Sign of deepening malady in society

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he increasing frequency of lynching incidents in the country is symptomatic of a deepening malady in our society, which also implies a breakdown of law and order. Lynching used to happen in incidents relating to cow vigilantism, suspicion of involvement in child-lifting, or, sometimes, religious conversions. Some of the recent cases, however, show that mob violence just sets off and the provocation becomes secondary. The disease has become so endemic that there can be a lynching incident for the silliest of reasons.

In a recent such case in western UP’s Hapur district, two Muslim men were at the receiving end of mob frenzy reportedly following a road rage case. But a new video of the incident shows the victims being forced to admit their guilt of cow slaughter. Heart-rending scenes of one of the victims pleading for mercy even as the crowd drags him on the road, piloted by a policeman, must shock national conscience.

Earlier this month, we had a most unfortunate incident in which two friends, who had gone to record the sound of nature, were lynched as the mob took them for child-lifters. There is so much distrust in society that any stranger is viewed with suspicion and treated as a potential offender.

A most disturbing aspect of these lynching incidents is that most of the victims are either Muslims or Dalits, which indicates a deepening schism in society. This eats into the very vitals of our nationhood. Cow vigilantes are going about their business as if no law is above them, not even God in whose name they perform such inhuman acts. Since most of these cases have occurred in states ruled by the BJP, it is but natural that the blame would go to the dispensation under Narendra Modi.

After a long silence on the issue of cow vigilantism, the Prime Minister had expressed strongly against the abhorrent practice and had declared that it was the responsibility of the states to ensure that such incidents did not occur. But, despite all his assertions, murders are being committed in the name of the innocent cow and the marauders are going scot-free.

As we have maintained, lynching incidents point to a breakdown of law and order and those in charge of maintaining public order must squarely face the blame. The excuse that members of the mob cannot be identified is most untenable. There are court-sanctioned procedures under which parties and designated officials are held responsible in cases of mobs causing damage to public property and the same principle must be applied to lynching and other crimes by frenzied mobs because these essentially stem from a failure to enforce public order.