One has rightly said, “An angry mob has no brain.” India is witnessing this trend in its worst forms. When communal threats arose, people have time and again taken law in their own hands to deal with any accused by resorting to inhuman acts without being rational and ethical. The outbreak of lynching incidents in India has taken its peak in the last 5-6 years. In maximum cases, the victims of mob violence have been the minority groups of Muslims, Dalits and few racially tortured African tourists. They are generally chained, stripped, beaten, harassed or hanged by the mobs. These barbaric cases have created a national debate on intolerance. The lynching has been carried out in cases of witch-hunting, caste based atrocities and most commonly bovine slaughter, especially Cows.
Cow: The Holy animal
The entire concept of ‘Gauraksha’ emerges from the fact that Cow is considered holy and sacred in the Hindu culture with mythological association with deities like Lord Shiva, Lord Indra, Lord Krishna and also a symbol of Motherhood. Cow slaughter was also forbidden in the Rigvedic literature and the religious and ethical code of ‘Manu-smriti’. Many states in India have at present banned cow slaughter and have declared lifetime imprisonment for the same. But the measures used by angry mobs to punish the perpetrators or suspects have been vile, repulsive and immoral.
Lack of official data
The Indian Penal Code (IPC) does not identify the crime of ‘Lynching’. In different cases of mob-violence, the lynchers have been arrested earlier under the following sections of the IPC:
147 Punishment for rioting
148 Rioting with deadly weapons
149 Unlawful assembly
307 Attempt to murder
458 House-trespass/house breaking
504 Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace
The National Crime Records Bureau only collects data for the crimes specifically defined by the IPC. Hence no official data is released by NCRB or National Human Rights Commission on the mob-lynching crimes; citizens and organizations are relying on media reports. A recent study compiled by IndiaSpend pointed out that 63 incidents which were reported between 2010-2017 led to 28 deaths. 97% of them were post May 2014 and Muslims were the victims in 51% of the cases.
Dadri Lynching case 2015
Mohammad Akhlaq (50) was lynched by a mob on 28th September, 2015 for rumoured consumption of cow meat in Bishara village in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh and his family was harassed. The assaulters were arrested under murder charges and the alleged meat was send for lab testing. The final report on the meat test came on 31st may, 2016 confirmed by the Central Forensic and Scientific Lab in Mathura affirming cow meat. On 15th July 2016, an FIR got filed against Akhlaq’s family for alleged cow slaughter. However, they challenged the FIR in Allahabad court on the grounds of tampering of forensic data.
The violence continues
The July 11 incident of Una Attack in 2016 in Gujarat gave a national outcry when seven Dalits were brutally beaten for skinning a dead cow. It was found that the cow was killed by a lion and the people were just skinning its carcass. However, cow vigilants are apathetic mobs who do not bother to check facts and find violence as the only solution.
In the first six months of 2017, roughly 20 cases of mob violence have been reported. Despite the ban on cow sale, a traditional Cattle fair is held in Jaipur regularly. This is where Pehlu Khan (55) a dairy farmer from Haryana became the target of gaurakshaks on April 1st. In Bagmeda village of Jharkhand, May 18th, a mob of 100 patrolling men stopped a suspicious car and lynched three men who were going to Rajnagar for cattle sale. Eighteen got arrested in this case. June 29th, the very same day Prime Minister Modi condemned the lynching situation in Sabarmati Ashram, Gujarat, Asgar Ali (42), a meat trader got lynched while he was on his way to Ramgarh. 12 people among the lynchers were sent for trial.
However, no severe punishments have been received in any cases till now. This impunity is promoting the spread and increase of mob-violence and killing.
A horrifying case emerged in Rajasthan in August 2017, where a 40-year old widow, Kanya Devi Regar was branded as a witch by her relatives and community. She was stripped naked, paraded on street, forcibly fed dirty water and excreta and then beaten to death. This happened in a Dalit locality and the poor woman fell prey to the community’s witch-hunting superstitions. Four relatives were later arrested under relevant IPC sections and provisions of Rajasthan Prevention of Witch-hunting Act, 2015. Such cases reveal the ironic truth of India where the same men who worship goddesses in temples, torture women at home and public.
Threat from social media
It started when a young IT professional was murdered by a mob for derogatory posts on facebook in 2014. A new way in which mobs are misguided and carrying out horrific violence is through random whatsapp threat messages. Usage of social media freedom for creating fake and disturbing news has become rampant in the last few months. Recently a message got circulated on whatsapp community regarding child-lifting and rape done by random strangers on streets. Amidst this fear, 7 people lost their lives in May 2017 in Jharkhand for being suspected as criminals without any solid proof.
On June 22, 2017, 15-year-old Junaid Khan lost his life after being stabbed over a seat dispute on the Delhi-Mathura train in Ballabhgarh, Haryana. He was tagged a “beef-eater” based on his religious identity. This has created a sense of fear among fellow Muslims in public spaces. This murder sparked a lot of anger and protest in the country and many celebrities promoted the ‘NotInMyName’ campaign to fight against the inhuman mob-lynching. It received a huge support on social networking sites and demonstrations by youth were held in several cities across India.
Government’s stand and the ongoing Beef politics
There is an urgent need to define ‘Mob Lynching’ as a criminal offence under the Indian Penal Code. People irrespective of their ethnicity or occupation should be able to live a safe life in the Democratic India. Otherwise, the country would be engulfed by the power of mobocracy, if law and order is not properly restored.