The media is talking about it. The politicians are talking about it. The judiciary is talking about it.
Mob lynching is ‘trending’ in India. It has become the new normal. And statistics paint a grim picture. Mob lynching incidents have seen a quantum jump since the BJP took over the reins of the government in Delhi.
Cow-related violence was responsible for less than 5 per cent of incidents of communal violence in 2010. In 2017, it grew to 20 per cent. According to India Spend website, 25 persons were killed in 60 incidents of cow-related mob violence from 2010 and 2017, and 97% of these occurred after BJP forming its government.
84% victims Muslims
84% of those killed in cow-related mob lynching incidents were Muslims. The remaining 16 per cent were Dalits and other marginalised sections.
It is important to note that the country has not witnessed a single major communal riot since the BJP came to power. Pogroms like Nellie (1983), Delhi anti-Sikh riots (1984), Bhagalpur (1989), Mumbai (1992-93), Gujarat (2002) and Muzaffarnagar (2013) seem to have become a thing of the past. But that does not mean the demon of communalism has been slain. In fact, it is mightier than ever.
Riots and elections
It is a well-known fact that the party or the group that represents – or purports to represent – the majority community, is the greatest beneficiary of communal violence. It was the the Jansangh earlier, and it is the BJP since 1984. Many studies have shown that the Jansangh and the BJP reaped rich electoral dividends in areas where riots took place.
However, the saffron brotherhood no longer needs rivers of blood to expand and retain its popular base. Low-intensity violence and venom-spewing speeches are as effective. They can keep the communal pot boiling and unlike major riots, do not draw the attention of international media and global human rights watchdogs.
It would be naïve to believe that lynchings are spontaneous acts of mobs blinded by rage. The fact is that they are the outcome of social common sense, built assiduously over the years.
Is it a mere coincidence that virtually all the victims of mob lynching incidents in India recently were either Muslims or Dalits or members of the nomadic tribes?
Are upper caste Hindus not into cattle rearing, trade and transport? They definitely are. But why are they not being lynched? The answer to this question will require some elaboration.
Noam Chomsky, in his epoch-making book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media describes how successive US regimes used the media to ‘manufacture consent’ for their acts of aggression. ‘Danger of Communism’ was used to obtain popular consent for the invasion of Vietnam and ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’, of Iraq. Chomsky’s another brilliant formulation is about ‘Thinkable thought’ and ‘Unthinkable thought’.
Cut to India. Thanks to the massive and sustained propaganda unleashed by the saffron camp through its network of Saraswati Shishu Mandirs, its rabidly-communal leaders and of course, through the co-opted media, ‘Muslims are terrorists’ has become a “Thinkable thought’ while ‘Hindus can be terrorists’ is an ‘Unthinkable thought’. This, despite the fact that all the three major political assassinations in Independent India (Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi) were commissioned and executed by the Hindus (the BJP always claims that Sikhs are also Hindus).
The misconceptions about Muslims that have become a part of the social common sense range from all terrorists are Muslims to ‘Hum Do Hamare do, woh Paanch Unke Pacchees’ to Muslims being beef-eaters, cow-slaughterers, responsible for partition and loyal to Pakistan. They are also projected as oppressors of the Hindus and the demolisher of temples in history.
And that is why; Hindus can slaughter cows is an ‘Unthinkable thought’ while Muslims can and do slaughter cows is a ‘Thinkable’ one. This translates into only Muslims being selectively targeted for barbaric murders by self-appointed Gau Rakshaks.
Mob lynching relies on rumours to mobilise crowds to unleash violence. These rumours are designed to turn ordinary humans into members of blood-thirsty lynch mobs.
Mob lynching is also the outcome of a belief that the state is unable or unwilling to dispense justice. The lynch mobs want instant justice, without investigating into the guilt of the victim, and the punishment meted out by them is as inhuman as possible.
Selective enforcement of law
In cow-related mob lynchings, the state has played a role of selective enforcer of law – the survivors of the violence are booked under stringent provision of anti-cow slaughter legislation. But it is a reluctant prosecutor of those involved in the much more serious crime of lynching. This appears to be so as the targets are primarily Muslims.
The BJP leaders and ministers defend those accused of lynching with impunity.
The eleven persons convicted for murder by the trial court in the case of lynching of Alimuddin Ansari were felicitated by Union Minister Jayant Sinha, after they were let out on bail by the High Court. BJP leaders and ministers backing the accused, send out a clear signal to the law enforcing agencies as to how they must investigate such crimes and prosecute the perpetrators. The state seems to be twiddling its thumbs and sending out an implied message that it is alright to lynch Muslims.
Lynchings of blacks in US
Lynchings of blacks in the US from 1877 to 1950 were meant to assert the hegemony of white people and to terrorise black people into submission. All those lynched were black people. To the white residents of the ‘oldest democracy of the world’, blacks did not deserve any trial, as they were slaves of yore. They deserved only lynch mob justice. Virtually no one was punished for lynchings in the US for 4,084 cases of known lynchings in the southern states. The Civil Rights movement put an end to these horrific crimes.
Savarkar and Golwalkar, the ideologues of Hindutva political ideology, portrayed Muslims and Christians as outsiders, with whom the Hindu nation was supposed to be at perpetual war. Golwalkar, in his We or Our Nationhood Defined advocated treating the Muslims and Christians in the same way as Jews were treated in fascist Germany.
Earlier communal riots and now lynchings seem to be a part of the war of the followers of Hindutva political ideology against ‘outsiders.’
Democracy at stake
Clearly, mob lynching is unacceptable in any civilised society. It is rule of might, not right.
It must be clearly understood that lynchings are not only about deaths and injuries. They are also about democracy, rule of law and justice. And selective lynchings are even worse. They point towards a mentally sick nation.