Syed Ubaidur Rahman
AT LEAST two people, both Muslims, have been lynched this past week alone in the Hindi heartland of UP and Jharkhand. Shahzad Ahmad, a 22-year old youth, an expatriate who worked in Dubai, and had just returned to celebrate Eid with his family in the outskirts of Bareilly, UP, was lynched by a huge mob, destroying his dreams of a great future, and snatching away the lone bread winner of his family.
Incidents of mob lynching across the country are on the rise. Dozens of people have lost their lives in the mindless cases of mob lynching over the last four years. Despite promises and some instances of judicial rebukes, nothing has been done on the ground to alter the situation till now.
First they came for Muslims
Initially only Muslims were targets of the mob lynching. They were the main target of the organized gangs of so called cow vigilantes or gau rakshaks, who were given a free hand in much of the North India.
The menace of the gau rakhshaks grew so much that they started targeting the cattle traders and even innocent Muslim men in the NCR region, thrashing them and then killing them on the spot.
That there was a law of land and punishment for criminal acts against innocent people has been completely lost on their minds due to the covert state support they have been getting. This covert and overt support has emboldened the lynch mob to such an extent that they have started believing that the police will support them in undertaking the task.
What is surprising the most is that the incidents of mob lynching are taking place without any signs of slowing down in states where the Bharatiya Janata Party rules. From Rajasthan to Jharkhan, Uttar Pradesh, and the newly conquered saffron trophy in Tripura, the incidents of mob lynching have spiralled. Tripura, where there was no case of mob lynching during the long Left rule, the arrival of the BJP government has heralded a new era of lynch mobs going berserk.
To rub salt on the wounds of the victims, in most cases of mob lynching, FIRs are lodged against the victims and the perpetrators let off. There is no denying that a conscious effort has been made to embolden gau rakshaks. Merely a few weeks ago, a Union minister grabbed headlines for getting photographs clicked with eight men, who were convicted for killing a Muslim meat trader in Jharkhand, and welcoming them at his house.
When the menace of mob lynching began, only Muslims were on the radar of the lynch mobs. But as the freedom to perpetrate the criminal acts were felt by hoodlums and the rule of law looked weaker than ever before, others too started facing the music of the gau rakshaks and the lynch mobs. Dalits are the second most common targets of the lynch mobs and the cow vigilantes.
A number of Dalits have been subjected to mob lynching over the last four years. Rama Singrahiya, 42, was beaten to death using clubs and axes when he was sowing castor seeds on a plot in the village, located 30 km away from Porbandar. He died a day later. The mob was allegedly led by village sarpanch Harbham Karavadra, who is on the run, police said. According to the police, the Mer community members claim the plot where Rama was farming is gauchar (pastoral) land, meant for cattle grazing. As per the FIR, two men hired by Rama to help him sow the seeds were also beaten up. A number of Dalits have faced the lynch mob fury over the past few years, and the cases are only on the rise.
And then everyone was a target
The lynching is no longer confined against Muslims. It is becoming endemic in nature as the fear of law recedes in the minds of the lynch mobs. The rising incidents of mob lynching on mere suspicion of child lifting show that the malaise is becoming deep rooted with complete disregard for the law of land. An IndiaSpend report says this year alone at least 24 people have been killed in such mob attacks. The report goes on to add that this is more than 4.5 times rise in attacks and 1.6 times rise in deaths of this kind over 2017, when nine persons were killed in eight separate attacks.
An IndiaSpend report says, “Between January 1, 2017, and July 5, 2018, 33 persons have been killed and at least 99 injured in 69 reported cases. In the first six days of July alone, there have been nine cases of mob violence over child lifting rumours and five deaths, which amounts to more than one attack recorded every day…In all cases, the victims were assaulted on mere suspicion and no evidence of child lifting was found later. So far, police across states have arrested at least 181 persons in connection with 21 cases, according to information from the news reports”.
Government a mute spectator
Instead of taking action against the perpetrators to stop the menace, the covert support is helping them become all the more aggressive across the Gangetic plains and beyond. There is no denying that the state machinery like police and investigation departments have been outright biased in providing justice to the victims of lynching and hate crimes.
Earlier this year a group of 67 prominent retired officials belonging to the country’s elite civil service cadres wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to take tough measure against the increasing instances of mob lynching. “We seek now and without delay a clear response from the Honourable Prime Minister and his government on these issues”, they said. The retired officials demanded “immediate and firm action against the perpetrators of such hate crimes against minorities in this country…These recent incidents undermine our Constitutional values and weaken the rule of law”.
In July this year a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra called the incidents of mob-lynching in the country as “horrendous acts of mobocracy” and asked the Parliament to draft new law to control the incidents of mob lynching across the country. The apex court bench headed by the Chief Justice also ordered the police to register FIRs under Section 153A of the IPC against those who are found guilty in such cases.