THE endless chain of mob lynchings owes itself to the atmosphere of hatred created against a certain community. Cow vigilantes do not seem to fear the law. On the contrary, as the latest tragedy in Alwar, Rajasthan shows, they seem to enjoy the sympathy of the law enforcers. The absence of fear among those indulging in lynching has bred violence to the extent that mobs are killing anyone on suspicion, branding him as a ‘cow smuggler’ or ‘child lifter’. Despite the directives from the Supreme Court, the central and state governments have not taken strong measures to stop mob lynchings. Those who killed Rakbar Khan in Alwar branding him as a cow smuggler enjoy the patronage of local MLA and know no one could touch them. The conduct of the local police in the whole episode was odious as they took three hours to take the victim to hospital which was just four kilometres away from the site of lynching. What was more appalling was that the police gave the victim a bath and changed his clothes to conceal the injuries. The police ensured that the seized cows were transported to cow shelter first before they took the victim to hospital.
The Alwar lynching took place just a couple of days after the Supreme Court passed strictures on lynchings as extrajudicial killings and directed the Centre to frame a law to deal with lynching incidents. What is surprising is that soon after the apex court order many leaders in the ruling dispensation made statements that there was no need for a special law to deal with lynching. However, the central government decided to form a group of ministers and another group of officers to work on changes that could be brought to the laws; if need be, the government will enact a law to curb lynching. The officers’ group, headed by Union Home Secretary, would present its report to Home Minister Rajnath Singh in four weeks suggesting the way forward on the issue; the final call is to be taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Despite scores of lynching cases, it appears that the authorities are not serious about tackling the issue that is threatening to tear the social fabric of the country. Those held guilty of mob lynching have been publicly felicitated by ministers in Union and state cabinets, sending an indirect message that such acts are condoned and that the mobs enjoyed support of the government. Lynching incidents took place also in the past, but there is a manifold increase in their number since the BJP-led government came to power at the Centre in 2014. Every time a person is killed by a mob, the state and central governments issue statements declaring that ‘stringent action’ would be taken against the culprits, but the chain of violence does not seem to stop. It is not that the law enforcement authorities are unaware of the activities of the vigilantes or the anti-social elements that are part of the mobs that are killing people on mere suspicion.
India is a pluralistic society; people of different faiths have lived in harmony for centuries. Different communities have different faiths, customs, eating habits and ways of life. No community has been given any right, either by our glorious history or by our Constitution, to force another community to give up their beliefs, customs and habits. People have been killed in the name of cow protection by mobs that have appropriated to themselves the powers of enforcing the law. Cow slaughter is banned in most states. If there is slaughter of cows going on, it is for the government of the state to take action. The utmost someone who witnesses a case of slaughter can do is to inform the police about it. If people start taking the law into their hands, there would be anarchy. As far as the cattle smuggling to Bangladesh goes, it is an illegal business in which both Hindus and Muslims are involved. It is wrong to see, as vigilantes do, cow smuggling as ‘insult to Mother Cow’ as Hindus get a share in the trade. The state governments, even those run by the BJP, have made arrests of cow vigilantes in some cases and are prosecuting them. However, it needs to be dealt at a more stern level. Also, it cannot end only by government’s efforts. Political parties and social organizations swearing allegiance to Hinduism have to play a crucial role in stopping their supporters and sympathizers indulging in extrajudicial killings.