ndia has become a country of laws but when it comes to mob violence and planned attacks, the law hardly has any role to play; perhaps this is the reason that the lawbreakers are not deterred. The Supreme Court thinks there is a need for legislation to stop mob lynching but public committing violence against persons does not require any fresh legislation. All that is required is going by the existing Criminal Penal Code and catching the perpetrators of lynching and trying, convicting and punishing them under the Code. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, it is most unfortunate that stringent lawmaking does not deter lynching, cow vigilantes etc. due to political patronage at grass root level. Lawmaking alone won’t help. The Supreme Court asking the Parliament to pass law-establishing lynching as a separate offence with punishment surprised me. The court ordered the Centre and the States to implement the measures and file compliance reports within the next four weeks. It is strange that in our democracy, the Supreme Court needs to get into the business of ‘legislating’ such laws. What in the world is our Parliament doing when all these lynching incidents are going on? Shouldn’t they have come to the same conclusion on their own? We have too many laws and too less administration! Do the existing laws permit mob lynching that necessitates a new law? If courts improve and punish the executive with dismissal from service for non-performance, no new law is needed and even the existing laws can be pruned to the minimum. The Government Executive always prefers to sail with the Politicians unless the Court sets them right and supports the executive performing right task. Further, prompt action is needed. Courts should not allow it to be breeding grounds of litigation and denial of justice.
Had there been an iota of seriousness on the part of the authorities concerned to extend due regard for the earlier Supreme Court order in the matter and acted fast to ruthlessly quell the unceasing rise of mobocracy which egregiously morphs into a law onto itself and engage in blood-thirsty lynching and mayhems, it would not have warranted the petitioners to invoke contempt of court remedy and the SC to get itself too anguished to direct the Centre to formulate special law against lynching. Beneath the surface acts of series of lynching, lies a big challenge thrown to the rule of law and democracy and if anyone thinks that a mere issue of advisories to authorities would put an end to this kind of madness, they must not be sensing the larger danger to democracy. It is a pity and sad state of affairs that nothing seems to be working in this country without the intervention of the Supreme Court. Society is becoming immune to violence. Any type of violence against anybody is condemnable. Lynching is happening almost every day in one form or the other.
A normal citizen should stop following the footprints of the power-thirsty politicians. For gaining power, the Indian politicians have used caste, language, region, and religion. Polarisation of votes in the name of religion was the new political gimmick surfaced in India since 1980. Presenting emotional issues in the public domain and polarisation of votes is nothing but just a political tactic. Mob lynching is the handiwork of few. Until citizens become more sensitive, all these games will continue. Citizens should openly tell politicians, don’t talk about any issue that divides nation.
Regardless, how can we as a society, rely solely on creating new laws to address each of our woes? It scares me to know that the SC would recommend new laws when it should really be relying on interpreting existing laws to address lynching. Recommending new laws for this purpose almost implies that we have been exposed to the risks of lynching thus far. We must endeavour to make our democracy more robust by strengthening our social mores rather than expect laws to solve all our problems. And providing leadership to make such things happen is in the political domain, and we voters must do a better job in holding the politicians’ feet to the fire after they get elected rather than fall victims to forces of partisanship. Mob violence is not confined to the cow belt. Neither is it confined to only violence by Hindu Mobs. The Thoothukudi mob violence or the mob violence against innocent people suspected to be child lifters in Tamil Nadu, Telangana or Assam are just a few examples. Naturally, violent mobs will comprise largely Hindus followed by the Muslims. The largest religious group in India are Hindus, followed by the Muslims who are the second largest religious community in India. Only when we look at the violence from the perspective of how little of religious, racial or ethnic violence relative to the population of 1.2 billion there is in India we can see that this country has far fewer crimes of hate than Europe or the US.
No one can dispute that a major reason for the recent rise in lynching is impunity. It can be reasonably assumed that the lynch mobs that murdered Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri, Pehlu Khan in Alwar, and Hafiz Junaid in Haryana were confident of getting away with it. So far, the state has done little to shake that confidence. Evidently, the state can act, if it wishes to, using the existing provisions of the law. It is a matter of whether it is in its interests to do so. In the case of cow-linked lynching, a lot depends on whether the incumbent in power considers it compatible with its political interests to crack down on such attacks.
India already has an antidote – two, in fact – to combat the impunity enjoyed by anti-minority lynch mobs. The first is the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011, or the Anti-Communal Violence Bill. The other is police reforms, which are pending despite the Supreme Court ordering their implementation. The Anti-Communal Violence Bill was buried because it was felt that it threatened the autonomy of States by mooting a parallel structure that undermined federalism. This is a misrepresentation, and the Bill needs to be revived for three reasons: it fixes command responsibility for communal incidents; it recognises that targeted communal violence disproportionately victimises minorities and it creates a mechanism to insulate investigations of communal violence from political interference. The draft anti-lynching law needs to be revised to incorporate these key elements of the Anti-Communal Violence Bill. Second, the demand for an anti-lynching law needs to be buttressed by a parallel campaign for police reforms. All said and done, even the best of laws can achieve little in the face of law enforcement machinery primed to do the bidding of its political masters.
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