Crimes like rape, cow slaughtering, child abduction are heinous & barbaric and demand the grievous punishment.
But does that justify mob lynching?
I guess, that would be a crime leading to another, which too is heinous.
Therefore, a crime cannot be justified as a punishment for another crime especially when it is used as a tool to target the minorities by a majority group. Thus, this situation has not evolved by a flaw in our laws, it mirrors a political crisis, further exacerbated by a systemic crisis characterising governance in India. So, when the problem is both political and systemic, the solution cannot be bureaucratic, rather one of the most effective responses to this crisis would be a reformation of police as ordered by the Supreme Court.
Highlighting the barbarities of mob lynching and questioning the authorities is in no way an attempt to undermine the severity of the crime they allegedly committed or at absolving them of this crime. However, we do need to understand the relationship between the identity of the victim and the power dynamics of the ruling political class.
The identity of the victim and as well as the perpetrators along with the political discourse adopted by the ruling political class play a vital role in lynching and mob violence.
“In 2015, a Muslim migrant from Assam, Sharif Uddin Khan (36), who was accused of raping a tribal woman, was taken out of the high-security Dimapur central jail following which a crowd of thousands participated in his lynching and his dead body was hung from the city’s clock tower. More than the alleged crime, the ethnicity and religious identity of the accused was used to whip up anger among the mob. He was branded as an ‘illegal immigrant’ from Bangladesh before being lynched to death.”
Ever since Sharif Uddin’s lynching in Dimapur, the spate of lynchings has continued unabated throughout the country. In most of the cases, the victims of lynching and hate crime belong to marginalised groups like Muslim, Adivasi, Dalit, Christian and others. Allegations of cow smuggling, beef eating, love jihad as well as of heinous crimes like rape and sexual violence make it more convenient to orchestrate lynching and mob violence. The available data shows, that in recent years, there has been an unprecedented surge in the number of lynching and hate crimes in cow-related cases and most of the victims are from the Muslim and Dalit communities.
Harsh Mander, an activist, who works with survivors of mass violence and hunger, as well as homeless persons and street children says-“ I worry that, if allowed to go unchecked, lynching could become a national epidemic.”
Further, he pointed out that though lynching is not officially a crime in India, the Indian Penal Code punishes all the offences that lynch mobs normally perpetrate. Section 223(a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure also enables a group of people involved in the same offence to be tried together.
India already has some laws dealing with forms of hate violence. The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act recognizes the particular nature of the attacks that target Dalits and tribal people, and it creates fitting new crimes and higher punishments. But there have been very low rates of conviction under this law: data by the National Coalition for Strengthening SC/ST act indicates that, from 1995 to 2007, the conviction rate was only 4.6%. There is little reason to believe that the experience of a special lynching law would be different.
But no law, new or old, will in itself guarantee an end to this mass affliction of lynching, which, if unchecked, could tear apart the fraternity of the country. The challenge ultimately is one not of law but of our collective humanity. What is it that goads us to join or incite lynch mobs, or to turn our faces away when people are targeted by hate attacks, or to regard these attacks as inevitable, even righteous?