Break the silence on lynching
The shocking incidents of lynching must stop and the accused be punished if we must prevent ourselves from descending into becoming a banana republic.
What justifies killing someone? Anger? An acute desire of seeking vengeance? A warped sense of justice? More often than not, people kill because they steadfastly believe that they will get away with it. That due to some stroke of luck their crime will go unpunished. The recent spate of instances of lynching across India proves just this -- the case is made against "unknown people" part of a larger bloodthirsty lynch mob, and the perpetrators go scot-free after committing the heinous act of murder.
16 year-old Junaid Khan was lynched in Haryana while coming home after Eid shopping in the capital. Deputy Superintendent of Police Mohammed Ayub Pandith was lynched in Kashmir on the same day as Junaid. This week a Muslim dairy farmer in Jharkhand was assaulted and his house was burnt after a cow carcass was found at his door. The instances are numerous and ever increasing, the atrocities largely target Muslims. According to IndiaSpend, 86 per cent people killed in cow-related violence since 2010 are Muslim. Worryingly, 97 per cent of these attacks have happened during the current regime. How quickly celebration turns to mourning. So swift has been our metamorphosis from being a tolerant country to one that judges and kills based on dietary habits. While we are out in the world selling the India of 'tomorrow' we are also plummeting, with each passing day, into barbarism and regression.
When did we descend into becoming a banana republic? This happened around the time when the authorities refused to mete out stringent punishment to perpetrators. The need of the hour is to find the main accused in various cases of lynching and fast track their punishment in order to make an example of them. No one must be allowed to take the law of the land into their hands. No one must get away with murder. If we don't act now, such incidents will carry on unabated, becoming more brazen and gruesome.
And civilians have done that already. In the nationwide protests on June 28, the common man has raised his voice against the ignominy of lynching. #NotInMyName resounded from Delhi to Trivandrum, from Boston and London, as people protested the unusual number of killings that have recently happened. The man on the street feels unsafe; who knows who could be the next victim irrespective of reason and religion?
But the June 28 agitation should be a start. Let it not remain limited to being just a social media hashtag. It must reflect in a people's revolution to remind the establishment that we Indians don't condone lynching. We believe in the law taking its own course. We will also act to ensure that law does take the desired course. We stand united on the side of humanity.
And perhaps the government, too, will snap out of its reverie and break its silence of tacit approval, coming down strongly on the perpetrators. A crime is a crime no matter why it is committed and whom it goes after. The law demands that the accused be brought to the book. It's time to hear from the powers that be, that India will not accept such cruelty, such violation of human rights, and the chaos that murderers have unleashed in the name of 'gau raksha' (cow protection). Even though we may hold different ideologies, this politics of jungle raj is unacceptable to us. And the 1960s song by Simon & Garfunkel rings true:
"And in the naked light, I saw Ten thousand people, maybe more People talking without speaking People hearing without listening People writing songs that voices never share And no one dared Disturb the sound of silence Fools, said I, you do not know Silence like a cancer grows."
And we must dare to disturb this silence. We have to shake the complacency that has set in. It's time to revamp the system and take back what's rightfully ours --- our freedom to live, eat, move, speak, love and be loved, and say our prayers or even grasp on to our disbelieve. We must act now before it's too late.
(Shutapa Paul is a journalist and media entrepreneur. Views are strictly personal.)