How Hindustan is turning into Lynchistan
By Humra Laeeq
Communal violence and hostility have long been in Indian history books, but now we see a fresh fuel being added to the fire that is sparking a 'Jungle Justice' system in the country. Amidst the growing communal hatred, public lynchings have been normalised to the point where they evoke deadened reactions to such atrocities.
States including Delhi, Kolkata, Patna, and Mumbai witnessed the demonstration on June 28th by thousands of citizens against the increased cases of the lynching of Muslims and Dalits in the name of 'gau-raksha' . The protests were inspired by a Facebook post updated by filmmaker Saba Dewan, who gave out a rallying cry for the latest victim.
The case of Junaid Khan
In Haryana, teenager Junaid Khan, travelling home for Eid, was stabbed to death by a mob that mocked his skull cap and called him a beef-eater after an intense argument over train seats. His body was found bleeding on the railway platform and two-hundred eye witnesses, when questioned, were mute.
In Haryana, a BJP-ruled state, where cow terrorism or 'gautankwad' has never evoked an official reaction, police chief B.S. Sandhu addressed Junaid's death as a "clash between two groups ". Last month, BJP politicians were outraged at the public slaughter of a calf in Kerala by Congress youth and thereby arrested eight officials.
Communal violence is no more about beef. It is now a generalised militant retaliation against those whose opinions you might not agree with. Junaid Khan is another addition to the increasing records of the lynching of minorities. , a data journalism portal, reports that out of the 28 Indians lynched over the last seven years, 24 were Muslims. More than half of these attacks were based on rumours, and 97% of the incidents have occurred since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014.
Of silence, public complicity, and passive onlookers
Mobs and lynching are group phenomena that take root in public complicity. The anatomy of mobs includes active protagonists and passive onlookers. Every lynching case in India has had hundreds of onlookers, drinking in the drama with bloodlust, and recording it on their phones for circulation. When it's over, they suffer from collective amnesia.
During lynching, the crowd here has a greater role to play than the protagonist. It gives an indirect consent to do things; terrible things which an individual might not think of doing personally. Behind the cover of the mob, his beliefs expand beyond himself. He is given a blanket immunity to carry out actions in the name of nationalism. A silent crowd is as good as a complicit crowd.
To what do we attribute the silence? When BJP's National General Secretary, Ram Madhav, asks minorities to "live in the good graces of the majority", the reasons become clear. The law is non-existent for those siding with the oppressed. Just add labels of 'anti-nationalist' and the danger of being a potential target, and then the problems truly arise.
A blood frenzy-The judge, jury, and executioners of justice
The rise of mob lynching in India could be seen in a similar vein to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States in the 1860s. Aimed at white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-Catholicism, the KKK was well sanctioned by a right-wing government.
The cause of mob lynching seems to stem from a culture of insecurity and anxiety. When people are told they are being wronged by others, they form a collective consciousness. Put these people into mobs and they become the judge, jury, and executioners of justice. In India, poor law enforcement creates a vacuum for a mob to act and avail advantages of escaping legal scrutiny. The mob flows into that vacuum and looks for people to kill.
A mob is not mindless; it is single-minded. It creates a distorted utopia, and all who belong to the crowd feel equal - secure. In this sudden spectacle of equality, there is extreme polarisation. The appeals for justice in the 'here-and-now' are polished with prejudices, and this results in lynching. The scapegoat, outcast, or alien becomes the locus of violence. Then society returns to normality once the blood frenzy is over.
'Rhetoric polarises the crowd, bigotry emboldens the mob'
In its totality, lynching is a form of political barbarism that traces its root to history. However, this barbarism has gained state sanction with the rise of right-wing BJP ideologies. The RSS declares that beef-eaters should be hanged. Uttar Pradesh's Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, asks people to kill 10 Muslims for every Hindu killed.
Majoritarianism is the backbone of the Modi government. The ruling dispensations discriminatory cattle trade restrictions pave the way through which lynchings become validated as acts which are in the national interest. Section 223 of the "Code of Criminal Procedure" says that persons or a mob involved in the same offence in the same act can be tried together. However, it has not yet given enough legal teeth to justice systems.
The descent into primaeval bloodletting is so terrifying that we might as well wonder whether Hindustan is transforming into 'Lynchistan'. Rhetoric polarises the crowd, bigotry emboldens the mob. Every lynching that goes ignored and unpunished by legal institutions is a license to the next one.