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Silence on lynching

The world’s largest democracy is having to cope with problems that would be deemed to belong to quite another time and clime. A major crime that has fuelled widespread fear and lynching in several parts of the country is child lifting. According to reports, more than 20 people have been lynched over the last two months on suspicion of child lifting, the latest being the killing of five men in Maharashtra’s Dhule district. The killing of two innocent persons in Karbi-Anglong last month on the mere suspicion of their being kidnappers of children is still fresh in public memory. We also have the case of two persons being lynched in Tripura on June 28.

What is beginning to cause legitimate fear in the minds of people is the kind of undesirable moral policing that has begun to play a major role in a land where the crime rate is alarmingly high and the number of policemen required to maintain law and order extremely small. This is kind of situation where the duties of the duly appointed police force can be forcibly taken over by a section of youths presuming to be competent to take over their duties. This is a development that must not be countenanced under any circumstances because we cannot permit a legally constituted force for the maintenance of law and order to be replaced by one where the incumbents choose themselves. What is somewhat amusing is that the Centre has had to ask the States and Union Territories to check mob lynching. The States and Union Territories have been asked to direct district administrations to identify vulnerable areas and conduct community outreach programmes for creating awareness and building confidence. This is a rather belated effort at controlling what should have been controlled years ago. There is a misplaced kind of importance attached to such directives. However, this is not in the least surprising, because more often than not people tend to be suspicious even of someone trying to help a child to cross a busy street.

It is worth to mention here that although there is less than a year for another general elections, lynching continue in the country unabated. Dalits and Muslims are being thrashed, harassed, beaten to death and, shamelessly, most of these incidents are being uploaded and circulated on whatsApp with impunity.

There is a need to discuss the continued horrors and the stony silence of ruling party and its organizations. The term ‘lynching’ supposedly originated during American Revolution with Colonel Charles Lynch a VA justice of the peace. Lynch ordered ‘extra-legal punishment’ for British Loyalists, hanging without a trial.

The ‘ photos ‘ of lynching reflect not only apathy of those photographing the incident but the ‘ sadistic celebration ‘ of the viewers at the site of the incident as well as those viewing on social media platforms like Facebook or YouTube. As Efe Igor in an article analysing lynching in America states (Modern cannibalism: Lynching Photography and politics of sight , posted 01-04-2015, , discussing black suffering, ” …our viewing will make us voyeurs, fascinated as well as repulsed by black suffering, but ultimately blind to the system that made these images possible. The photographs of lynching divert our gaze from the problem, white supremacy and its legacy. “Similar is the case in India where Dalits, Muslims and women are lynched very frequently asserting upper caste Brahminical domination and supremacy.

Most lynching have some sort of planning in advance. The mob gathering takes place with spread of rumours through social media or from person to person. The incidents are usually motivated by fanatic right wingers and their groups. Though upper caste forces instigate the lynching, those involved may also belong to other castes. Commercial benefits and lucrative offers to vigilantes and lynching mobs also play crucial role in executing the incidents. While scores of people have been killed in the lynching, the silence of ruling party is telling. It raises doubts whether there is a tacit approval of the rulers. In the least, the lynching are both governmental depravity and a demoralised state of society which is being taken back to a time when India was synonymous with medieval barbarity”. The powers that be have eyes but see not: they have ears but hear not and have tongues but speak not. Their silence is sanction.