MOB LYNCHING
Priyansi Vijay Patil, 5 October, 2020, 11:05 PM IST

“When an innocent becomes a victim of mob lynching, humanity dies a million deaths.” 

Mob lynching, even assuming as a new word in Indian situation, it has been reappearing from time to time for decades in our society. Lynching is a premeditated extrajudicial killing by a group. It is most often used to characterize informal public executions by a mob in order to punish an alleged transgressor, or to intimidate a group.

 A lynch mob is an angry crowd of people who want to kill someone without a trial, because they believe that person has committed a crime. The brutality is equivalent to offences done against human body or property. The mob thinks that they are punishing the victim for doing something incorrect (not necessarily illegal) and they take the law in their own hands to punish the hypothetical accused without fearing or following any rules of law. Mob lynching is a new branch of collective violence along with riots, gang violence, terrorism, war, rebellions and revolutions. 

Lynch Law, that is believed to possess, has been started within the yank village Lynchburg (Virginia) by Charles Lynch to describe his actions in suppressing a suspected loyalist uprising in 1780 during the American Revolutionary War. Lynch law has been the dominant point of discussion in most countries of the world, especially in Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala, South Africa, America, Europe, Israel, Afghanistan, etc.  In these countries, mob execution can be thought as of target on white black and nationality problems. However it has been continually realized as of an enemy of the society.

In recent years, mob lynching cases are recorded in various parts of India, especially in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, etc. However the mob lynching in India is based on completely different problems. Prejudices in Indian society are ancient and deeply settled. These prejudices are based on various factors like race, gender, caste, class, religion, etc. They are strong ideological forces when they manifest and play out in the community which obstructs the consolidation of India. The prime reason for this discussion came in the fact that the lynching incidents are carried in form of mass killing of cattle killers by the crowd of so called cow guards popularly known as ‘go rakshak’. In some Indian states, it has emerged as declaring a woman as a witch and beating her brutally. And in other parts of the country, the accused is beaten in name of love jihad. Illiteracy and reacting without thinking on rumours intensifies the situation. 

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The series of incidents of lynching over a past few have increased leading to a greater sense of insecurity, fear and doubt among the marginalised communities in India and over the world. In the United States, alone, 4743 lynching cases were recorded between 1882 and 1968, according to the NAACP. Of those murdered people, 3446 were black men, women and children- about 73%. In Brazil, mobs now kill or try to kill more than one suspected lawbreaker a day, according to the University of Sao Paulo. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), India does not record lynching or mob violence separately, but does record incidents of communal riots, promoting enmity between people on the basis of religion and communal incidences. The data published by NCRB shows that the number of communal riots declined from 1227 incidents in 2014 to 789 such incidences in 2015. Similarly, the cases of enmity rose from 336 to 424 in 2014-2015. But since the separation of data of lynching from communal riots, no data has been published by NCRB of the number of cases of lynching in the country since 2015 for reasons unknown. The figures provided by various sections of the media are troubling. According to the quint, the mob violence incidences across India since 2015 have killed around 113 people. As per the Hindustan times, mob lynching in name of cow vigilante has killed around 28 people (2010-2017) in India; 86% amongst them were Muslims.

The word mob Lynching again came into limelight on 16th April 2020, when a vigilante group lynched two Hindu Sadhus and their driver in Gadchinchale village in Palghar district of Maharashtra. This incident was fuelled by rumours of thieves operating in the area during the countrywide corona virus lockdown. The vigilante group of villagers had mistaken the three passengers as thieves and killed them. In 2019, Tabrez Ansari a youth in Jharkhand was lynched on the suspicion of bike theft. On the day of Holi in 2019, a mob beat up members of a Muslim family in Gurgaon and asked them to go to Pakistan, allegedly over a row over cricket. An elderly Muslim man was shot dead, another injured by a group of cow vigilantes who suspected them of carrying beef. But the mob lynching incident took place on 5March, 2015 in Dimapur, Nagaland points to another picture of the society. In this incident a number of people intruded Central jail and killed Farid Khan, an under trial prisoner. It was alleged that he is a rapist and danger for the society. In yet another incident from Jharkhand, a woman was beaten up and killed with this understanding of her being a witch.

There are various reasons for existence of mob lynching in the society like the silent spectator behaviour of political class and bureaucracy. The major reason for the recent rise in lynchings is impunity. The human rights observers believe that the political class is behind such incidences because they capture the power through such a system which is aggressive and violent. The political class apart from their customary condemnation, they avoid visiting the victims or their surviving families. At certain times the police are unsuccessful or ineffective in doing their tasks, hence people take laws in their hands and incidences of mob lynching occur.

The incidents of mob lynching are undoubtedly fatal and dangerous for the society and should be controlled at any cost by making appropriate laws. Even as things stand mob lynching is illegal and a crime even though it is done for good, and anyone involved in it has committed a criminal offence. People from various spheres are demanding for separate laws for mob lynching as there is no different law for it. But the existing laws in India have provisions to deal with lynching. The crime of Murder (Section 302 of IPC) read with common intention (Section 34) or Conspiracy (Section 120B); can be used to charge the entire mob, not just whoever lands a fatal blow. If the victim doesn’t dies, charges of rioting (Section 147), unlawful assembly (Section 141 of IPC) or attempt to murder (Section 307of IPC). All of these charges apply even if the mob didn’t originally intend to kill the victim.

Despite of having strict laws to punish the criminals the government is unable to fully curb mob lynching incidents. In July2017, the Supreme Court, while pronouncing its judgement in the case of Tahseen Poonawala v. UOI(WP(C)No.754/2016), had laid down several preventive, remedial and punitive measures to deal with lynching and mob violence. States were directed to set up of a special task force with the objective of procuring intelligence reports about the people involved in spreading hate speeches, provocative statements and fake news which could lead to mob lynching. Directions were also issued to set up victim compensation schemes for relief and rehabilitation of victims. In this context, Supreme Court described lynching as “a horrendous act of mobocracy”. A year later in July 2019 the Supreme Court issued notices to the centre and several states asking them to submit the steps taken by them towards implementing the measures and file compliance report. The rapid response of the states was extremely disappointing.

 In pursuance of this, the Manipur Government came up first with its Law against lynching in 2018. The most substantial and worthy contribution of the Law is that it is the first in the country dealing with protection and rights of vulnerable populations which defines a new crime of dereliction of duty of public officials. Inspired by this West Bengal and Rajasthan have formulated their version of laws to curb mob lynching. The West Bengal law is more stringent as it provides for punishment for lynching to death, is punishable with the death penalty or life imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakhs.

Mob violence is an offensive stigma on our legal system and continues to exist in our society inspite of various laws, rules and regulations. Law is the mightiest sovereign in a civilized society. Whatever the reasons may be no individual in this country has the right to take law in hands and punish another. The job of punishing a criminal is done by the courts in democracy. And the form of punishing offenders by mob is nothing but the form of anarchy. It is also the duty of every Individual to not discriminate on basis of religion, caste, language, etc. and be compassionate for everyone. Live and Let Live..!

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