SC red cards Lynchistan, says ‘Mobocracy can’t be the new norm’. Will govt frame law on lynching?

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Amid a rise in number of mob lynching cases across India, the Supreme Court today said,”Horrendous acts of mobocracy cannot be allowed to become a new norm and has to be curbed with iron hands.” The apex court’s order came on a batch of petitions, including one by social activist Tehseen S Poonawalla and Tushar Gandhi, seeking to curb violence by cow vigilante groups. Gandhi had also filed a contempt plea on some states, accusing them of not enforcing the earlier orders of the court. The apex court order is pertaining not only to cow vigilante violence but also regarding violence perpetrated by all vigilante groups.

29 deaths in 3 months
Across India, lynching has claimed 29 deaths in a just couple of months, and since May last year, the mob violence has claimed 36 lives.

TIMELINE OF THE INCIDENTS

2017

  • May 18: 3 persons killed in Nagadih village in Jharkhand
  • May 19: 4 persons lynched in Shobhapur village in Jharkhand

2018

  • 9 May: 2 killed in Tamil Nadu.
  • 23 May: Man lynched in Bengaluru.
  • May 2018: 6 killed in Andhra and Telangana in separate incidents
  • 8 June: 2 lynched to death in Assam.
  • 11 June: 1 killed in Goregaon town, Maharashtra
  • 8 June: 2 lynched in Aurangabad, Maharashtra
  • 13 June: Man lynched to death in Malta, West Bengal
  • 15 June: Two men from Ujjain in M.P were attacked by a crowd outside a dargah in the Chawani area of Aurangabad. One succumbed
  • 22 June: An unidentified man, who police say was “mentally challenged”, was lynched by a mob of 15 after he failed to establish his innocence, in Surguja, Chhattisgarh
  • 23 June: Man lynched to death in East Midnapore, West Bengal.
  • 26 June: 45-year-old beggar woman killed in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
  • 28 June: 3 lynched to death in Tripura in a single day, including a man hired by the government to go around dispelling rumours.
  • 1 July: 5 lynched in Maharashtra’s Dhule district.
  • 13 July: Techie lynched to death in Bidar, Karnataka
  • 20 July: Rakbar Khan attacked and beaten to death by mob vigilantes in Alwar, Rajasthan

On July 3 also the court had taken a serious note of lynchings and mob violence, and had put the onus on the states to check such incidents, saying “Incidents of cow vigilantism were unacceptable, and it was up to the states to prevent them”. It also said, “The Centre should frame a scheme under Article 257 (Control of the Union over States in certain cases) of Constitution.” On September 6 last year, the apex court had asked all the states to take stern measures to stop violence in the name of cow protection, including appointing senior police officers as nodal officers in every district within a week and acting promptly to check cow vigilantes from behaving like they are a “law unto themselves”. The question then arises, is Narendra Modi government really serious about stopping lynching and what has the government done so far?

Last year, MoS for home affairs Hansraj Ahir had told Rajya Sabha (19 July, 2017), “I don’t think there is a need to bring changes in the law. The state governments could take action against persons involved in such incidents under existing laws.”

Currently, there is no specific law against lynching. Mob lynching cases are recorded as a case of rioting under IPC section 147 and as murder under IPC Sec 300. There is no section in the Indian Penal Code specifically for lynching.

From suspicions of cow slaughter to beef consumption and now “child lifters”, India has become synonymous with lynchland. What is encouraging people to take law into their hands? Hasn’t Gau Raksha lynching emboldened mobs?

According to June 2017 IndiaSpend Report, there was a Rise in lynching and attacks on Muslims by Gau Rakshaks after Modi govt came to power. In July last year, Centred had told the Supreme Court that the government does not support any kind of vigilantism in any state. But according to IndiaSpend Data:

“Muslims were the target of 51% of violence centred on bovine issues over nearly eight years (2010 to 2017) and comprised 86% of 28 Indians killed in 63 incidents. And, as many of 97 % of these attacks were reported after PM Narendra Modi’s government came to power in May 2014.” Clearly, tThe facts are there to speak for itself.

The Centre brushing its hands off also told the top court that “Law and order is a state subject and Central government does not have any role in it.” But the research data says (India Spend). According to the report, Out of 97 % of the attacks that were reported after PM Narendra Modi’s government came to power, about half the cow-related violence–32 of 63 cases–were from states governed by the BJP when the attacks were reported. And these attacks – sometimes collectively referred to as gautankwad, for cow and terrorism, on social media – were reported from 19 of 29 Indian states, with Uttar Pradesh (10), Haryana (9), Gujarat (6), Karnataka (6), Madhya Pradesh (4), Delhi (4) and Rajasthan (4) reporting the highest number of cases.

On July 3 when the Supreme Court was hearing the petition, advocate Indira Jaising had said the violent incidents of cow vigilantism “go beyond crime and law and order problems” and “there is a pattern to it”. But the bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra said, “It would “not confine these incidents to any particular motive”…“this is mob violence, which is a crime”….. We want to protect victims.” This came on the face of Congress that has been alleged Modi government of encouraging lynching.

No public outcry on lynching

Last year, the cases of 16-year old Junaid Khan who was lynched in a train in Ballabgarh, Haryana and one in Jharkand allegedly for carrying beef had led to protests like #NotInMyName across the country. But that does not seem to have woken up the government from its slumber.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also condemned mob attacks on cattle traders, beef eaters and dairy farmers, saying killing people in the name of protecting cows is unacceptable. He said, “Killing people in the name of Gau Bhakti is not acceptable. No person in this nation has the right to take the law in his or her own hands in this country”. He even invoked Mahatama Gandhi by saying “This is not something Mahatma Gandhi would approve”. But that proved only a tokenism.

Law on Lynching

India has witnessed a spate of medieval-style lynchings in the last two years: from Mohammad Akhlaq’s murder in Dadri in 2015 to Pehlu Khan’s lynching in Rajasthan last month; from the 2015 Dimapur lynching where a rape suspect was killed by a mob in Nagaland, to two men being lynched on suspicions of being “cattle theives” in Assam. Murder and mob justice as a public spectacle has become the norm for the underrepresented and socially-backward communities.

Now, the Supreme Court has asked the legislature to consider enacting a new penal provision to deal with offences of mob violence and provide deterrent punishment to such offenders. It also gave slew of directions, including preventive, remedial and punitive steps to deal with the crime.

The entire concept of governance and rule of law rests on the state having exclusive rights to act and control violence. But in mob justice the non-state actors appropriate the right to do violence.
People involved in lynching have no regards for formal institutions. Senior Advocate Indira Jaising has asserted that “lynching of Muslim in India have become a badge of honour for the perpetrators”.

It is high time that India has a muscular law on lynching to stop this inhumanity.

Recently, Nigeria drafted an anti-lynching law. Some countries have tried to curb lynching by controlling fake news. Malaysia has framed such a law and only in April this year a man became the first person to be convicted for posting fake video on YouTube. An anti-lynching bill was introduced in the US Senate last month. Then what stops India from having a law on lynching?