The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said, “Fascism is not defined by the number of its victims, but by the way it kills them.”
Our civilization, with each passing day, has seen a new low in humanity, as a peculiarly virulent form of nationalism rears its head. The idea of India we grew up with – secular, diverse, progressive – has been dying. We are slowly witnessing the demise of everything that made us proud to be an Indian. From Dadri, where Mohammed Akhlaque was lynched on suspicion of storing beef in his fridge to Hyderabad where a Google engineer was beaten to death by an angry mob on suspicion of being a child lifter to the trashing of Swami Agnivesh this week, a pernicious form of nationalism has taken over the country. In our urban and rural spaces, a brutish form of political expression has taken over and has become the new normal.
The Supreme Court of India taking cognizance of the ‘horrendous cases of mobocracy’, has asked the Parliament to make a new law to deal with mob lynching and cow vigilantism, warning that such incidents may lead to the rise of a “Typhon-like monster” in India. In Greek mythology, Typhon was believed to be a monstrous serpentine giant, a kind of a deadly giant.
In a carefully worded 45-page verdict, the court said “rising intolerance and growing polarisation, cannot be permitted to become the normal way of life”, it added that “no citizen can take law into their own hands. It is the duty of the state to deal strongly with fear and anarchy without giving space to violence. The judgment is a lesson to politicians, gau-rakshaks and the ‘fringe’ that feed on hate and intolerance.”
The judgement asserts that good governance and nation-building require the maintenance of law and order which is linked to the preservation of our social structure based on the idea of unity in diversity. “In such a situation, the State has a sacrosanct duty to protect its citizens from unruly elements and perpetrators of orchestrated lynching and vigilantism with utmost sincerity and true commitment to address and curb such incidents which must reflect in its actions and schemes.”
It is upon the authorities responsible to maintain law and order and to douse and curb mob vigilantism, and any sort of adjudication can take place only by a court of law.
“When any core group with some kind of idea take the law into their own hands, it ushers in anarchy, chaos, disorder and, eventually, there is an emergence of a violent society. Vigilantism cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be given room to take shape, for it is absolutely a perverse notion.”
The court noted that there had been an “unfortunate litany” of growing mob violence and “agonized horror”, presenting a grim and gruesome picture that compels us to reflect whether the populace of a great Republic like ours has lost the values of tolerance to sustain a diverse culture.
Unity in the context of a nation means unity amongst the fellow citizens. It implies integration of the citizens whereby the citizens embrace a feeling of “We the people” with a sense of bonding with fellow citizens which would definitely go a long way in holding the Indian society together.
“In the obtaining situation, the need to preserve and maintain unity amongst the fellow citizens of our country, who represent different castes, creed and races, follow different religions and use multiple languages, ought to be discussed and accentuated.”
The order said it was required that “our country must sustain, exalt and celebrate the feeling of solidarity and harmony so that the spirit of oneness is entrenched in the collective character. Sans such harmony and understanding, we may unwittingly pave the path of disaster.”
The Supreme Court has called for an anti-lynching law. I offered a private member’s bill two sessions ago but was disallowed by the Speaker on the grounds that law&order is for the states & not for Parliament to legislate. The SC disagrees. https://t.co/eXLTIuZg7X
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) July 17, 2018
This diversity is the strength of our nation, and for realizing the potential of this strength, such activities need to be curbed.
Preventive measures include the appointment of a nodal officer by state governments, a special task force to procure information about people likely to indulge in such activities that include spreading hate speech, provocative statements and fake news. While the Home Department will coordinate with state governments, the central and state governments should also make announcements that those who take part in lynching would invite serious consequences.
Remedial measures comprise of immediate registration of FIR, and the investigation has to be monitored by the Nodal Officer. The victims to be provided relief as soon as possible. The matter should be dealt with by fast track courts. Other measures include protection for witnesses and award of maximum punishment as provided for various offences under the IPC.
Punitive measures include that any police officer who fails to comply with the rules would be responsible for deliberate negligence and action would be taken against them which would not be limited to departmental action under service rules. The State will also have to recognize the growing dissatisfaction among people. To quote Woodrow Wilson, “must ring with the voices of the people.”
The need of the hour is to strengthen our social and cultural fabric which would reaffirm the faith of the people in the constitution. The Supreme Court has sought replies from the government on the issue and announced that the next hearing would take place in August.