New Delhi, July 23: How many more dead bodies the Narendra Modi government wants to see before waking up from its slumber to stop mob lynching? Mob lynching is spreading like a wildfire across the nation and the government at the Centre is either quiet, blaming everyone else or garlanding the accused of heinous crimes.
What does it all mean? Is the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre holds no responsibility as spate of mob lynching cases is leaving bloodstains across the country?
It is convenient for Union home minister Rajnath Singh to pass the buck to the states when questioned about mob lynching. Probably, when Singh makes such careless statements he is unaware that 20 states in the country are under the rule of his party.
Moreover, most of the lynching cases were reported from the BJP-ruled states. Isn't there a larger onus on the BJP to act upon such heinous crimes against innocents? Clearly, the states have failed to act and that is why 68 people (as per a report by The Quint) have died in mob violence incidents across the country since 2015.
After running away from his responsibilities to tackle mob violence, the Union home minister during the debate on no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha on Friday stated that the 1984 anti-Sikh riots after former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's assassination is the country's "single biggest incident of mob lynching".
His statement was targeted to silence Congress president Rahul Gandhi who questioned the Modi government on mob lynching during his speech on no-confidence motion against the ruling regime.
The PM, on his part, during the no-confidence motion address just termed mob lynching as acts of violence against humanity and urged states to take strict action.
It is unfortunate that PM Modi took such a casual approach on such a serious matter, when he devoted his entire 90-minute speech on attacking and mocking Rahul and the Congress.
PM Modi has hardly spoken against mob lynching. His silence is understandable as in most cases the perpetrators of the crimes were gau rakshaks or cow vigilantes who get patronage from right-wing groups.
It is the right-wing groups who are the backbone of the BJP and the PM is trying his best to keep the party loyalists happy by not taking strict action against them.
Even when he spoke against mob lynching in the past, his statements of condemnation were always very feeble and of course, looking at the rise in mob lynching episodes it is clear nobody is listening to him.
After Singh accused the former Congress government of administrating the country's "biggest mob lynching incident in 1984", his colleague Union minister AR Meghwal when questioned by reporters regarding the latest case of lynching in Alwar, Rajasthan parroted the home minister's words.
"We condemn mob lynching but this isn't a single incident. You have to trace this back in history. Why does this happen? Who should stop this? What happened with Sikhs in 1984 was the biggest mob lynching of this nation's history," said Meghwal.
Meghwal also indirectly blamed the opposition parties for rise in lynching as popularity of "PM Modi is soaring".
"The more popular Modi ji becomes, the more such incidents will happen. During Bihar election, it was 'Award Wapsi', during Uttar Pradesh election, it was mob lynching. In the 2019 elections, it'll be something else. The incident is a reaction to Modi's schemes," ANI quoted him as saying.
Recently, the Supreme Court has strongly condemned mob lynching and termed such incidents as "horrendous acts of mobocracy". The top court has directed Parliament to draft a new legislation to effectively deal with incidents of mob lynching.
Is a new law necessary to act upon such crimes, when we have enough rules to stop mob from killing anyone, even if the person is a dreaded terrorist?
Experts urge that more than a new law, which will give the ruling government more time to wash its hands of the crime, what is needed is the implementation of existing rules, better policing and unbiased investigations.
Don't we have Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code to punish people for murder? We also have Section 153 A to deal with hate and communal crimes? The victims of mob lynching were mostly Muslims who were targeted by Hindu men in the name of cow protection.
In the recent times, many were lynched over rumours of child-lifting. The mob lynching episodes are the results of fake news on social media, especially on WhatsAPP.
According to an investigation by The Indian Express, a total of 27 people were killed in nine states in 12 months on suspicion of being child-lifters. The mob in all these violent episodes came together as they got fake news on their WhatsApp accounts.
While the government has asked Facebook-owned WhatsApp to come up with effective solutions to curb fake news, observers opine that it is not social media but the lynch mob that is the real problem.
The current social and political atmosphere in the country is also responsible for hate crimes as many in the government itself have given tactical support to the blood-thirsty mob that is ready to kill in the name of cow.
The garlanding of eight convicts of a lynching episode in Jharkhand recently by Union minister Jayant Sinha is another example of the BJP's "soft-corner" for lynchers.
Despite the minister and the BJP facing flak from various corners over the garlanding event, neither the BJP nor the minister is sensitive enough to ask for an apology.
The deaths of Akbar Khan in Alwar, Rajasthan on July 20 after he and his friends were attacked by a mob on suspicion of being cow smugglers and an unidentified woman in Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh who was again killed by a mob on suspicion of being a child-lifter on July 21 are the two latest incidents of lynching.
How many gory episodes of lynching would be played out on television before we become too numb to react? All that the Modi government is doing in this regard is engaging itself in blaming "others"--sometimes it blames the Opposition, sometimes social media and sometimes liberals.
In all these years, since Mohammad Akhlaq of Dadri, Uttar Pradesh was killed by a Hindu mob for allegedly storing meat in his refrigerator in 2015, episodes of lynching continue to repeat with an alarming rate across the country and each time the details of the case is scarier and gorier than the previous ones.
If the spate of mob violence continues, a day is not far behind when we will be too scared to step out of our homes. Congress leader Shashi Tharoor has been criticised for his observation in his latest column for The Print, but he sounds so true when he stated that "it seems safer in many places to be a cow than a Muslim."
Or when Shiv Sena's boss Uddhav Thackeray hit out at the BJP and said that "women are not safe and you (the BJP) are protecting cows", his comments resonated with the people, especially women and girls.
The BJP and its supporters may not like senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai for his critical views on the government but this tweet by him lays bare what needs to be done to tackle mob lynching.
"Help me understand this: man is lynched to death, liberals are blamed, Bollywood is blamed, not in my name protestors are blamed. How about now targeting the real culprits: the lynch mobs, the cops, the hate mongers, and all those responsible for law and order! Then, let's talk!," wrote Sardesai on Twitter.
Help me understand this: man is lynched to death, liberals are blamed, Bollywood is blamed, not in my name protestors are blamed. How about now targeting the real culprits: the lynch mobs, the cops, the hate mongers, and all those responsible for law and order! Then, let’s talk!— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) July 22, 2018
If the government still refuses to act then once again after a mob will assault one more Akbar Khan (the latest victim from Alwar, Rajasthan), the police instead of immediately taking the victim to a hospital will do everything else--like enjoying tea, giving shelter to cows and even beating the injured man-- to ensure that the victim dies before he gets treatment.
Or we will get to see more viral images like that of a severely injured Qasim (another victim of mob lynching from Uttar Pradesh's Hapur) who was dragged by a group of people in presence of policemen.