On 29 June 2017, India’s honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned mob lynching by saying that no individual is permitted to take laws into their own hands. He strongly condemned the people who condoned violence under the pretense of “gau-rakshaks.” However, his speech wasn’t enough to stop an angry mob from killing a 45-year-old man. Alimuddin Ansari, a coal trader in Jharkhand, was the only earning member of a family of six children. He was in his van when a furious mob of 100 people dragged him out of his vehicle and beat him to death. His crime? The mob suspected him of carrying cow meat.
Something similar happened with Pehlu Khan, who was killed by a bunch of self-proclaimed cow protectors. He kept pleading with the faceless mob to let him go. Khan also showed the paperwork to prove that the cows were for milk production and not for slaughter. Nevertheless, the assailants ruthlessly tore apart his documents and continued to punch and kick him.
In 2018, Mohammad Hashim (truck driver) was carrying refrigerators when a group of people dragged him out of his vehicle and ordered him to open the back of his truck. When he couldn’t do so, he was beaten till he fainted. The mob didn’t care that he wasn’t allowed to open the back by his employer. Mohammad Taj, a 16-year-old boy, was mercilessly thrashed in Kanpur merely because he refused to chant “Jai Shri Ram.”
There are many such cases happening all over India. However, are the culprits held liable? Do we even understand the need for special laws against lynching? Can we see the pattern of hate crime in these gruesome murders? These are some of the questions that this country needs to acknowledge.
The situation of mob lynching in India
In 2012, a survey by FactChecker.in showed only 50 deaths in around 133 lynching incidents, which did not seem like a major problem at that time. However, the victims of these incidents largely included Muslims (over 57%). IndiaSpend also reported that around 84% of all the lynching deaths that happened between 2010 and 2017 included Muslims. You could accuse any Muslim of eating or carrying cow meat, and that will be enough for people to punch and kick him till he dies.
The Government blames the increasing number of lynching deaths on some “anti-social elements” of our society. However, if we look at the numbers, we will see a drastic increase in lynching incidents from 2014. There have been cases where these “gau-rakshas” had a political connection with the right-wing parties, which made them believe that they were politically correct. For instance - In the lynching of Alimuddin Ansari, it was found that a man from Bajrang Dal was responsible for his death.
Supreme Court of India has also condemned the recent mob lynching incidents that are continuously increasing against minorities. In the case of Tehseen S. Ponawalla v. Union of India, Chief Justice himself highlighted the need to make guidelines and take various remedial and preventive measures.
Why do we need a special law for a particular crime?
Many people would argue that why enact new laws for a crime like a mob lynching when we already have laws for murder and manslaughter. After Supreme Court asked Parliament to consider enacting laws for mob lynching, HansrajAhir (Minister of State for Home Affairs) stated that the state government could deal with such incidents with the help of existing laws only. He also mentioned that The National Crime Records Bureau does not maintain data regarding mob lynchings.
However, if mob lynching can be dealt with non-specific laws, then why do we have specific laws for other crimes? Why is there a difference in punishment for raping an adult than a child? Why are there specific laws for the protection of Dalits? Why do we have laws for domestic violence when we already have punishments for assault? What are the special conditions that need these specific laws?
The answer lies in the social vulnerability of these communities. Children, Dalits, and women are among the most vulnerable members of our society, which is why the Indian Penal Code has been amended to safeguard their rights. So, why don’t we have laws for a crime that strikes fear in the heart of the largest minority of our country?
The fear of lynching is so bad that Indian Muslims are scared to do simple acts, like carrying a container, buying any non-veg meat, or even traveling on a train. Junaid Khan was only 15 years old when he was stabbed to death over a simple altercation of train seats. The mob was mercilessly shouting “beef eaters” and “anti-nationals” when they stabbed the teenager and threw him out at a station. How do we not need special laws when a child can be killed in such a ruthless manner for simply belonging to a particular community?
Current status of the Central Government
According to various news articles, most of the mob lynching incidents are continuously taking place in the States ruled by BJP. However, Amit Shah (Minister of Home Affairs) does not seem to be keen on implementing any mob violence laws. Manipur assembly passed a bill against mob lynching in December 2018, but it is still waiting for the assent of our President. Rajasthan Government also passed a similar bill in 2019 called Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019, which is still waiting for the approval of the Union Home Ministry. The West Bengal Assembly has also passed a similar bill that seeks the death penalty as the severest punishment.
However, it does not look like the central Government let these laws become a reality since they believe that the current laws are enough for states. They believe that the problem lies in the implementation of the current laws. In July 2018, a group of ministers was formed to look into the preventative measures regarding the mob lynching incidents. They met only twice since the group was formed and not even once since Amit Shah became the Home Minister again.
In today’s India, these vigilante attacks have transformed into an instrument of choice for gruesome violence against minorities. India has seen numerous cases of mob lynching from different parts of our country. It has come to the point where we need to sit and think that is this the secular country our ancestors wanted? Most of the current mob lynching cases were a consequence of beef-ban orders from the central Government. The current situation of mob violence in India is miserable, and there is an immediate need to enact separate legislation to protect the victims of these merciless mob lynchings.