Is lynching the new normal?
With incidents of lynching on the rise, what will it take the government to enact an anti-lynching bill?
Last year, 16-year-old Hafiz Junaid was lynched on a Mathura-bound train over a seat. Two years before that, Mohammad Akhlaq was brutally killed over suspicions that he ate beef. Months have passed and numerous incidents of mob violence continue. In the last couple of months alone, a WhatsApp rumour claimed the lives of two innocent youth, Nilotpal Das and Abhijeet Nath, in Karbi Anglong, Assam; 39-year-old Qasim was lynched in Hapur, Uttar Pradesh, over alleged cow slaughter; a suspected child-lifter was lynched in Malda, West Bengal; two people from a tribal community were lynched in Aurangabad when fake news about alleged midnight attacks on a village was circulated. The list is endless and our silence, deafening.
What really feeds mob violence? The biggest incentive for mob violence is the belief that the perpetrators can get away with it. It is a show of collective cowardice when a crime is committed in numbers knowing that the law has no teeth. Last year, after Junaid's unfortunate stabbing, activists and lawyers had drafted an anti-lynching bill. The Central government, however, rejected all plans for a new law, the logic being that the existing laws can handle such cases and take action. But what of being a deterrent? Are not these cases increasing with every passing day? Is might, always right? Are not these cases replete with legal loopholes when it comes to prosecution?
Data website, IndiaSpend, says that 28 people have been killed in 63 incidents of lynching between 2010 and 2017. By no means are lynchings new to India but, alarmingly, over 97 per cent of these incidents have taken place after 2014, since the Narendra Modi government came to power. And, by not acting with an iron hand on these incidents, the government fails its people.
Our banana republic of a country and its confounded people need laws. There is no civic sense or tolerance. We desecrate new expressways, vandalise spanking new trains, show that we have no human decency left. A country where its people cannot govern themselves – laws, strict laws, are urgently needed to contain herd mentality. Only severe punishment can act as a deterrent, and yes, an example must be made of goons who feel they can take the law into their own hands.
It is with a heavy heart that one writes such harsh words about their own countrymen. It pains to accept that instead of moving forward, we are as a nation becoming more regressive; where technology instead of doing good is the root of misinformation. And, where every day religious intolerance becomes centre-stage. We talk more about religion today than about progress and development. We look at our neighbours with suspicion than with a feeling of mutual brotherhood.
Where is that India of unity in diversity that we read about in school books? Where are we discussing India becoming the next superpower? Is not India truly moving backwards? Do you feel safe today? Are you not embarrassed, mortified, and humiliated that we are capable of such grave crimes against our own – against other human beings? And even if we are shocked and alarmed, is anyone listening? We have always spoken of culture and tradition. Is lynching the new normal? The latest tradition in India? Too many questions and not enough answers, and definitely not enough policemen like Gagandeep Singh to protect us.
(The writer is a journalist and media entrepreneur. The views expressed are strictly personal)