Lynching is as old as the civilisation itself. Humans have progressed and advanced continuously. However certain animalistic, retrograde instincts are still alive in them. The world stares at an unprecedented spurt in violence, sometimes in the name of religion, sometimes in the name of ‘self-defence’, and sometimes just for the sake of it.
The recent lynching of a tribal man in Kerala for allegedly stealing articles from a shop in Palakkad arguably is a great abyss of our times. But again is it unprecedented? The probable answer is ‘No’. Lynchings are taking place sporadically in different parts of India without any fear for the law.
Madhu’s lynching invited politics as usual. The opposition in the state led by the Congress and the BJP held the LDF Government accountable. The government tried to control the damage. The Central Government also has asked for a report from the state.
But beyond the mudslinging of politics and politicians, there is a very important thing to ponder over. We may condemn politicians for their high handedness and insensitivity. But do they not also just mirror the society we live in? The politicians become the representatives of the people because we vote for them. An individual was taking a selfie when the perpetrators beat up Madhu. What does it say about us? If our society itself is bankrupt, squarely blaming the politicians may be a bit rich for all of us.
This proclivity towards mob justice raises another alarm. Are people losing their faith in the judicial system in our country? The courts in India saunter at a snail’s pace. According to the National Judicial Data Grid, over 26 million cases are pending in the courts of the country. Is that why so many people are taking law into their own hands? Not for a moment is the author justifying vigilantism, but this view must be critically analysed.The acceptance of mob justice has another example in Kerala: political killings. In the last 17 years, 172 political murders have taken place in the state.
It is an irony then that the state happens to be the numero uno state not only when it comes to literacy, but also many other socio-economic indicators. For example, Kannur, the hotbed of political violence in the state, has a literacy rate of 95 percent. How do we explain this contradiction? Is education in India failing to inculcate the basic virtues that every human being should have?
Ambedkar once presciently said, “On the 26th January, 1950, we are going to enter a life of contradictions. In politics, we will have equality and in socio-economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man, one vote. In our social and economic life, we shall by reason of our social and economic structure continue to deny the principle of one man, one value.”
Even after the recognition of tribal rights and despite provisions to secure tribal interests, the community is still dealt with apathy and contempt. Had Madhu Chandaki not been a vulnerable tribal, could he have been lynched this way? The incident raises disturbing questions about the state of our minorities.
The plight of the Scheduled Tribes is often glossed over by mainstream media. The state government has announced a huge compensation. But that alone will not salvage the condition of the Scheduled Tribes in India. Madhu did not need sops in death. He needed his rights in life.
The author is a part of the Youth Ki Awaaz Writers’ Training Program.