustified. But the majority community has the moral responsibility to protect and safeguard the minorities and supplement the efforts of the Government in this regard otherwise we cannot claim to build a new India where everyone irrespective of religion and faith will be safe and sound. We can rebuild new India only when there will be peace and the sectarian and communal violence will be things of yesteryears.

Thus, mob lynching should be condemned, discouraged and curbed if we have to build a strong and new India as a big economic power.