The violent mob mentality that results in gruesome lynching of citizens is a cancer spreading across India’s veins, and the blame is on the Parliament.
In July 2018, addressing the “rising intolerance and growing polarisation”, India’s Supreme Court had taken cognizance of the “spate of incidents of mob violence” observing that they “cannot be permitted to become the normal way of life or the normal state of law and order”.
Last week, a morbid video came up from Jharkhand of a man in his 20s being brutally flogged by a crowd. Tied to a pole, the man was beaten bloody. The crowd accused him of stealing a motorbike.
He was forced him to repeat the words “Jai Shri Ram” and “Jai Hanuman”, to which he complied. His name was Sonu Ansari aka, as the crowd later confirmed, Tabrez Ansari,
Mob lynching is a disease that had been spreading like a terminal disease that’s infecting India’s secular identity and gradually gaining in notoriety. Incidents of mob and lynching are hard to gauge with no official government statistics of hate crimes in India.
Accounting from media outlets and independent initiatives opine at least 94 deaths in cases of mob lynching since 2015. This map from Quint gives a decent idea. You can check out Quint’s study and data on lynching here.
Growing polarization and motives behind lynching
The fact that the Supreme Court used the words “rising intolerance” and “growing polarisation” explains the such incidents are like an epidemic which the government is struggling to control.
Cases of lynching have continued to rise with the alleged reasons changing. There was cow vigilantism that saw Mohammad Akhlaq lynched on Eid in Dadri (2015), two cattle traders hung up from a tree in Jharkhand (2016), and publicly filmed assault of four Dalit men in Gujarat (2016) and even the killing of a police officer Subodh Singh in Bulandshar, UP (2018).
Then there was suspicion of child lifting, the lynching of a mentally ill woman in West Bengal (2017), merciless thrashing of two young men to death by a mob in Assam (2018), multiple mob attacks of Hindi-speaking people in Andhra Pradesh (2018) and deathly assault on five tribal men in Maharashtra (2018).
The grim social media trend
While Digital India gave a lot of benefits to India, unfortunately it came with a collateral. Penetration of social media and mobile phones mixed with religious fanaticism to make filming a public lynching a trend of sorts. Filming onlookers are in cohesion with the ones committing the crime.
Of late, mob lynching is recorded and distributed widely. Tabrez’s video was recorded in a morbid pattern which emanates from this trend. Similar cases were Pehlu Khan in Rajasthan (2017), another in UP (2018) and Manipur (2018). In the case of Manipur youth, the alleged reason for mob violence was theft of a motorbike, as in the case of Tabrez.
How people follow leaders?
Another significant factor is that such acts are often supported by societies and also local politicians, inspired by the cow protection movement. And now from the cow lynching, India has moved forward in motives.
Recent cases have seen imposition of the Hindu chant “Jai Shri Ram”. Such an action, in itself its violation of the fundamental right to speech of every Indian citizen.
More morbid is the fact that there is a sort of connection between the political narratives and how the common public conceives it and practices in daily life. Support for cow protection led to killings based on rumours.
Similarly, chants of “Jai Shri Ram” by parliamentarians in the early days of the 17th Lok Sabha have inspired the streets to take on a modified, savage form when trying to spread the “gospel” of “Hinduism”.
Supreme courts directive on mob killings
In its observation, the Supreme Court had concluded its judgment by calling on the lawmakers to lead the change and bring in a new law that will ‘instil a sense of fear for law amongst the people who involve themselves in such kind of activities’.
The apex Court had expressed strong dissent over the reluctance of law enforcement in preventing such grim crimes. It gave directives for registering reports under Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), Centre and States to take preventive measures to curb social media provocation and rumour mongering.
The Court prescribed the creation of a senior police post namely a Nodal Officer in each state to head a special task force dedicated to monitoring individuals involved in “spreading hate speeches, provocative statements and fake news.”
The government’s position was that existing laws were adequate to deal with such attacks, but the court deferred.
The court directed measures and steps for Police forces for prevention of mob violence, establishing fast track courts, maximum punishment, compensation schemes for the family of the victims.
The reluctance in enforcement
That was July 2018, and not progress has been made by the Parliament and the state governments since. Opposition has also been coy on making lynching an issue.
The fact that Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said “Jai Shri Ram” can be chanted by embracing people and not by throttling them, while referring to Tabrez’s lynching, confirms the notion that such acts are due to the spreading plague of vigilante justice and mob mentality are linked to the current political air in the country.
Tabrez was tied and beaten for hours before the police came to his rescue. They took him in custody for theft, and neither his injuries at the time of arrest nor the assault was mentioned in the FIR.
This after the highest authority in India had directed measures for the police. The trajectory is more alarming than meets the eye.
India needs a new approach to curb this cancer before its too late. Its time for a wide-spread outcry to stop this outbreak of fanatical purges. The lawmakers need to wake up and rescue the country from the current state of affairs.
By: Chitresh Sehgal, Senior Editor, Dkoding Media