The truth behind India’s ‘Lynching’ issue

“Lynching” is the buzzword associated with India among the chatterati ever since May 2014. If our left-liberal elites are taken at face value, the entire country is in the grip of majoritarianism-fuelled mob lynchings, with the tacit approval of the Narendra Modi led ‘right-wing’ BJP Government.

But does data bear out this narrative, which has been repeated ad-nauseam in mainstream media circles, especially English-language outlets which are managed by the liberal vanguard?

Certain incidents of mob violence are selectively highlighted by Indian elites, but a far-far larger number are relegated to the anonymity of the inside pages, or left for the humble Hindi/regional language press to cover.

For eg., many anglicized urbanites would be surprised to know that 9 Hindus were ‘lynched’ in a recent 10-day period (18-27 July) in Delhi-NCR & Bihar alone:

Delhi-NCR

  • Kulkaran, the son of a Haryana SPO (Special Police Officer), was beaten to death by a dhaba owner who accused him of theft, whereas the victim’s family claim that the issue was related to overcharging by the dhaba.
  • 15-year-old, Sahil, a drug addict, was beaten to death when he trespassed into his neighbour’s house.
  • A 22-year-old Hindu youth was thrashed to death when found trying to scale the roof of a neighbour’s house during a power outage.
  • Harish Jatav (28) was badly thrashed by a Muslim mob after he accidentally hit a Muslim woman with his bike. He died 2 days later in a Delhi hospital.

Bihar

  • Nabdu Manjhi was beaten to death by Awadh Chaudhari and others over a minor dispute.
  • A woman was beaten to death by a mob who accused her of being a witch & of killing a 2-year-old.
  • 2 Hindu & 1 Muslim cattle thieves were beaten to death by villagers.
  • 1 bank robber was thrashed to death.

None of these cases made it to the front pages of leading English-language newspapers like Times of India, Indian Express or became topics for 9 PM talkshows on NDTV, CNN-News 18 etc. Unlike the intense media spotlight on the case of Tabrez Ansari, a thief who was beaten by villagers who caught him in the act, and who died a few days later while in police custody.

So now that we have established the selective coverage over these mob violence cases by the dominant liberal elite, the question still remains – does India have a ‘lynching’ problem? The short answer – yes. But the reasons driving this lawless mob justice are not the ones liberals would like us to believe, and neither is this a recent phenomenon.

Origin of ‘Lynching’

But first, let’s digress a bit. Why did the word ‘lynching’ gain such prominence in recent years? Words and their usage is never innocent, especially when it comes to a savvy, globally-dominant, left-liberal intelligentsia rooted in the idea of Western Universalism.

The verb ‘lynching’ comes from the phrase Lynch Law“, a term for a punishment without trial which was coined in America in the 1780s. Although such extrajudicial punishment via mob violence was not necessarily an American invention – it had its antecedents in Britain.

Blacks and other ethnic minorities (Latinos, Chinese, even Italians) were the primary targets of the White lynch mobs. The lynchings were usually carried out by well-organized vigilante groups like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) as a means of enforcing White supremacy, and had the backing of mainstream politicians especially in Southern US. Many lynchings were carried out as public spectacles with victims being hung in front of thousands-strong cheering crowds.

Lynching was also a common punishment in America for horse and cattle rustlers (thieves) in the 19th century. At times, prisoners were dragged from jail by a lynch mob and executed.

Ironically, lynchings increased dramatically after the American Civil War (1861-65) and after slavery had been supposedly abolished. It is estimated that ~ 5000 people (mostly African Americans) were lynched in US between 1882-1968. Racism & the notion of White Supremacy was so mainstream in the U.S. till even 50 years back, that postcards of lynchings were popular souvenirs.

Postcard of the 1920 Duluth, Minnesota lynchings (Source: Wikimedia)

After many blacks fled to the North, hostilities flared up in Northern cities too and lynchings exploded dramatically in places like Chicago in the 1920s. The last recorded fatal lynching in the U.S. occurred in 2011.

So “lynching” is a powerful word in the American context and triggers painful historical memories for African-Americans. Hence, the word has been carefully transplanted by liberals to manufacture parallels between the White supremacist organized violence against African-Americans, and the alleged Hindutva violence against minorities & Dalits – we can call this wordplay a part of the Afro-Dalit project to paint Dalits as the ‘Blacks’ of India and non-Dalits as India’s ‘Whites’, as Rajiv Malhotra has so pertinently observed in his book ‘Breaking India’.

Association of ‘lynching’ with a Modi-led India is aimed at evoking a repugnant response among ordinary Westerners along the lines of “See, what White extremists did to Blacks in America, is today being done by Hindu extremists to Muslims, Christians & Dalits in India”. The goal is to further demonize Hindu Dharma in the West.

Mob Violence/’Lynchings’ in pre-2014 India & other countries

Mob violence is sadly a part of life in India. And it has been so from pre-Independence times. In fact, one can make a strong case that while earlier such violence was largely targeted against socio-economically weaker groups, today it is more randomized with many ‘upper’ caste victims too. While earlier, certain triggers would often lead to full-scale riots, today law enforcement has been conditioned to quickly stop majoritarian backlash.

We must also remember that unlike lynchings in early twentieth century USA which were a calculated weapon of political intimidation & culminated in public hangings, most lynchings in India are spontaneous. At times, an initial act of self-defence (like catching a thief) transforms into mob violence where the victim is eventually handed over to police, but later succumbs due to lack of proper care in jail/Government hospital.

Analysing the cases of mob violence, the most common causes turn out to be theft, road rage, child abduction rumours. So called ‘cow lynching’ by vigilante cow protection activists are actually only a tiny fraction of these cases, and Love Jihad (sexual grooming of non-Muslim women) incidents have not resulted in any lynching death despite massive propaganda to the contrary.

If we look at other nations with history similar to India, and which are at a similar stage in their modern development lifecycle, we find that the phenomenon of mob violence exists there too. For eg., Bangladesh is grappling with the exact same problem – it has witnessed 826 people killed in mob beatings between 2011 and June of 2019, i.e. an average of 2 people ‘lynched’ each week. A shocking 7 people have been murdered this year by mobs over the scarcely believable rumour of ‘human heads being collected for the construction of a bridge’.

Note: the mob violence epidemic in Muslim-majority Bangladesh does not include the targeted & institutionalized violence against the Hindu minority – via land grabbing, sexual assaults etc. – that is causing 774 Hindus to leave the country each day to escape the religious persecution & discrimination.

But there is no sensationalization of the mob violence issue in Bangladesh, so editorials there make much more sense compared to their Indian counterparts. Sample this

“Mob violence is the tip of a larger iceberg of public discontent, and to address that, we should start asking the right questions and addressing them one by one. Restoring the people’s confidence in the criminal justice system is the first step in that direction.”

Research by Bangladeshi academics quoted in this article, also hones in on the root cause behind mob violence –

“If we look at the trends of mob justice, we notice that most of these incidents happen in newly developed urban areas and also in impoverished, difficult to reach areas. The reason behind this is, in such poorly planned urban environments, people from heterogenous socio-economic backgrounds suddenly start to live together creating a sense of insecurity and mistrust. On the other hand, in remote, impoverished areas, people don’t have access to the judicial system. When corruption and procrastination in the judicial and law enforcement agencies add to this existing tension, people start to take the law into their hands”

“People often flog people to death on suspicion of robbery and theft…people take collective decision of killing someone all of a sudden when they lose faith in the legal system and efficacy of the law enforcement agencies”

Similar conclusions can be drawn to explain the phenomenon of mob violence in India too. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that improving the efficacy of the criminal justice system is the foremost step one needs to take to tackle this menace. We don’t need new laws – the existing laws against homicide need to be implemented rigorously and in a time-bound manner, without the distortions & biases introduced by vote-bank politics.

Judiciary and police both need urgent reform. India is one of the least policed countries in the world, with police-population ratio of 136.42 police personnel per one lakh population compared to others like Italy (549.9), Japan (199.8), New Zealand (187.0), Spain (313.0), USA (223.6). Our courts have a backlog of 3.3 crore cases. Supreme Court itself has a backlog of around 60,000 cases, yet it routinely fast-tracks relatively trivial issues considered important by the chattering liberal elites.

If we are really concerned about lynching, this is the area we should be focusing on and asking questions of the Government, and of our bureaucracy & judiciary. The rest is just noise created by vested interests.


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