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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 29 New Delhi July 6, 2019

Mob Lynching: A New Version of Communal Violence

Sunday 7 July 2019

by Shamsher Alam

A Muslim man, Shamsh Tabrez, was caught by a mob in the month of June 2019 at Saraikela Kharsawan in Jharkhand, tied to a pole and beaten for several hours. Later on, he was handed over to the police and eventually he succumbed to the injuries and died. He was not only beaten but also was forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Jai Hanuman’. He was caught on the suspicion of a motorcycle theft. This kind of mob violence against Muslims is not the first time in New India. This could be traced back to the recent history of mobocracy. For example, the attack on Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri; Pehlu Khan and Rakbar Khan in Rajasthan; Quasim Qureshi in Hapur, Uttar Pradesh; and Alimuddin Ansari at Ramgarh in Jharkhand. In the light of these incidents, the present article tries to analyse the mob violence from three vantage points. First, as a new form or modified version of communal violence. Second, biased approach of state apparatus towards the victims of mob violence. And third, political patronage of the assaulters.

To elucidate the first, it can be argued that mob violence is the instant justice in the eyes of perpetrators of this act. The committers do justice in their own way by killing an individual. This kind of act satisfies the political-ego of the mob. This also strengthens their perceptions as they are in the righteous path in the protection of their religion, particularly in the case of mob violence in the name of the cow. This act of mob violence does not require planning and mobilisation unlike communal violence. This requires only the name of the individual along with the prejudice and bigotry against the particular community. If the name sounds as a Muslim’s name, then it is enough reason and cause to beat that individual to death. When communal violence takes place, then the state tries to find out its causes and further, it is also bound to give some compensation to the victims. The Human Rights Commissions at the national level and international level seek clarification and accountability from the state. This kind of small but dangerous act does not seek clarification from the state because the latter could simply argue that it is a local level incident. It is failure of the local level law and order situation. Further, the representative of the state could argue that we should not look into these incidents through a socio-religious angle. This is not against the whole community in a particular region or area. On the basis of the above-mentioned arguments, it can be stated that mob lynching has become a new tool and version of communal violence. This kind of act is replacing the planned and old method of mass violence against Muslims, that is, communal violence.

While throwing light on the biased approach of the state machinery (police) regarding the mob violence against the Muslims, it can be argued that the state agency initially favours the dominant group and does not investigate the incident in a proper manner to punish the culprits. To substantiate this, the recent example of UP can be cited, where the police force changed the murder of a Muslim man (Quasim Qureshi) in the name of the cow, into a mere road rage happening. However, ‘the case was brought back to the limelight in a recent expose by the news channel NDTV in which one of the accused is caught on camera talking about the assault on two men and even denying water to one of the injured men’. (The Hindu, August 13, 2018) Thanks to the honourable Supreme Court, wherein the road rage theory of the UP Police was rejected with the Apex Court seeking to reinvestigate the lynching case, the conspiracy could be rebuffed.

Similarly, in the case of Alimuddin Ansari, Jharkhand Police spokesperson R.K. Mallick said ‘Thursday’s murder could be the result of a professional rivalry. Ali (he was also known as Asgar Ali or Asgar Ansari) had a criminal record, and was an accused in the kidnapping and murder of a child. He traded in beef and had been getting calls for ransom from his business rivals and local criminals. Still, that does not give anyone the licence to kill him. We will arrest the killers soon.’ (Hindustan Times, June 30, 2017) He made a speculated statement without proper investigation. In the latest case of Tabrez it has been reported that the relatives of the deceased were not allowed to meet with Tabrez. To substantiate this, a relative of Tabrez argued that “My elder brother went to see him at the Saraikela Police Station. But the officers threatened and shooed them away with lathis, saying: ‘You have come to talk for the thief.’ They threatened to put him in jail as well. We were not allowed to meet him†(as reported by ANI and quoted by NDTV, June 24, 2019).

This is not the only case of mob lynching where the state agent (police) works against the victims, generally Muslims. The role of the same has been questioned during communal violence from Hashimpura to Godhra. In the former case, ‘50 Muslims were picked up by the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel from Hashimpura village in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. The victims were later shot and their bodies thrown into a canal. 42 persons were declared dead.’ (India Today, October 31, 2018) In the latter case, Asghar Ali Engineer (2002) has mentioned and questioned the role of the state agent in the communal violence and argued that ‘the police in Gujarat aided and abetted the rioters’. Similarly, Paul R. Brass (2003) also highlighted the role of the PAC and police (for their biased approach) towards victims during the communal violence in Aligarh. This kind of approach of the state machinery (police or PAC) not only during communal violence but also in mob lynching, is raising the question of its functioning and dealing with Muslims. This also raises questions regarding the nature of the state apparatus, that is, it is supposed to be not only secular but also fair and unbiased.

While reflecting on the third perspective, that is, political patronage, it can be argued that the garlanding of eight men from Jharkhand, who were convicted and accused in the lynching of Alimuddin Ansari at Ramgarh in 2017, by Union Minister Jayant Sinha, shows the notorious example of political patronage of the accused. However, later on when the photos of the garlanding process appeared in the social media, he came in a defensive mood and argued that he was just ‘honouring the due process of law’. If we scrupulously see the act of the erstwhile law-maker, then it appears that he was condoning vigilantism. In addition to this, giving jobs (jobs in NTPC, a public sector undertaking) to those people who were accused in the killing of Akhlaq in Dadri, is another malicious side of political patronage.These kind of activities and examples are trying to justify the violence, hatred and bigotry against Muslims.

However, it is worth mentioning that the killing of Ansari just happened after PM Narendra Modi had given the ‘stern message to cow vigilantes’. This shows that the message could not reach the ears of self-proclaimed cow protectors. Similarly, Tabrez’s killing also pained the Prime Minister as he has mentioned in his speech in Parliament. However, the upsurge of mob violence against Muslims in the name of cow or in any suspicion raises some pertinent questions. First, from which source they (perpetrators) got the power and courage to do such kind of actions? Second, who emboldened to them to first commit such hate crime and later on garlanding those acts? Third, which political ideology do they subscribe to? And last, why they do not listen to the words of their towering figure?

This kind of horrendous act can be controlled when towering figures of the political parties not only condemn such kind of acts but also suspend those leaders who implicitly conduct the vigilantism. Further, it can also be restrained by giving severe punishment (according to law) not only to the perpetrators but also the agents of state.They are not only accountable for maintaining the law order situation but also for fair and unbiased approach.

To argue succinctly, the attack on Muslims in the name of cow or any kind of hate crime could be seen as the production of solidarity of the majority group. Further, it can also be understood as let them not to think beyond the security issue. By creating such kind of appalling environment, they don’t want to let them reflect on the political representation (25 Muslim MPs out of 543 MP, that is, 4.60 per cent), education (4.7 per cent in higher education, according to AISHE, 2015-16), economic progress, social development and other progress. The persistence of such kind of acts also show the distorted picture of secularism as well as social disharmony. This has become a new normal in New India. These kinds of incidents also question the validity and reliability of the idea of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwas.

References

 

Brass, P. R.(2003) The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India, Oxford University Press:New Delhi.

Engineer, A. A. (2002), ‘Gujrat Carnage: Role of Police in Gujrat Carnage’, Secular Perspective, June 16-30, 2002, retrieved from https://www.onlinevolunteers.org/gujarat/news/articles/police.htm on 26 June’ 2019.

Government of India (2016), All India Survey on Higher Education (2015-16), Ministry of human Resource Development, Department of Higher Education, Government of India, New Delhi.

India Today (2018), ‘Hashimpura Massacre: A Timeline’, retrieved from https://www.indiatoday.in/fyi/story/hashimpura-massacre-a-timeline-1379612-2018-10-31 on 26 June’ 2019.

NDTV (2019) Jharkhand Man beaten by Mob for Hours, Made to Chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’, Dies, retrieved from https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/jharkhand-mob-lynching-jharkhand-man-beaten-by-mob-for-hours-made-to-chant-jai-shri-ram-dies-2058068 on 26 June’ 2019.

The Hindu (2018) Probe Hapur Lynching: Supreme Court, retrieved from https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/probe-hapur-lynching-supreme-court/article24682309.ece on 26 June’ 2019.

Shamsher Alam is a Ph.D scholar, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

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