Law is the defining principle of our life. It controls and regulates the direction of our actions in both personal and social state of affairs. India has a plethora of laws that not only safeguards the rights of its citizens but also administers its office of governance effectively.
From stealing to murder, bribery to scam, rape to domestic violence, and almost every spectrum of life of its citizens is well-codified and documented into the legitimacy of laws. Ironically, India has no specific law that safeguards an individual from being attacked or killed by a mob at a public place.
The recent chilling episodes of mob violence from Kashmir to Haryana and from Rajasthan to Jharkhand testify the inability of India as a state with respect to a law in containing the ugly threat of growing mob violence.
For the fact that medieval form of regressive justice still exists in the 21st century contradicts the character and spirit of India as a civilized nation. The lynching incidents are not sporadic. One particular community is also not the target of this madness. However, recent cases of mob violence hurt Muslim community the most.
In fact, India has a history of lynching. 11 years ago, on September 29 in 2006, four people were lynched over a land dispute at Kherlanji in Bhandara district of Maharashtra.
In March 2015, a mob of about 7,000-10,000 people broke into the Central Jail at Dimapur in Nagaland and dragged out a man accused of rape. The mob paraded him naked and beat him to death.
In September the same year, Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched by mob at Dadri in Uttar Pradesh over suspicion of eating and storing beef.
In April this year, Pehlu Khan – a 55-year-old dairy farmer – was waylaid by a mob at Alwar in Rajasthan while he was transporting cows for his dairy farm, and thrashed. Pehlu Khan died two days later succumbing to his injuries.
Earlier this month, an activist, Zafar Khan, was allegedly killed by some municipal officials at Pratapgarh district of Rajasthan after he objected to clicking photographs of women relieving themselves in open.
Recently, DSP Ayub Pandith was lynched outside a mosque in Srinagar while teenager Junaid was beaten and stabbed in Delhi-Mathura train. Ayub Pandith was clicking photograph while Junaid was returning home in Ballabhgarh of Haryana along with his three brothers after shopping for Eid. The list is painfully endless.
Currently, the atmosphere is so charged with hatred and suspicion that even the most trifling argument, be it over a seat on a train or a bus, a land squabble, or road rage, can lead to the murder of an individual by the ‘court of mob’ to deliver immediate justice. Lynching is something that is unacceptable to us. It not only shows India in a poor light both within and abroad but also gives the impression of how a nation is ill-governed in absence of laws in this particular respect. The insane culture of violence has finally moved the conscience of our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and is believed to have spoken in a tone of no compromise: “killing people in the name of [cow worship] is not acceptable.” “No person in this nation has the right to take the law into his or her own hands,” he added. (Time, India’s Modi Speaks Out Against Cow Vigilantes After ‘Beef Lynchings’ Spark Nationwide Protests, June 29, 2017)
The precious words of our most popular Prime Minister seem to have fallen over deaf ears. Hours after his speech was delivered over ‘cow terrorism’, news of another lynching came from Jharkhand. A man identified as Alimuddin Ansari was beaten to death near Ranchi over mere suspicion of carrying meat in his van.
This is not the first time the Prime Minister of India has expressed his displeasure over cow vigilante. Way back in 2016, addressing the second anniversary of his government’s MyGov initiative, PM Modi had stated that the cow vigilante groups were “anti-social elements”.
“It makes me angry that people are running shops in the name of cow protection… Some people indulge in anti-social activities at night, and in the day masquerade as cow protectors,” he said. [The Indian Express, June 29, 2017]
The questions are: How long will India remain a mute spectator to the cold-blooded murder by a mob? How long will India remain dependent upon hollow words of our leader to contain the growing menace? Do we really need a specific law to meet the rising incidents of lynching?
The tragedy is that lynching does not find mention in the Indian Penal Code. Absence of a codified law to deal with mob violence or lynching makes it difficult to deliver justice in the cases of riots. Lynching is but ‘A protracted riot in slow motion’ as Indian Express states.
However, Section 223(a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 says that persons or a mob involved in the same offense in the same act can be tried together. But, this has not proved to have given enough legal teeth to justice delivery system.
The urgency of time is to draft a suitable law that safeguards an individual from ‘a monstrous new moral order…irrigated by the blood of our citizens’, says Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a prominent Indian public intellectual [Time, June 29, 2017].
Ironically In absence of a specific law, violence on the streets will have social function, and India as a nation through its silence will be complicit to the crime against humanity.