Mob lynching

  • Category
    Governance
  • Published
    9th Jun, 2020

Context

Following the killing of two people in Assam within a week, a pan-Northeast legal group has sought a law to deal specifically with mob lyncing

Background

  • The word “lynching” originated in the United States in the mid-18th century.
  • Many historians believe that the term was first used by a planter named Charles Lynch to describe extra-judicial authority assumed by private individuals.
  • Although, the word lynching is of foreign origin, yet this does not mean that it is new to India. Since quite a few years there have been plenty of incidents of horrifying mob lynching.
  • Single women have frequently been lynched through the centuries, branded as witches. Dalits have been lynched with enormous cruelty for millennia.
  • Jhajjar, Khairlanji and Una are just three recent sites of ghastly lynching of Dalits.
  • In recent years, Dalits have been lynched for growing a moustache, riding a horse, or building a two-storey home.
  • The reasons for these incidents range from allegations of beef consumption or transportation to the practice of witchcraft and child-lifting.
  • What is even more worrisome is that these cases are not limited to one state alone.
  • Multiple cases of mob lynchings have been registered in Bihar, UP, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh. Several cases have also been reported in the south Indian states of Karnataka, Telangana and Kerala. In other words, mob lynching has almost become a national phenomenon.

    The Assam incident

    • A college student in Assam was lynched by a mob of tea garden workers in front of his father and sister following an incident of a road mishap.
    • Debashish Gogoi (22), a B.Sc final semester student, and Aditya Das (22) were brutally beaten up by a mob of hundreds of people leaving them grievously injured.
    • This is the second incident of mob-lynching in Assam within a week.
    • Sanatan Deka, a middle-aged vegetable vendor, was beaten to death by five people after his bicycle had hit a two-wheeler in Kamrup district.

Analysis

What is mob lynching?

  • Mob lynching is an inhuman act which involves a group of violent people attacking and lynching a person or a group of persons, causing even their death.
  • Mob lynching is slowly becoming a new norm and is disrupting the fabric of our society. They are all acts of utter violence and must be punished as such.
  • The basic and most essential feature of a democracy is to protect the life and liberty of the people, but, today, in the largest democracy of the world, the life and liberty of the people are being infringed upon.
  • In 2018, the Supreme Court described lynching as a “horrendous act of mobocracy”.
  • The Court exhorted the Centre and State governments to frame laws specifically to deal with the crime of lynching and laid down certain guidelines to be incorporated in these laws including fast-track trials, compensation to victims, and disciplinary action against lax law-enforcers.

Laws dealing with mob lynching

  • Mob lynching is an offence to the dignity of human being, the constitutional protection under Article 21 and a serious breach of Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Briefly alluding to the law, under Section 149 of the IPC, a mob exceeding 5 individuals would be prosecuted for causing the death of an individual in furtherance of a common object to cause such intentional killing, punishable under Section 302 of the IPC, if death has resulted on account of such mob violence.
  • The victims of such violence or their family members would be compensated under Section 357A of CrPC 1973.

Major state laws

  • Manipur: The Manipur government came up first with its Bill against lynching in 2018, incorporating some logical and relevant clauses. The Bill specified that there would be nodal officers in each district to control such crimes.
  • Rajasthan: The Rajasthan government passed a bill against lynching in August 2019. The Rajasthan Bill defines lynching as “any act or series of acts of violence or aiding, abetting, or attempting an act of violence whether spontaneous or planned, by a mob on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, language, dietary practices, sexual orientation, political affiliation, ethnicity”.
  • West Bengal: West Bengal came up with a more stringent Bill against lynching. Punishment for lynching to death is punishable with the death penalty or life imprisonment and a fine of up to ?5 lakh. 

What’s driving violence?

Factors driving violence include cow protection movements and penetration of social media.

  • Social media influence: Lynchings, however, did not remain limited to religious hysteria over cow protection. The same conditions – easy spread of rumours using social media, an apathetic or incapable administration and a mercurial population – meant a spate of mob violence with varied motivations.
  • Fake news: Fake news, misinformation and warmongering about the other community have always been around in India.The same social media apps which carried reports of the cow mother being killed also transmitted rumours of children being kidnapped. And like in the case of gau raksha lynchings, social fissures played a key role here too.
  • Dirty Politics: Mob lynchingis not only a social problem but a political one too. Due to selfish political benefits, some leaders have destructively used the diversity of India and pitted groups against one another.

Conclusion

The episodes of mob-lynching are rising in India. The state governments as well as the central government, have failed repeatedly to respond effectively to mob-lynchings and enact stricter laws despite being directed by the Supreme Court. The effects are significant with a near-collapse of the rural cattle trade and worsening law and order. The last Century has seen a concerted push towards setting up global institutions to safeguard human rights and establish democracy as the only acceptable mode for a nation. This faith in the democratic system has, however, been somewhat belied by recent events in the world’s biggest democracies.

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