Resisting Lynching in India

Lynching is hogging the headlines in India. In this backdrop, several campaigns started. After this brutal assault, Shabnam Hashmi returned the award. It is labelled as Award Wapsi 2.0.  Another campaign is underway which is known as the ‘Not in My Name’.  It is a protest of liberals and leftists. As Huffington Post reported, “Why the ‘Not in My Name’ Protests Did More Harm than Good.”  Sadly, campaigners are failed to understand the thorny issue and there is no mechanism to deal with it.  This write-up links five gruesome events of lynching in India and facilitates an understanding of the situation today. It exposes many fallacies and dissects the dominant narrative. It’s more about a societal failure. If you will only blame the government, you can’t (never) solve this problem. People who are involved in it are exploiting the historical fault line.

Following this gruesome incident, Prime Minister Narendra Modi slammed increasing events of lynching and reminded Mahatma Gandhi – Father of Nation. Criticising his remark, a leader from the Congress party responded, “…Either the people or the fringe elements are not taking the Prime Minister seriously”.  Political slugfest is not a new thing. It is an apparent trend after a controversy or an event erupts. In this backdrop, a cause of concern is how the Governments including the state government’s plan to enforce the orders to deal with lynching

Ballabhgarh Lynching:  After an altercation over seats in a local train, group of travelers allegedly hurled communal slurs and attacked Junaid Khan. A violent mob stabbed Junaid and his brothers. After the lethal stabbing, Junaid died.
In local trains, people commute every day and they enter in throngs. Many of them know each other and frequently they confront with the others on the train. They are well informed about local areas. They behave rudely. In the local trains, it is very frequent and one can notice easily.  Ballabhgarh Lynching is a gruesome event that traumatizes people who have a different identity.

Nowhatta Lynching: It is evident that there is a selective silence over coverage and discussions where some cases of lynching witness a relentless reporting but others are ignored deliberately. An appropriate example is a lynching of Mohammad Ayub Pandit, Deputy Superintendent of Police. His brutal lynching sent a shockwave in the country.
Pandit was posted in Nowhatta area of Srinagar when he visited a local masjid during the Ramadan, a mob attacked him with rods and stone. Reportedly, the unruly mob dragged him in a drain where his son identified. Unlike the Ballabhgarh lynching, it was a short-lived episode and inadequately reported in the national media.

Dadri Lynching: In 2015, Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched in Bisara of Dadri, Uttar Pradesh.  Bisara residents killed Akhlaq for allegedly consuming beef.  His killing escalated a national movement which is known as Award Wapsi. In order to protest, a number of literati returned their awards to the concerned government bodies. It grabbed the attention from various hues. In Indian Express, Pratap Bhanu Mehta wrote, “Mohammad Akhlaq’s death is a tragedy. It exemplified the depths of the barbarity that lurks behind the veneer of our civilisation.”
On the political front, an apparent face off erupted between the state government and the union government.  In the poll-bound state, a section labelled the entire issue as “fixed match” between these two governments.  Following this brutal killing, Uttar Pradesh witnessed sporadic communal tensions. It gave birth to a narrative which describes that the government agencies largely tolerated such gruesome killings.

Dimapur Lynching: In 2015, a violent mob broke into the Dimapur Central Jail and dragged Farid Khan-an accused who was detained on suspicion of sexual assault.  It was reported that more than five thousand people gather and involved in this violent activity. There was a sheer lack of law and order.  This episode reinforces a narrative of racial differences. Unlike the above-mentioned event, it was inadequately reported by the national news media.

In a spate of lynching, Mehta wrote, “These lynchings are fiendishly redefining citizenship. The significance of this violence is not just the number: Whether it is 15 incidents or 50. It is to spread the fear that it can happen at any moment, anywhere. This violence establishes a new political dispensation, where a group of people claim direct sovereignty: They act above formal law and order institutions, they feel entitled to enforce the morality, and their impunity comes from the fact that they can now stand in for the “authentic people.”Although the violence is different in many respects, there is this commonality in those who lynch in the name of cows and those lynching in the name of Azadi in Kashmir. Since I speak in the name of the authentic Hindu or the authentic Kashmiri, my violence now has this imprimatur of what I take to be a people’s sovereignty.”

It’s not a new “brutal” phenomenon which highlights the pervasiveness. The past is replete with such oppressive way to deal with the opponents. It is evident that the there is a sheer lack of the legal tools to deal with it. In the absence of the proper law, India can’t solve the problem if lynching starts in a train which is designed to connect the people as well as India. With help from various tools, there is an urgent need to spread the message of harmony in all communities and snub various kinds of rumours. The government machinery is just a component. All persons suspected of having done any wrong should be reported and handed over to the police. Sadly, Indian society has become very intolerant.


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