How many more Rakbars have to die before #LynchRaj stops trending?

New Delhi: India – or should we say ‘Lynchistan’ – has seen a rapid rise in lynching cases since 2014. From Mohd Akhlaq, who was lynched for keeping meat in his refrigerator, to Junaid, who was killed on board a train for sporting a beard, angry mobs can be spotted almost everywhere in India.

Even Mehul Choksi, promoter of Gitanjali Gems and accused in the Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank scam, sought cancellation of non-bailable warrants issued against him citing recent trend of mob lynching.

This growing mob justice system can be traced back to the pre-Independence cow protection movement which led to the first ever communal riot in India. Hindus were prohibited from selling the ‘holy cow’ to Muslims, as the community began to be portrayed as a threat to ‘Hindu’ India and its religious symbols such as the cow, according to a news report.

What’s disheartening is that nothing much has changed since then. What’s worse is the impunity enjoyed by these lynch-mobs, composed primarily of men of all age groups, brought together by rumours floated on social media and platforms like WhatsApp.

Although the Supreme Court has suggested that a law be enacted specifically to deal with the “new normal” of lynchings, the big question remains: Since the miscreants are no longer afraid of the law-enforcing machinery, will a new law make any difference?

Last year, a Muslim dairy farmer called Pehlu Khan was attacked and killed by scores of Hindu cow vigilantes on a highway in Rajasthan, while in June two Muslim men were lynched in eastern Jharkhand state on charges of cattle theft.

On June 18, a 39-year-old Muslim cattle trader, Qasim and 65-year-old Samiuddin were beaten up by a mob in Hapur’s Bajhera Khurd village. While the former succumbed to his injuries, Samiuddin was discharged from the hospital only on July 14.

In another case, Mohammad Azam, a UK-educated Accenture employee, died on July 13 after being beaten up by Hyderabad villagers crazed with WhatsApp rumours of kidnappers. The 32-year-old software engineer was dragged face down through a muddy field with a rope tied to one hand.

Most recently, Rakbar Khan, a 31-year-old Muslim man, was beaten to death by a group of so-called cow vigilantes on Friday night in Lalawandi village in western Rajasthan state while transporting cattle.

Cow slaughter is a contentious issue in India with many states, including Rajasthan, outlawing the practice. Some have also banned the sale or transport of beef products.

Here’s how twitter is reacting to rising number of lynchings in the country: