Just like road accidents and bribe-taking, is hate crime also becoming a quotidian in our country? Maybe not, but due to its nature a little volume is more than enough to get catalysed and create a terrifying shadow.
In India, headlines on lynching are increasingly becoming frequent, denoting a failure in the mechanisms of law and order. A considerable fragment of this phenomenon is undeniably political. The tales of hate crimes associated with beef are increasing at a high pace, although this is just covering only a partial portion of the political spectrum of lynching. In addition, many political murders are also cases of hate crimes. However, blaming Indian politics only may not be accurate. There are multiple instances of hate crimes rapidly increasing these days on conjecture of child lifting by various urban centres in metropolitan cities. From the demise of a young man of 24 years in Jharkhand after getting beaten up a mob brutally, and recent case of Tabrez Ansari, a Muslim victim of hate crime, who was brutally assaulted for not chanting ‘Jai Sri Ram’ and ‘Jai Hanuman’, it is clear that this perturbing phenomenon of mob-lynching will remain a headache for the administration for a long time. This confirms that mobs lynch and vigilante justices are being invariably escorted by a bigoted circle of reactionaries in the current context.
WHAT IS LYNCHING?
Lynching is more of a collective hate crime than “mobocracy”. For example, it may be ignited by controversies over allegations of smuggling of cows or slaughter, or hearsay of child lifting or cattle theft or communal reasons. In other words, it is a form of violence where a mob loses the faith in law and order of the country and hence tries to administer justice without trial by executing a criminal by inflicting injuries and corporal mutilation without due process of law.
According to IndiaSpend, a data journalism website, tabulated 99 incidents of hate crimes since 2012 in which 39 deaths were reported. Instances of cow vigilantism were reported from 19 states with Uttar Pradesh ranking at the top with maximum incidents and deaths due to violence. The data further revealed that Muslims were targeted the most (54.6%), and one in ten victims were dalits (10.6%). In 2017, 86% of the victims who were killed in lynching incidents were Muslims. These incidents of vigilante violence spread from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Haryana to Jharkhand, West Bengal Rajasthan and Gujarat. These crimes also occurred during festivals such as Ram Navami and provocations over azaan and namaz. The victims of the hate violence in most of the cases were from the marginalised sector of the society. According to Citizens Against Hate (CAH) report, 97% of cow-related lynching had taken place since the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) became the ruling party in 2014.
Majority of the attacks were sparked by rumours that the victims, mostly Muslims, were the one who smuggled and slaughtered cows. These rumours and terror often gets circulated in social media and takes the shape of communal stereotypes of victims either showing lack of respect for cows or eating beef or intending to do so, which is widely claimed as a motivation for lynching. In most of the cases, leaders of such violence are suspected to have connections or belong to groups like Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP),GauRaksha Dal, Hindu Yuva Vahini & Bajrang Dal.
However, hate crimes always may not be the reverberations from cold ruthless politics. It can be due to ramification of widely felt fears or the angry frustration of being unable to master them. Instances of lynching on conjecture of child lifting are sometimes examples of such fear. These fears are outcomes of several facets of our city. In metropolitan cities often such fears leads to building of physical boundaries. It is eminent when residents opt to create a gated society of their own. And people who are not so rich to able to build secured physical barrier, generally tries to find alternative ways to create their autonomy.
The police, as it is seen, often do not want to indulge themselves in the activity of the majority community and therefore comes too late to save lives. Victims of cow vigilantism are often maltreated by the police as well as by the mob. The law enforcement agencies take actions against the victims instead of acting against the perpetrators. They book them on the grounds of violation of cow protection laws which provide a legitimate cover to counter those individuals who are suspected of trafficking and slaughter of cattle. Most of the times the agencies do not properly investigate on whether the cattle are actually being carried for slaughter or the beef is actually been possessed by the victim, or even there is an involvement of cows. The site of the lynch attacks are never cordoned by the police. The evidences automatically get destroyed as people and vehicles pass over those areas splattered with blood or burned flesh, which could latter been used against the perpetrators.
Mob violence is inspired by the emanation of suspicion and hatred designed through sustained propaganda. Regular violence taking place in the localities are ironically beneficial to political parties. By allowing lynchings to continue unchecked, the Hindu right boosts its image as the lone protector of Hindu religion and culture in India and this can help expand its social base. Cow vigilantism, which is a pretext to exacerbate social conflicts between religious communities, serves the political purposes of ideologies and political formations that thrive on hate and polarisation. Preventing further atrocities requires respect for the rule of law and legal institutions and strong prosecutions and expeditious punishments. Unless checked, it can cause irreversible harm to the social fabric of our society and to the tenets of democracy that have shaped and sustained the idea of India.
Supreme Court on Lynching
GUIDELINE PRESCRIBED SUPREME COURT
- A nodal officer above the rank of police superintendent must be designated by the states in each district. They will set up a task force to intercept lynching and hate crimes. The task force will be assisted by a DSP rank officer and will work on collecting intelligence reports about those people who commit such offence or are involved in spreading fake news, provocative statements, and hate speeches.
- Identification and efficient patrolling of such villages, sub-divisions and districts from past records which are prone to mob violence and lynching within three weeks from judgement date.
- A meeting once in a month between the nodal officer and the local intelligence units of station house and districts for identifying proneness to mob violence and vigilantism.
- A meeting once in a quarter between the DG of police or secretary of home department with heads of police intelligence and nodal officers.
- There must be good co-ordination between the union home ministry and the state governments in making law enforcement agencies more sensitive and in finding measures to prevent lynching and mob violence in respect of caste and communities.
- It should be broadcasted on television, radio, home department’s official website and on various media platforms by the both central and state governments that mob violence and lynching will lead to serious consequences.
- The central and the state government will be duty bound to restrain the circulation of explosive and irresponsible videos, massages etc. over social media.
- FIRs must be registered by the police under section 153A of the IPC and/or other pertinent provisions against the perpetrators.
- Based on the sensitivity of the situations centre shall recommend appropriate measures to the state government.
REMEDIAL MEASURES SUGGESTED BY SUPREME COURT
According to Supreme Court directions, whenever incidents of mob lynching come to notice, despite precautionary measures, the jurisdictional police station must lodge an FIR. After the FIR is lodged, it shall be the station masters responsibility to bring everything to district nodal officer’s notice. District nodal officer must then ensure that that the family members of the victims are not harassed any further. The nodal officer shall also be duty-bounded to personally monitor investigations of such crimes effectively and file chargesheet within the statutory period.
District courts will look into such cases of mob violence and lynching on a day-to-day basis and try to conclude within six months. The victims of mob violence and lynching shall be liable to receive compensation from the state government. Factors such as loss of earnings, nature of psychological injury, bodily injury, medical expenses and legal expenses must be taken into consideration while compensation is being calculated. These measures shall also be implacable to pending cases.
- Maximum sentence shall be awarded by the trial courts under the provisions of IPC.
- If necessary, the court shall take appropriate steps to protect and conceal the identity and address of the witness.
- Timely notices of court proceedings will be given to the victim(s) or the next of kin of the deceased. They shall also be liable to receive free legal aid.
Police and district official shall face strict actions on failing to act against the perpetrators. Further, failure shall be marked as an act of deliberate negligence and action shall be taken accordingly.
Anti-lynching law of Manipur
Manipur became the first state in India to implement anti-lynching law. It closely followed the guidelines laid down the highest court of India such as creating a nodal officer, special courts, enhanced punishments, finding measures to prevent lynching and mob violence in respect of caste and communities etc. It gave a comprehensive definition of lynching which covered several forms of hate crimes. They are “any act or series of acts of violence or aiding, abetting such act/acts thereof, whether planned or spontaneous , by a mob on the grounds of race, religion, caste, language, sex, place of birth, sexual orientation, dietary practices, ethnicity, political affiliation or any other related grounds .…”
The most important and ethical part is that it is the first in the country to deal with the rights& protection of vulnerable populations that initiates a new crime of dereliction of public officials’ duty. It states that “any police officer directly in charge of maintaining law and order in an area, omits to exercise lawful authority vested in them under the law, without reasonable cause, and thereby fails to prevent lynching shall be guilty of dereliction of duty” and shall be liable “to punishment of imprisonment of one year, extendable to three years with a fine that may extend to ₹50,000”. This removes the protection of the public officials and forces them to efficiently discharge their official duty.
Secondly, the law does not require any advanced sanction from the state to act on hate crimes. Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code will rule over all the hate crimes and foster hostility among individuals on the grounds of race, religion, language, caste etc. This is an excellent step as ruling parties will no longer able shield the perpetrators of hate crimes who were ideologically and politically aligned to them. This removal of prior sanction from state to act on such crimes will help in more effective and non-partisan dealing with mob-lynching.
Thirdly, it is the duty and responsibility of the State government to provide protection of victims and witnesses against coercion, intimidation, violence, inducement or threats of violence. The law also states that state officials shall duty bound to provide a friendly environment to the victims against social and economic boycott, embarrassment by debarring them from public services like education, threats and evictions, health and transport.
Lastly, the state shall give compensation to the victims and set up relief camps in case of displacement of victims. This is an innovative step as generally it is found that victims are criminalised by the state and survivors are never supported and are left to live in penury.
It is heart breaking that hate crime, as a result of communal bigotry, vigilantism and circulation of rumours and viral massages on social media has obtained the status of a dominant social trend. The Supreme Court of India noted this while observing a judgement in the previous year that “ rising intolerance and growing polarisation expressed through [a] spate of incidents of mob violence cannot be permitted to become the normal way of life or the normal state of law and order”. It addressed the states to take punitive, preventive and remedial measures.
However, irrespective of whether the hate crimes are because of trepidation of kidnappings or are cow protection vigilantes’ wilful act, police should not treat the offences like murder and the contentions that infuriate a mob in same manner. A murder is a murder, but homicide by a ferocious or blood-thirsty crowd out for execution of mob justice or prevent an imaginary offence takes an unusual toll of the politeness of wider society. The administration should make it very clear that crimes such as mob violence and murder will have severe consequences. Yet, the authorities must also realise the new challenge: the dominance of social media, especially Facebook and WhatsApp groups and forwards, to spread panic and terror. Internet shut down or surveillance is not an appropriate solution in today’s free society where a day without the availability of internet is regarded as a dooms day. An effective administration is needed which shall be capable of controlling the local communities and identify agents provocateurs – and win the faith and trust of the individuals so that they do not fall into the trap of mischievous rumours and help in maintaining law and order mechanisms.