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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 30 New Delhi July 13, 2019

Lynching in Post-Election West Bengal

Saturday 13 July 2019, by Arup Kumar Sen

Barely a month after the publication of results of the parliamentary elections, a draconian act of lynching took place in the Maldah district of West Bengal. A Muslim youth, who was beaten up by “few of his acquaintances” on June 26, 2019, died of his injuries later. Reportedly, Sanaullah Sheikh, in his early twenties, was called to Baishnabnagar market, about a kilometre from his village. It is reported in The Hindu (quoting an official source): “He was asked to start a bike so that he could be framed as the one stealing it. He was then thrashed by five or six persons, who could be identified from a video.”

Sheikh used to live with his three children, wife and mother and was “largely unemployed”. Locals alleged that Bappa Ghosh, associated with the CPI-M earlier and now attached to the BJP, led the mob. However, the BJP MLA of Baishnabnagar, who won the seat in the 2016 Assembly polls, said that Mr Ghosh “is associated with the Trinamul Congress”. (See The Hindu, June 30, 2019)

The above incident of violence reminds us that a migrant Muslim labourer from a village in Maldah, Mohammad Afrazul, who worked for 20 years in Rajasthan, was allegedly hacked and burnt to death by a man in far-away Rajasthan in 2017. The attack was filmed on video, which shows the victim pleading for his life. The memory of that violence is still fresh in the village of Afrazul. On the eve of the parliamentary elections in the Maldah district in April this year, Afrazul’s wife, Gulbahar Bibi, who lives in her one-room house, asked: “The video is still there. People in the village still see it. I don’t know what wrong he did, but I keep wondering was it his religion that killed him?” Reportedly, “it is not just this village, but surrounding areas as well where the fear of losing a loved one has made families call their sons home”. (See Business Standard, April 20, 2019) In its landmark judgement (July 17, 2018), the Supreme Court Bench of Dipak Misra, the then Chief Justice of India, and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud observed: Lynching is an affront to the rule of law and to the exalted values of the Constitution itself. We may say without any fear of contradiction that lynching by unruly mobs and barbaric violence arising out of incitement and instigation cannot be allowed to become the order of the day...Extra judicial elements and non-State actors cannot be allowed to take the place of law or the law enforcing agency.

The tragedy lies in the fact that the “constitutional morality” preached by the Supreme Court Bench fails to give protection to the poor targets of lynching and their families.

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