“Our country’s national crime is lynching. It is not the creature of an hour, the sudden outburst of uncontrolled fury, or the unspeakable brutality of an insane mob.” – Ida B Wells
In India, whenever we talk about mob violence, the first word that comes to our mind is lynching. The act entails killing someone without a legal trial. Basically, such incidents happen when an unidentified mob takes the law in its hands.
From 2013 to 2018, there have been cases in which people have been lynched in the name of religion, their food choices or anything related to these. For instance, the cow is a holy animal, and in India, it is treated as equivalent to a deity. But the same cow is also used as a political tool by the politicians.
India really needs an anti-lynching law which can tackle these situations. The Indian Penal Code doesn’t have any law which specifically addresses lynching.
Let’s just analyse how the ‘lynching calendar’ really looks like:
In a shocking incident on June 8, 2018 , two boys – Nilotpal Das (29) and Abhijeet Nath (30) – who had gone to visit the Kangthilangso waterfall in Karbi Anglong, were killed. While returning, their vehicle was stopped at Panjuri by a group of some villagers, who pulled them out and killed them by beating them up on the suspicion that they were child-lifters.
All of this started because of a misleading rumour on WhatsApp and social media, which incited the mob to take the law in its hands and kill these innocent men. Where are we heading to? Nowhere. A legal case will be initiated, trials will take place, and justice might be served. But the loss is irreplaceable. These attacks are taking us back by several years. Mob violence is a crime which needs the urgent intervention of law.
Ankit Saxena, a photographer, was brutally killed by his girlfriend’s family. The attack was perhaps pre-planned – as it was stated that the girl’s family was against the relationship between Ankit and their daughter. Reading such accounts make me wonder whether we are really living in the 21st century.
Commenting on the incident Ankit’s mother Kamlesh had said, “There were dozens of people watching my son get beaten up, but none of them dared to save him. My son was a body builder himself, but he was helpless when the killers caught and killed him. The sight of the woman’s father wielding a big kukri knife must have scared others.”
Junaid and his brother Hashim, along with their two friends, were returning home to Khandawali village in the Faridabad district of Haryana in a local train after shopping for Eid at Sadar Bazar in Delhi. Then, they allegedly got into an altercation with a few passengers in the train. The altercation turned violent – and a group of 20-25 people stabbed Junaid to death and injured his brother.
This incident reflects the ‘harshness’ of words, and how someone’s choice of words and identity can even take their life away. Junaid’s body was thrown at the next railway station.
Mukhtiar and Rizvan were transporting beef in a car to Delhi, via the KM Payal Expressway. They were stopped by a group of gau rakshaks and forced to eat cow dung and cow urine, along with ghee and curd.
Is this the way one teaches a person ‘a lesson’? Humanity is degrading, day by day, with these inhumane acts, which all indicate the state of lawlessness in India.
Pehlu Khan was a dairy farmer. While returning home after purchasing cattle from Jaipur along with his children, he was assaulted by a mob of alleged gau rakshaks. They accused him of being involved in cow-trading and slaughter, before lynching him to death. This incident took place on one of the busiest roads in the country.
This was one of those incidents which shook the nation. Mohammad Akhlaq and his son were dragged out of their home at midnight and brutally attacked by an unauthorised mob.
The reason behind this incident was simple enough: it was alleged that Akhlaq has stored and consumed beef in his house. Apparently, this announcement about Akhlaq’s eating and food storing habit was made at a nearby temple.
Zahid Rasool Bhat was taking the dead bodies of some cows, when he was cornered and attacked by a mob. Petrol bombs were thrown at him and he was badly injured. After a few days of struggle, Zahid passed away due to the injuries.
Later, it was found that the cows he was carrying had died due to food poisoning – and not after being slaughtered, as the mob had presumed. Once again, this incident shows how unfounded doubts and rumours can cause people to lynch others.
In Una, a mob attacked a Dalit family for skinning a dead cow. They were badly beaten up by rods and thrashed with bricks and sticks. Later, two of them were taken to the town, beaten up brutally again, and the family was humiliated.
Afterwards, the investigation department informed the authorities that the cow had been killed by a lion. How intolerant have we really become?
Most of these incidents are related to people’s food choices and communal hatred. But, the larger question here is: as a country, where are we headed? Most of the lynchings had religious or even political angles, but firstly, what gives a mob the power to carry out these activities? In fact, it’s become routine for us to witness others being lynched in the name of religion. We need to stand up and resist against these inhumane activities.
The main point of contention is not the cow; it is the intention to cause hate and tension. In India, cows are safer than women? Not at all. Even the cows are not safe. Where are these so-called mobs and gau rakshaks when the cow dies of starvation? Where are they when cows are eating plastic materials? They are nowhere in the frame. So, it is just a political aspect – and the cow, at the end of the day, is being used as a political tool.
The IPC doesn’t have a provision specifically aimed at mob-lynching. This is a major drawback – one that allows people to incite and enable mob actions in the absence of punitive measures. A new provision must be inserted to tackle this menace.
On the other hand, in the US, there is a law against lynching. It is introduced in title 18 of the United States Code – Conspiracy Against Rights – Section 241, which states the following: “If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same […] They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.”
It can be stated that violent mobs are the new law in India. They can take away your life in a jiffy – something that happened in the recent Assam lynching. Why – even a mere suspicion in the form of a WhatsApp message can take away your life!.
The society today considers this to be the normal state of things, without understanding the pain of those who have been affected by it. We would do well to remember that next victim of this menace could be any of us. We should therefore stand against these inhuman acts and address it legally too.