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Mob- lynching can be categorised a one of those heinous crimes where a person is targeted by a group of people and violence is tantamount to offences against human body or property- both public as well as private. It is a violent act in which a group of people in a collective form target and kill a person in an illegal manner. Looking at the heinous way in which these mobs treat people, the Supreme court of India refers these as ‘horrendous act of mobocracy’. Right to life of a person mentioned under article 21 of the Indian constitution also gets compromised. Out of all offences this is the most recent one to be added. This can even be categorised in worst forms of crime because in this one person infringes the rights of the other person just to suffice their own selfish motives. Very often it is also called vigilante form of justice, because in this there is no legal authority. These kind of barbaric violence and unruly behaviour by the mob, altogether breaches the concept of humanity and justice. Not only a single person is affected but the entire society as a whole has to face the consequences of such acts when such traumatising incidents take place.
The word lynch means a self-made court which punishes a person without even giving them the opportunity of trial, such actions are based on some sort of religious prejudice or rumours, and the reason behind that is clash of mentality between different communities. Each and every criminal activity that take place, distorts the essence of justice in the society. These are also known as extra judicial form of punishments, where the victim is presumed to be the offender by the masses. This term was derived from the name of a Virginia planter called- Charles lynch, when American revolution took place then at that point of time, he was head of an irregular court which was formed originally to punish the loyalists.
In most of the cases it has been observed that rumours and false information are the main reasons that mob lynching take place. While doing so these group of people do have a perception that they are punishing the culprit, but they forget that they are taking law in their hands by following these unlawful ways. So, from there only the concept of lynching evolved.
HISTORY OF MOB LYNCHING-
This methodology originated in America where for the first time it was tried against the black and the main reason behind doing so was to suppress them. Thereafter in the seventeenth century, when so many riots took place in England because of the political instability, then at that time so many cases of mob lynching were reported. Violent activities performed by a group was quite familiar in the British Atlantic region, where group violence was believed to be harmless or non- toxic with respect to intention.
During civil war, because of racial discrimination black people were lynched in America while Mexicans were attacked in the south west. As per some of the study reports, during the time period of 1882 to 1951, total no. of people who were lynched was 4730 in united states of America, out of which 3437 were black and the remaining 1293 were white, clearly highlighting the racial unrest in united states at that time.
In the year 1892, incidents of mob lynching touched its limit, when southern democrats got into power again and started controlling the state legislatures, but at the end of twentieth century all the southern states passed new laws for blacks and poor whites which prevented them from voting and isolated them from public life. During that period this law became very controversial and 3500 black and 1300 white Americans were lynched. All these years, these incidents were on rise because they were supported by the law enforcement in those areas.
It is one of the most incorrect practices as many a times because of rumours, innocent people are compelled to be victims of this. Some of the courts of Germany, also had provisions for impositions of fine/penalty in cases of lynching. To maintain the fear amongst the public these acts were displayed in public so that it can affect the conscience of the people. Instances of mob lynching and violence can be observed in every society and country, particularly in countries like south Africa, Guatemala and Brazil where rates of mob lynching are very high. America became the first country to introduce laws for mob lynching, later on in the year 1493, Ireland found this as extreme abuse of the laws and legal system and hence brought rules to curb it.
MOB LYNCHING IN INDIA-
In India internal tensions between different communities are the main reasons behind these mob lynching cases, as generally people belonging to one ethnic minority group attack people of other group, accused in any crime. In most of the cases it has been observed that people of marginalised section are the ultimate sufferers. for example, we can say that in the year 2006, four people of Dalit family were attacked and slaughtered by few people of the kunbi caste in the village of kherlanji in the Bhandara district, Maharashtra. This incident took place because of the communal violence and it is believed conflict between the upper and the lower caste was behind it. Reports said that the Dalit family refused to give away their land for the construction of the road which would have benefitted the upper caste people, and so they were killed. Females of the Dalit family were forced to remove their clothes. In India we don’t have specific codified laws to curb mob lynching but section 223(a) of the criminal procedure code ,1973 says that if same charges are put against more than one people, then all of them can be held jointly liable for the offence.
Some instances of mob lynching that shook India are:
2006 Bhiwandi lynching: It is lynching case where two police constables of the Bhiwandi region of the Thane district of Maharashtra were killed by the mob mostly comprising of people from Muslim community. It was considered as a reaction of the act when two muslim men were killed by the police. Killing of Muslim men boiled the blood of the people so much that they stabbed both the constables till death.
Also read: Explained: Citizenship Rules, 2003
2015 Dimapur Mob lynching: On 5th of march 2015 in Dimapur, Nagaland, a group of around 8000 to 9000 people, entered the Dimapur central jail and attacked one of the prisoners who was accused in one of the rape cases. The angry mob forced him to go naked, this was the reaction of growing no. of rape and sexual harassment cases in that area. On 23rd of February 2015, a twenty-year-old student of Shri Digambar Jain Girls College was assaulted and intoxicated by Farid khan and some of his friends, later on they even raped her multiple times. They even bribed her to keep her mouth shut. On 25th of February an FIR was lodged against all of them under section 476, 363 and 344. During the trial all of them said that it was consensual sex because money was given for the same purpose.
The angry mob went out of control and pelted all the accused with stones, dragged him for a distance of approximately 7 kilometres and on the way of clock tower itself the accused died. Later on, his body was displayed on the clock tower so that in future no one even thinks of attempting it against any girl. To control the crowd police had to use tear gas and they fired blanks. While the clash was going on 52 police officials got injured and 10 of their vehicles were burnt. The mob believed that the state has a faulty justice system and immediate action is the need of the hour, so it was the right thing to do.
2015 Dadri Mob lynching: It is a case where villagers of Bisara village located near Dadri of Uttar Pradesh, attacked Mohammed Akhlaq who was fifty-two years old suspecting that he slaughtered cow. On the unfortunate night of 28th September 2015, Mohammad Akhlaq was assaulted by the residents of Bisara village because they suspected that he was indulged in the profession of stealing and slaughtering of cows. He was attacked with bricks and knives. Because of this violent act he was not able to sustain those bodily injuries and he died; his twenty-year-old son Danish also suffered so many injuries. When this matter went to the court, then they said that on the first place, from the evidence of the meat it can be extracted that meat was either meat or beef, in the forensic lab it was assured that the meat was of cow but in this case, court gave the judgement that Mohammad Akhlaq is not guilty because the beef was not sored for consumption. After this lynching took place, it received political reactions from all across the country. And hence, monetary compensation was awarded to the family.
2016 Jharkhand mob lynching: In the year 2016, two Muslim cattle traders, Ansari who was thirty-two-year-old and Imtiaz Khan who was twelve-year-old of Jharkhand, both of them were hanged from a tree because the mob believed that they were killing cattles. As per the villagers the matter of conflict over here was that there was some communal tension going on in that area regarding consumption of beef. Jharkhand Vikas Morcha said that this incident is a big question mark on humanity. After few days, accused were taken for trail by the Jharkhand police.
2017 Alwar Mob Lynching case: Again in 2017, a dairy farmer named Pehlu Khan coming from the Nuh District of Haryana was killed while they were returning to their village, six other companions of Pehlu Khan were also beaten brutally. According to the statements given by his son, they had all relevant papers to show that cows were bought for the purpose of dairy farming, but the mob refuted all their claims and tore all the documents. His father and others were pushed out of the car in front of his eyes, sticks and rods were used on them, and because of severe injuries he couldn’t survive. All these consecutive events of mob lynching tore the soul of people and they condemned it, simultaneously even asked for harsh punishments.
2019 Jharkhand lynching – In the month of June of 2019, one Muslim man named Tabrez Ansari was tied to a tree and was beaten mercilessly, nevertheless he was compelled to chant Jai Shree Ram and jai hanuman, because of the brutal attack he died four days past to the date when this attack took place because blunt objects were used on him. Allegation put against him was of bike theft. A video was circulated regarding the same. This triggered the conscience of people and it received attention of the whole country. Family members of Tabrez Ansari pleaded that under section 302(which talks about punishment for murder) of the Indian penal code all the culprits should be put behind the bars. A special investigation team was appointed to find the possible solutions to the problems. After investigation by the police officials, more than a dozen were found guilty and criminal charges were dropped against them.
Palghar mob lynching – And the recent one is Palghar mob lynching case where two Juna Akhara Hindu sadhus along with their driver were attacked in Palghar district of Maharashtra in 2020 because all three of them were mistaken as child thieves because of some rumours circulated via WhatsApp that some thieves are roaming around in that area. When police interfered in the between and tried them from taking law in their hand, they were also beaten up by the mob. Maharashtra government faced so much of backlash for this and received nationwide criticism. Later on, 115 villagers were arrested on criminal charges, all of them claimed to be innocent stating that in their opinion they misunderstood those sadhus and drivers as kidnappers and organ harvesting gangs. And arrival of the vehicle during night, compelled them even more that they were kidnappers. Looking at the grave nature of the crime the National Human Rights Commission of India asked the chief of Mumbai police to provide them with the exact details of what action was taken against the culprits and how much amount of compensation was awarded to the victim’s family.
UN’S TAKE ON THIS ISSUE:
On 1st of July when the seventeenth meeting of the United Nations Security Council took place at the UN headquarters, then voice was raised against increasing no. of mob lynching cases in India by Paul Newman who represented an NGO of Africa called Centre of Africa Development and Progress. He even highlighted the fact that from the past five years crime rates against Muslims and Dalits are on an all-time high rate in India.
Indian Muslims are forced to live in an environment of terror where there is a high possibility that they can be attacked any time, all these incidents are acting like a catalyst in increasing communal tension between the groups. Special mention was given to the Tabrez Ansari case by him.
In his opinion India was not following the constitution of India by snatching the right to freedom of Religion of its citizens, he even believed that in India people are not having autonomy to freely practice and profess their religion whichever they want to follow. Moving further he requested the United Nations to intervene and instruct India to follow the basic principles, because he found it very depressing when one of the Indian leaders said that every citizen should chant Hindu slogans or else, they can leave India.
The US commission for international religious freedom expressed its grief on the issue which took place in the state of Jharkhand and requested the Modi government to look upon this matter seriously and take concrete steps. Nevertheless, the United Nations asked the government to provide them with the details of the case.
PROBABLE REASONS FOR MOB LYNCHING:
- Lack of adequate laws in Indian penal code and the criminal procedure code to tackle with the serious issue.
- Laws for safeguarding minority and lower caste people are not implemented properly.
- Police officers are under extreme political pressure.
- Intolerance against a particular section is increasing day by day, with the fuelling anger of people these propagandas are also on increase.
- With increasing unemployment rate, youth is misguided by the political and other religious influencers very easily.
- Certain kind of biasness for a particular class is yet another reason that these mob lynching cases are reported.
- Personal enmity between different groups.
- Low conviction rate is also one of the causes which motivates people to opt for this method of delivering justice.
- Social media plays a key role in promoting fake news, which ultimately encourages the masses.
- Social tensions like class, caste, religion conflict etc are deep rooted in the mind of the citizens of India, and that is the sole reason why the marginalised section is forced into never ending darkness of discrimination.
GUIDELINES GIVEN BY THE SUPREME COURT:
In the year 2018, guidelines were given by the Supreme Court of India to tackle with the issue of mob lynching in India, the apex court said that government is responsible for making stricter punishments to curb this issue. In order to do so the court opted for a for a method under which:
- States need to take extra precaution to make sure that there are no mob lynching cases being reported in their state.
- Specific provisions should be made for mob lynching prone areas.
- Every district should have a nodal officer to supervise such situations and at the same time they should assure that only a particular group or caste is not the only sufferer if this violent act.
- Regular inspection by the officers should take place, moreover the state and police should coordinate among themselves regarding this issue.
- Unfortunately, if state and police department is ineffective in preventing such scenarios and mob lynching takes place then in that situation legal aid to the sufferer and protection to the witnesses should be given, compensation should be awarded to the victim’s family.
- District and the police administration will be held liable for their negligent conduct.
AFTERMATH OF MOB LYNCHING ON OUR SOCIETY:
Globally India is considered as a democratic and powerful country, but when the judicial system of our country comes into picture, it fails miserably. Other parts of the world have successfully found a probable solution to this problem, but India is still juggling with this issue. Right to life of a citizen gets compromised whenever these instances take place. And at the same time, mostly these cases go unnoticed only, and neither monetary compensation is provided to the victim’s family nor the culprit is punished.
Altogether it is a threat on the principles of natural justice and rule of law. In most of the cases it has been observed that there is always a political connection behind these crimes. Once, allegation is put against someone then before the justice is delivered, people try to give justice to the victim in their own way by attacking them in an illegal manner, and the victims family have no other option rather than facing adverse consequences of the act, till the time judgement is given by the court, the accused is no more alive. In such cases they are deprived of their basic right which is right to be heard and fair trial. And such abuse of rights cannot be tolerated. If the bread earner of the family is no more alive, what will the other members of the family do, they will have no way rather than spending their life in poverty and suffrage . There are no special laws to protect the family of the person who has been lynched. There is a fair chance that in the near future they even might get attacked. Under aggression, victims house is destroyed and their families are torn apart. Because of such hate crimes, everyday many innocent people lose their lives which itself is very terrifying.
India has one of the longest constitutions in the world, but it is quite remorseful to accept that the Indian penal code has no specific mention of this horrendous crime, which is the need of the hour. In order to regain the faith of the masses in the judiciary of India, there is a dire need to add some of the acts, which deals with this atrocious crime.
BILL PASSED BY THE MANIPUR GOVERNMENT AGAINST MOB LYNCHING:
In 2018, Manipur became the first state to introduce a law for mob lynching having specific laws dealing with the issue by passing the ‘The Manipur Protection from mob violence bill, 2018’. The bill said that:
- Police officers who do not perform their duty effectively will be punished and can be given imprisonment of one year which may extend up to three years along with the fine of rupees 50000.
- Each and every district will be having nodal officers who will appointed there to look upon the cases of Mob lynching.
- The bill also suggests for rigorous life imprisonment if the victim dies because of the attack.
After a few months, Rajasthan legislative assembly also passed a bill which had clauses like giving life imprisonment and a fine of rupees one lakh which can be extended up to five lakhs in cases which results in the death of the victim. Shanti Dhariwal who is the parliamentary affairs minister introduced this bill in the state assembly. While introducing the bill he highlighted that the present legislation is not enough for protection from these unlawful activities. According to some reports after 2014, mob lynching which were reported out of that 86% of the cases belonged to Rajasthan only. So, Mr. Dhariwal believed that this bill will help Rajasthan put a cap on the cases of mob lynching.
STEPS TO BE TAKEN BY THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT TO REDUCE THE CASES OF MOB LYNCHING IN INDIA:
- Strict legal action should be taken against doctors who keep the victims of mob lynching on waiting and do not give them the emergency care. Doctors who submit false medical reports even without examining the victims properly under the influence of police or some powerful authority should be made liable.
- Rallies of political leaders who try to incite the mob should be restricted and punitive action should be taken against them.
- Police officers who don’t perform their duties properly while investigating about the issue should be made accountable.
- One of the main reasons behind ineffectiveness of police is because of political interference, so that should be reduced.
- Strict legal action should be taken against those who spread false rumours because it is the root cause.
- State government should be directed to keep a watch on complaints of child lifting or abduction.
- Police and judicial reforms are the need of the hour to strengthen the criminal justice system.
- The nodal officer appointed should not be beneath the position of Superintendent of Police and he or she coordinate with one DSP so that all together they can work effectively.
- Special teams should be formed who could identify the groups who have the capacity and willingness to do such crimes.
- With the help of some NGO, awareness campaigns should be organised so that the masses cannot be misled by fake news. Plus, there is an urgent need to educate people that caste, religion, ethnicity and creed is not all what matter, so they need to overcome that mentality.
- With help of television and radio, the government should telecast the repercussions of such acts, how people can be punished if they attempt it.
- Digital platforms should be regulated and kept under constant observation, because it is one of the easiest ways to manipulate the public. And under section 153 of the Indian penal code, action should be taken against them who try to circulate touchy and false messages.
- Central government should keep a regular check whether all their instructions are followed by the state govt. or not.
- New helpline no. should be introduced so that people can easily contact the concerned authorities.
- India is under the urgent need of proper execution of administration rules, because frequently it has been observed that because of the negligence in the departmental activities all the cases take place.
- Sensitisation of these issues should be done so that everyone gets to know that what are the effects of these acts on the victim and their immediate family member. Extra amount of attention should be given so that public can know the plight of the sufferers.
Once these precautions are taken then only the problem of mob lynching can be rooted out from our society.
Also read: One nation, one standard
India is a democratic country where rights of each and every citizen should be respected. Increasing no. of cases of mob lynching is like a disaster as it is destroying the concept of secularism. As per studies states like- Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Kerala, Telangana, Karnataka report highest number of cases of mob lynching every year. And most of them are because of cow slaughter. Because of the illiteracy and lack of knowledge about the facts, such attacks take place, even in the twenty first century witch hunting is one of the most prominent reasons for this mob violence, so awareness has to be spread about this serious issue. Due to lack of understanding approximately 2000 disabled women were lynched on the suspicion that they were kidnapping children. People of minority community are the ultimate victims of these vigilante attacks, so they shall be protected from future suffrage. Experts of this field suggest that it was all result of ethno- cultural conflict. Because of these activities the sufferers are under constant and unspoken fear and their position is very vulnerable. People who have very little knowledge of justice, need to know what consequences it could have on them if they attempt it.
Citated from :
- Hunted – India’s Lynch Files TheQuint (2021), https://www.thequint.com/quintlab/lynching-in-india/
- Mob lynching: 7 instances which shook India, DNA India (2021), https://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-mob-lynching-7-instances-which-shook-india-2639925
- Jharkhand rights forum alleges 29 mob lynching cases in five years, The Hindu (2021), https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/jharkhand-rights-forum-alleges-29-mob-lynching-cases-in-five-years/article32721046.ece
- Cow vigilante violence in India – Wikipedia, En.wikipedia.org (2021), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cow_vigilante_violence_in_India
- Muskan, Mob Lynching: A Rising Threat, Legal service India, http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-844-mob-lynching-a-rising-threat.html
- Diganth Raj Sehgal, Need of the hour : reforms in mob lynching laws, IP readers, August 26, 2020, https://blog.ipleaders.in/need-hour-reforms-mob-lynching-laws/
- Rule of mob: On mob lynching in several States, The Hindu (2021), https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/rule-of-mob-on-mob-lynching-in-several-states/article32142678.ece
- Why Do Mob Lynchings Still Continue Unabated?, The Wire (2021), https://thewire.in/communalism/mob-cow-lynching-vigilante
- M.P. Nathanael, Preventing mob lynching, The Hindu, January 17, 2020, https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/preventing-mob-lynching/article30577621.ece
Author: Bhavya Jha, Kirit P. Mehta School of Law, NMIMS Mumbai
Editor: Kanishka Vaish, Senior Editor, LexLife India.