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Looking into Lynchings

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June 23, 2018

What is the issue?

  • The country is witnessing a series of incidents of lynching and targeted mob violence against vulnerable groups.
  • The causes behind and the threats it impose calls for bringing in an anti-lynching law.

How does it affect the vulnerable?

  • Violence against those looking overtly Muslim is a noted phenomenon.
  • 86% of those killed in lynching incidents in 2017 were Muslims.
  • An overwhelming majority of these attacks are bovine related.
  • Nevertheless, there are other reasons for anti-minority attacks too.
  • Hate violence has also happened around festivals such as Ram Navami provocations over azaan and namaz.
  • The victims in cases of lynching are almost entirely from poor families.

Why is the recent trend worrying?

  • Small scale - South Asia has a long history of communal violence.
  • But these were primarily big episodes of mass violence.
  • However, this has now given way to a smaller-scale of conflict, targeted at individuals.
  • Rumours - Most of the attacks are based on rumours on cow slaughter or smuggling.
  • The rumours circulating on social media often take shape as communal stereotypes.
  • Support - The perpetrators are emboldened by the political prioritisation of a crackdown on cow slaughter.
  • Moreover, vigilante violence against individuals is being endorsed by state inaction.
  • It is possibly an attempt to avoid public scrutiny that accompanies mass violence.
  • Communalism - The rising trend is also related to the intensification of communal polarisation.
  • There is an increasing instrumentalisation of prejudice for political ends.
  • Eventually, these have acquired a certain degree of legitimacy in the public mind.
  • Popular anger, outrage and violence have become normal phenomena.
  • Threat - Each event of violence has hardened the community boundaries.
  • It has widened the divide between Hindus and Muslims.
  • Unless checked, it can cause irreversible harm to the social fabric of the Indian society.
  • It also impacts the political processes, especially electoral processes and the rule of law.

What are the legal shortfalls?

  • Prevention and punishment of the perpetrators of mass violence and/or lynchings is weak.
  • The police often stand by, careful not to interfere with the actions of the majority community.
  • Both mobs and police have regularly treated victims of cow vigilantism as suspects.
  • The law enforcement agencies act mostly against the victims themselves.
  • They book them for violating cow protection laws, which act as a legitimate cover.
  • As hate crimes grow, the sense of impunity also keeps growing.
  • Lack of justice for victims further reinforces the vicious cycle of impunity.

What is the way forward?

  • Supreme Court, earlier, directed all State governments to take measures to prevent vigilantism in the name of cow protection.
  • However, public lynching or vigilante violence has not subsided.
  • Preventing further atrocities requires respect for the rule of law and legal institutions.
  • Strong prosecutions and expeditious punishments are essential.
  • The recurring incidents of lynching are a call to enact an anti-lynching law.


Source: The Hindu


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