Why mob violence menace takes epidemic form in India?

By Anubhav Varshney

India has been witnessing unusual increase in crime related to mob violence, in the name of religion, kidnapping etc. for the past two decades, Though, the epidemic spread in the form of vigilant against cow slaughter, later in spread to kidnapping and other sorts of crimes. According to unofficial estimates around 130 people have killed throughout the country.

What is mob violence?: Lynching, a form of violence in which a mob, under the pretext of seeking justice without trial, executes a presumed offender, often after inflicting torture and corporal mutilation. The term lynch law refers to a self-constituted court that imposes sentence on a person without due process of law.

What are the reasons?:  Rise of cow vigilante – Even since, Government imposed a ban on the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter in animal markets across India, under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals statutes (26th May 2017), it sparked a new wave of cow vigilante in the country. Though the Supreme Court, suspended the ban on the sale of cattle in its judgment in July 2017, giving relief to the multi-billion dollar beef and leather industries and several states where beef is among the primary food items, but there was a rise in attacks on Muslims accusing them as beef eaters.

Several dozen innocent Muslims were killed in such mob attack. But human rights experts feel mob lynching is not a right and the apt term to describe such violence. They seek to highlight the organisations or group of vicious individuals who are instigating such incidents. These incidents are usually appearing to be sporadic in nature and often a spontaneous response from the Hindus who are generally furious over the reports of cow smuggling and slaughter. But mostly it is not.

Silence of political class: Despite the rising mob violence, the political class and bureaucracy continued to remain a silent spectator. The human rights observers, feel political class is behind the rise in mob lynching since most of the people who are ruling the country retained or captured the power through political system which is aggressive and violent. Besides, they have built their political career propagating violence against minorities, where the mobs feel empowered and strong. The political class resort to customary condemnation and avoid visiting victims or their surviving families.

Rumours of child lifters: Rumours of child kidnappers proved to an ignition point for mob violence, with WhatsApp posts being circulated in Odisha, Tamilnadu, Gujarat, Karnataka, Telangana, Tripura and West Bengal. These WhatsApps  claimed several lives of domestic visitors, mentally deranged people and incited numerous mob attacks. According to various reports, at least 20 persons were killed and several injured in incidents of mob violence sparked by rumours of child kidnapping in 10 states for the past three months.

Lack of proper policing: The incidents of mob violence, sparked by rumours about child lifters are totally linked to lack of public confidence in the police. Common man feels police lack the ability to track down the criminals and recover the kidnapped children. Year-wise child kidnappings, according to home ministry data, were: 54,723 (2016), 41,893 (2015) and 37,854 (2014). However, police had filed charges only in 40% cases in 2016 and around 23% cases solved in 2016. Interestingly, three out of four people put on trial for in such cases walked away free.

Besides, state governments should be vigilante and try to prevent mob violence triggered by rumours. One way could be to keep detect rumours circulating on social media in their respective areas well before the public vents its anger and frustration at the innocent individuals.

Government initiatives:

  1. Creation of nodal officers: The Central Govt on its part has asked states to appoint a nodal officer in each district to prevent incidents of mob violence and lynching. In its advisory, the MoHA said: The nodal officer should be of superintendent of police-level officer and set up a special task force to get intelligence reports about the people who are likely to commit such crimes or who are involved in spreading hate speeches, provocative statements and fake news. The process of identification should be within a period of three weeks and wherever is found that a police officer or an officer of the district administration has failed to comply the directions to prevent such crime of mob violence and lynching, should be considered as an act of deliberate negligence and misconduct and strong action must be taken against the official concerned,

The MoHA asked the state Govts to implement the SC directions in letter and spirit. The police should register FIR against persons who disseminate irresponsible and explosive messages and videos having content which is likely to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind, said the advisory sent to states and UTs following a Supreme Court directive issued on 17.06.19.

  1. Creation of two high level committees: Two high-level committees have been constituted by the Centre to suggest ways and legal framework to effectively deal with incidents of mob violence and lynching. One of the panel is headed by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and the other by Union Home secretary Rajiv Gauba.

The move came a week after the SC asked the GoI to enact a law to deal with incidents of lynching and take action on mob violence. The GoI in tune with the SC directive issued the advisory.

The Gauba-headed panel with secretaries of justice, legal affairs, legislative, social justice & empowerment departments as members, aims at deliberating the issue and submit its recommendations to the GoI within four weeks.

Moreover, the GoI has also decided to constitute a Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by HM Singh to consider the recommendations. Ministers Sushma Swaraj (External Affairs), Nitin Gadkari (Road Transport), Ravi Shankar Prasad (Law) and Thawar Chand Gehlot (Social Justice & Empowerment) are members of the GoM, which will submit its recommendations to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (The writer is a forensic science student, Amity University, Noida)

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