- Recently, two men belonging to a minority community from Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district were allegedly abducted and burnt to death in a car in Haryana. The incident is suspected to be linked with cow vigilantes, who have been active in the region for quite some time.
- The incident highlights the issue of lynching and vigilantism which keeps coming up regularly. In this context, this edition of the burning issue will deal with issue of mob lynching.
What is Mob Lynching?
- Mob lynching, the act of killing individuals or groups of people by a mob without any legal authority, is a grave issue that has been affecting India for many years. The country has witnessed several incidents of mob lynching that have claimed many innocent lives.
- This trend of violence has gained momentum in recent years, with the proliferation of social media and the spread of fake news. In this article, we will examine the causes and consequences of mob lynching in India.
- It is an extreme form of informal group social control such as charivari, skimmington, riding the rail, and tarring and feathering, and often conducted with the display of a public spectacle for maximum intimidation.
Few statistics related to lynching in India
- The data website India Spend has compiled instances of cow-linked violence from 2010 to 2017. It found that during this period, 28 people were killed in 63 such incidents.
- An overwhelming 97% of these attacks took place after 2014.
- About 86% of those killed were Muslims. In 21% of the cases, the police filed cases against the victims/survivors.
- Cow-related lynchings rose sharply in 2017. This marks a 75% increase over 2016, which had been the worst year for mob lynchings since 2010.
Causes of Mob Lynching in India:
- Communal Tensions: Communal tensions and religious divides are one of the leading causes of mob lynching in India. The rise of Hindu nationalism and the polarization of the country’s politics have fueled violence against religious minorities, particularly Muslims. The perpetrators of mob lynching often justify their actions on the grounds of protecting their religion and culture.
- Vigilantism: Vigilantism, the act of taking the law into one’s own hands, is another cause of mob lynching. In India, several groups, such as cow vigilantes, have taken it upon themselves to enforce the law and punish those who they perceive as breaking it. This has led to many innocent people being lynched on suspicion of cow slaughter, a practice that is considered taboo in Hinduism.
- Social Media: Social media has played a significant role in the spread of fake news and rumors, which have contributed to the rise in mob lynching incidents. False rumors about child kidnappers or thieves have led to mobs attacking innocent individuals, often resulting in their deaths.
- Weak Law Enforcement: The weak law enforcement system in India is another cause of mob lynching. In many cases, the police have failed to intervene and prevent the lynching, or the perpetrators have not been brought to justice. This has emboldened mobs to take the law into their own hands and inflict violence on innocent people.
- Impunity: The lynch mobs are confident of getting away with it. So far, the state has done little to shake that confidence.
- Role of violence in Indian politics – Popular anger, outrage, and violence are integral features of everyday politics in contemporary India. Thus mob feels empowered to take law into their hands.
- Lack of public reaction – The lack of public reaction to recent incidents implies a degree of acceptability of violence as an expression of vengeance against ‘injustices’.
- Silence of the political class – There is little condemnation of lynchings by those in positions of authority except in very generalized terms.
- Misplaced fascination – The feeling that mobs are exacting Bollywood-style justice beyond the procedures of law, with crowds of locals triumphantly watching the gruesome spectacle captured by videos that subsequently go viral, has its own vicarious fascination.
Why Lynching Incidents Are Cause Of Concern
- Rise of a retributive society: the rising cases of lynching indicates the rise of a retributive society in india, where instead of legal justice, revenge is sought to pacify self.
- Against values of Indian society: mob lynching is against the values of the Indian society such as peace, communism and toleration.
- Against rule of law: such acts are against the established rule of law and directly challenge the law of the land while trying to uphold ‘law of the crowd’
- Sign of an immature society: it also signals that the society is immature as the differences in opinions are not tolerated or accommodated by the society members.
Consequences of Mob Lynching in India:
- Loss of Innocent Lives: The most significant consequence of mob lynching in India is the loss of innocent lives. The victims of mob lynching are often individuals who have committed no crime but are targeted due to their religion, caste, or social status. The incidents have left families devastated and have created fear and insecurity among minority communities.
- Damage to Social Fabric: Mob lynching has damaged the social fabric of India, which is known for its diversity and inclusivity. The incidents have heightened communal tensions and created an atmosphere of fear and distrust. The violence has also led to the stigmatization of certain communities and has contributed to their marginalization.
- Erosion of Democratic Values: Mob lynching is a direct attack on democratic values and the rule of law. The violence is carried out by mobs that take the law into their own hands, bypassing the legal system and the principles of justice. The incidents have raised questions about the state’s ability to protect its citizens and uphold the Constitution.
- Economic Impact: Mob lynching incidents have also had an economic impact, with foreign investors expressing concerns about the safety and security of their employees in India. The incidents have damaged India’s image as a tolerant and peaceful country and have affected its tourism industry.
- Impact on migration patterns: It directly hampers internal migration which in turn affects economy.
- Damage of public property: Large resources deployed to tackle such menaces induces extra burden on state-exchequer.
International Laws to Deal with Mob Lynching
While there is no specific international treaty or convention that addresses mob lynching, several international laws and human rights standards provide protection against this heinous crime.
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a landmark international document that recognizes the inherent dignity and equal rights of all human beings. Article 3 of the UDHR states that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Mob lynching violates this fundamental right to life and security of person and is therefore a violation of international human rights law.
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is a legally binding treaty that sets out the civil and political rights that are protected under international law. Article 6 of the ICCPR provides that “every human being has the inherent right to life” and that this right shall be protected by law. Article 7 of the ICCPR prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Mob lynching, which involves the use of violence and intimidation to cause harm to an individual, violates both of these provisions of the ICCPR.
- Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment:
The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) is an international treaty that prohibits the use of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The CAT defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person.” Mob lynching, which involves the intentional infliction of pain and suffering, can be considered a form of torture and is therefore prohibited under the CAT.
- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination:
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) is an international treaty that prohibits all forms of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or national origin. Article 5 of the ICERD requires states to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination and to ensure that all individuals are protected from racial violence or incitement to racial violence. Mob lynching, which often targets individuals based on their race or religion, is a clear violation of the ICERD.
- Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court:
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is an international treaty that establishes the ICC, a permanent international criminal court that has jurisdiction over individuals who commit genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. Mob lynching can constitute a crime against humanity, which is defined in the Rome Statute as a serious attack on a civilian population that involves widespread or systematic acts of violence. Individuals who are responsible for mob lynching can be held accountable under the ICC.
Laws Passed by Few States to Combat Mob Lynching
- 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.
- The SC laid down certain guidelines to be incorporated in these laws including Fast-track trials, Compensation to victims, and Disciplinary action against lax law-enforcers.
- Bills passed by state legislature (in the image)
- However, Bills passed against mob lynching in some states have not been implemented since lynching is not defined as a crime under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Steps to Address Mob Lynching in India:
- Laying down a dedicated law: at national level similar to what some states have legislated.
- Strengthening Law Enforcement: The most critical step in preventing mob lynching is to strengthen law enforcement. The police must be held accountable for their failure to prevent or respond to incidents of mob violence. The police must also be trained to handle communal tensions and given the resources to effectively combat rumors and misinformation. The judiciary must also take a proactive role in ensuring that the perpetrators of mob lynching are brought to justice.
- Creating Awareness: Creating awareness among the public about the dangers of mob lynching is another critical step. The government and civil society organizations must work together to educate people about the consequences of taking the law into their own hands. The media also has a significant role to play in promoting awareness and dispelling rumors and misinformation.
- Combating Communal Tensions: Combating communal tensions and promoting religious harmony is essential in preventing mob lynching. The government must take proactive measures to address the underlying causes of communal tensions, such as unemployment, poverty, and discrimination. The government must also promote interfaith dialogue and work towards building a more inclusive society.
- Strengthening Cybersecurity: Strengthening cybersecurity is another critical step in preventing mob lynching. Social media platforms must be held accountable for the spread of fake news and rumors, and measures must be taken to prevent the spread of hate speech and incitement to violence. The government must also invest in building cybersecurity infrastructure and promoting digital literacy.
Supreme Court in Tehseen Poonawala Case
- In the Tehseen Poonawalla case, the Supreme Court directed states to take preventative, punitive, and corrective actions against mob lynching in 2018. SC’s guidelines include:
- To prevent incidents of cow vigilantism and mob lynching, a nodal officer will be appointed in each district who is not below the rank of Superintendent of Police.
- The State Governments are required to identify the affected districts where lynching incidents have occurred within three weeks of the date of this judgment.
- Those who incite others and spread false information on social media will be subject to an automatic FIR under Section 153A of the IPC.
- Within one month of the judgment’s date, the state governments are required to prepare a compensation plan for victims of lynching and mob violence in accordance with Section 357 A of the CrPC.
- In each district, lynching and mob violence cases will be tried in fast-track courts, and the trial must be over in six months.
- The Court suggested that the Parliament make lynching a separate crime that should be punished.
- Mob lynching is a grave issue that poses a significant challenge to India’s democratic values and social fabric. The rise of mob lynching is a symptom of deeper social and political issues that must be addressed to ensure that India remains a vibrant and inclusive democracy.
- It is essential that all stakeholders work together to address this issue and ensure that the perpetrators of mob lynching are brought to justice. Only then can India truly live up to its ideals of democracy, secularism, and human rights.
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