On June 22, 2018 a 40 year old man enters a village in Chhattisgarh’s Sarguja district. When asked about his name and address, he had no answers. The villagers thought the man was a part of some child-lifting gang and beat him to death with sticks.
On June 18, 2018 two men were reportedly attacked by a mob that accused them of cow theft and slaughter. One of the men succumbed to his injuries while the other was grievously injured. The video of the thrashing which was widely circulated on social media showed policemen being silent spectators to the whole incident.
Mob lynching seems to be the new normal in India. 54 people have died since 2015 as victims of what is termed as spontaneous action of mob angers. Of the 54 murdered so far, most of the victims belonged either to low castes or minority communities especially Muslims. Fears of kidnapping heightened by the warnings circulated over social media, acts by cow protection vigilantes and caste prejudices are often the reason behind these crimes.
But does the reason justify the act? Are these violent acts really spontaneous or a product of systematic incitement to violence by some groups?
Murder is murder! The killing of another human being by a murderous crowd out to enforce mob justice or avert an imagined crime can not be justified on any grounds.
The violent attacks are a sometimes spontaneous reaction of an angry mob, however, in many cases, it is developed over a longer period of time in the atmosphere of sustained hatred and suspicion against minority communities created through political campaigns.
Religious, communal and political propaganda and disinformation campaigns have been spreading wildly in India which encourage the hateful beliefs against the minority communities. Be it for cow smuggling or the minorities being a threat to upper caste Hindu women, and members of terror sleeper cells, the fear and hate spread through these campaigns form the basis of this anger which make the mob feel justified of its actions.
Silence of the political class, including the Political Leaders, over such incidents encourage the perpetrators and helps mobilize solidarity for those who attack minorities. A study by IndiaSpend published in 2017 found that 86 percent of the victims in cow related violence since 2010 have been the Muslims and 97 percent of such attacks took place after 2014.
Inefficiency of the justice system is making the idea popular that people should take justice in their own hands. But when people begin to harm their fellow citizens in abnormal ways, who will protect the defenceless? When the police joins the crowd and be a silent spectator to the spectacle of violence generated by the mob in name of justice, who will be the guard to defenceless?
The country is staring into a dangerous abyss and every act of violence that is tolerated without protest, brings it a step closer to our doorstep. In the chaos that surrounds our nation today, where sense of solidarity and civility has been hammered to silence in our society, it is the examples of individuals like the Sikh policeman of Ramnagar, Uttarakhand (who stood up to the mob, protecting the victim with his body) that gives us hope that all is not lost and that we still have some humanity left in us.
“The easy way is to succumb to despair and help ensure that the worst will happen. The sensible and courageous way is to join those who are working for a better world, using ample opportunities available.” – Noam Chomsky