This Friday, in another incident of mob violence, a senior police officer was stripped and lynched by a mob outside the historic Jama Masjid in Nowhatta, Jammu and Kashmir. According to news reports, Mohammed Ayub Pandith was on duty when the mob attacked him after he allegedly opened fire at a group of people who caught him clicking pictures near the mosque.
And even though his death has triggered a nationwide outrage, forcing chief minister Mehbooba Mufti to dub the lynching as a ‘murder of trust’, the truth is that we are currently witnessing a worrying trend of rising mob violence across the country.
Take the last 3 months for example, and a horrifying picture emerges-
June 16: A group of government officials allegedly lynched a 55-year-old Muslim man for trying to stop them from photographing women defecating in public in Pratapgarh, Rajasthan.
May 18: Seven people were lynched in Jharkhand in tribal-dominated areas near Jamshedpur, after rumours of gangs kidnapping children in the region were circulated on WhatsApp.
May 2: A man was attacked and beaten to death allegedly by a mob of right-wing activists in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr district after he eloped with a woman from a different community.
April 30: Two men were lynched by a mob in Nagaon district of central Assam on suspicion of being cow thieves.
April 22: Five to six people reportedly belonging to the animal rights group, People for Animals, stopped a truck in Delhi’s Kalkaji area and beat up the occupants badly on the suspicion of being cattle smugglers.
April 21: Cow vigilantes attacked a family of five, including a nine-year-old, in Reasi district in Jammu and Kashmir.
April 1: A Muslim man named Pehlu Khan, 55, was lynched by a mob of around 15 cow vigilantes for allegedly transporting cows in Alwar, Rajasthan.
At the time of writing of this story, a minor Muslim boy has also been allegedly stabbed to death, when an argument over a seat on a train turned into religious slurs and triggered a mob attack on family members returning home from Eid shopping.
What should one make of this senseless violence? There is no denying the fact that the current political climate of the country is one of the reasons for this spurt in cases of vigilante justice and lynching.
Attacks on people from marginalised communities, especially Muslims, is not only indicative of the vitriol that has entered our daily discourse, but is also a testament to how much it has entered the private, public and local spaces in our country. Violence is slowly becoming normalised and mainstream. It is becoming a tool of political and ideological assertion, being used by a select few for domination and control over those don’t tow the ‘right’ line.
What is worrying is that in almost all these cases, the state has been a mute spectator. Our Prime Minister (PM), who is usually quick to tweet on every issue, has remained uncharacteristically silent about this deeply-worrying trend. For instance, while terming the Dadri lynching incident as ‘unfortunate and unwarranted’, the PM wondered out loud, “But what is the role of the central government in these incidents?”
Mr PM, the government does have a role to play. Because the truth is that the regularity of these lynchings is not only due to lawlessness in the country, but also because of the ‘state sanction’ these incidents seem to be receiving.
Not only do we need the government and judiciary to step up, we also need stricter laws against mob lynchings so that these incidents aren’t repeated. We need stricter punishments for those who engage in this senseless violence. Above all, we need justice to prevail.