No one knows more about lynching than the United States of America. Since the days of Klu Klux Klan lynching was used for targeted killings by the white supremacists and as a tool to crush the identity of people of color. It is estimated that more than 4,000 people were lynched in the United States between 1877 and 1950. Lynching is not just murder but a spectacle leading to mass euphoria. Tickets were sold in the past and families made a picnic out of lynching incidents.
Today, when a black politician belonging to the Democratic Party, Representative Al Green, is threatened with lynching because he dares to call for the impeachment of President Trump or a white State representative, Karl Oliver, calls for the lynching of politicians who support removing confederate statues in Louisiana, it echoes the same threat. As the majority groups continue to assert their dominance, the minorities are forced to worry about their survival. It is the case of the majority telling the minorities that the law and the government can’t protect them from cowardly social justice.
Recently, I was called out for drawing parallels between issues facing the United States and India. I agree that it is not always good to compare the two different nations but when the issues threaten the core ideals of democracy I think it warrants the attention of the world’s two largest democracies.
The lynching of Pehlu Khan in April was not only brutal and soul scaring but it was also filmed and circulated widely for entertainment. A mob of 200 in Rajasthan accused Khan and his colleagues of transporting cows for slaughter and brutally beat them up, which led to the death of Khan. While the police filed cases of cattle smuggling and none of those accused of mob violence were punished. The lynching of seven people in Jharkhand last month was triggered by child-lifting rumors. Although the Jharkhand case has resulted in 26 arrests associated with the incident, the fundamental question remains.
The usually outspoken majority political class chose to stay silent on this issue rather than condemn the act. In some cases the overwhelming evidence pointed towards a premeditated plan and not something that happened at the spur of the moment.
In my opinion, the threats and the acts of lynching are cases of domestic terrorism. People who are at the receiving end of this ‘social justice’ fear for their life. This is not a sign of healthy democracy and governance. From trolling online to picking up a weapon, vigilante justice is often misguided and results in irreparable damage to the psyche. And rather than addressing the issue, we are burying our heads in sand hoping that it will go away on its own.
We must acknowledge the threat for what it is and take steps to counter it. First, the leaders should denounce the heinous acts and ask their followers to not participate in such incidents. Second, law enforcement should be empowered to tackle the violence with support from the political class. The institutions of education should educate people, teach tolerance and reject the mob mentality. Finally, as responsible citizens, we should not only condemn the violence but seek help when the situation warrants. Don’t try to be a lone hero and save the day but work with like minded people to stop the violence and prevent lynching from becoming the new normal.