After two youths in the Karbi Anglong district of Assam became victims of mob lynching on June 8, 2018, there were a lot of hues and cries demanding a strong law against such incidents.
Over two years have passed since then. Did anything change?
Fifteen days after the infamous Karbi Anglong incident, a mob near Mangaldai beat another youth from Dhubri, suspecting him to be an illegal Bangladeshi national.
Over the past few years, mob lynching, which many calls ‘mobocracy’, has mushroomed in the country.
The dynamics behind such acts of violence by a mob are always difficult to decipher.
The term ‘lynch’ originated during the American Revolution, phrased as ‘Lynched Law’.
The term means to pronounce a punishment without trial. According to the dictionary, lynching means putting someone to death, especially by hanging, mob action, and without legal authority.
Lynching is an unlawful murder by an angry mob of people.
“Lynching is an unlawful activity carried out mostly by the ‘law-abiding’ people of a society under the pretext of delivering instant justice,” says Utpal Sarma, a Guwahati-based lawyer.
“Mobs are emotionally driven, and they give no heed to law and the consequences that may follow such a violent act,” he adds.
“It is one of the most barbarous activities to which the 20th-century population has adhered to without giving much thought to the centuries of evolution through which humans have gone through from its origin,” he further says.
“The basic violent instinct, which the modern men have been able to tame successfully, is unleashed during emotionally driven situations,” he adds.
Adding further, he says that the lynching of a man by a mob can never be accepted and justified in any civilised society.
“The law and order situation comes at stake whenever a mob delivers instant justice and lynch a man- no matter how guilty he is,” Sarma adds.
Dynamics of Mob Lynching
Over the past few years, there has been a rise in the number of lynching incidents in India. It is a new trend in the country, which is blindly followed by many.
When people take the law into their own hands, it can be dangerous for the victim whose life is threatened.
One cannot particularly state the reasons for mob lynching. In cases of mob lynching, it is difficult to find out whether the victim has committed a ‘certain crime’ towards a particular community or if it is the mob involved that has taken some personal revenge.
“Even though India is divided by various languages and cultures, I feel it is held together by a thread named hatred,” says Jyotish Nath, a BSc final semester student.
“Mob lynching is the outcome of hatred that a group of individuals has towards another individual or individuals,” he adds.
“Even though the reasons for lynching are different in different parts of the country, the commonest reason, however, I feel is the thought that one is superior to the other,” he further says.
“With the development in science and technology, there has been a degradation of values and emotions, and hence people are least afraid of killing someone in the name of religion, caste, creed, or even mere suspicion,” he further says.
“The failure to pronounce verdicts on time has made people believe the judiciary is a failure. People now don’t fear taking the law on their hands to deliver instant justice,” he further said.
Vulnerability is a common factor in all the victims of mob lynching. One’s religion, faith, caste and creed and, the lack of education and awareness all add up to this vulnerability.
“It is difficult to pinpoint a single reason for the rise in mob lynching in the country,” says Sushmita Bhargav, a PhD scholar.
“From what I have observed, I can only say that people are unhappy. There are illiteracy and superstitions galore, and these make things even easier for the public to react in some uncivilised manner. Many things orchestrate and catalysed mob violence,” she says.
“Most of the cases of mob lynching reflect our inner oppressed anguish, hatred and unhappiness,” she concludes.
Most of us give little thought to what we post on social media, and a lot of what we see on social media is pretty innocuous.
However, it only seems that way at first glance. What we post online has the potential to turn into something frightening and dangerous.
According to research by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Washington, the software could use the things we post on social media to predict future events.
In a paper published on Arxiv, the researchers found social media can be used to “detect and predict offline events”.
Twitter analysis can accurately predict civil unrest, for instance, because people use certain hashtags to discuss issues online before their anger bubbles into the real world.
In India, a massive fake news industry has sprung up, exercising an influence over the traditional discourse of politics and potentially becoming a security challenge.
As the debate over mob lynching in India is raging, we should understand that such incidents would not have had such a rapid and massive effect if the youth had not had access to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media that allowed the fake news industry to organise and share made-up videos and information.
The mob lynching cases over the years have directly resulted from the fake news industry spilling over from social media to the real world.
The Indian legal system processes systematically. A person accused of a crime cannot be punished immediately.
The accused must first go through a trial in a court where the judge will judge whether the person is innocent or guilty of his crime.
After the court finds a victim guilty, Offences and Punishments under the Indian Penal Code will be applied according to his crime.
People fail to understand the process of the judicial system in India as many lack education on the law.
The citizens should be taught their rights and duties given by the nation, which is a colossal failure today.
Schools do not reach the subjects of law in-depth. Many parents send their children to study engineering, medicine, and architecture for higher education. Still, these courses do not reach the subjects of law.
Many people today are not aware of what rights and duties the constitution provides them.
The people should also know that the Indian judicial system follows a systematic way of processing its orders.
Punishing a criminal is one of their major functions. However, it can take a long time to prove a criminal guilty, as a criminal is also given his right to appeal against an order by a lower court.
A criminal is punished for offences relating to rape, murder, illegal activities of cattle smuggling, animal cruelty, and those which affect the rights of another living being.
The punishments start from fine, imprisonment, and fine with imprisonment. A person will be imprisoned for life if a serious crime is committed. In extreme cases, the criminal is sentenced to death.
Mob lynching is not the way to punish a criminal.
Lynching is a serious crime as it deals with the murder of a person by an angry mob without authority.
Any person acting against the authority is illegal and can be punishable by the court.
The Indian Legal system has no definition and punishment for lynching.
There is a need for a law based on lynching, as it also falls under a crime committed against a person against the government’s wish.
Ways to Stop Mob Lynching
It is said that “a mob cannot be punished’,” unfortunately, this is very true as it is almost impossible to identify the real culprits when a mob commits a crime.
“A mob looks the same, and when there is no proper video evidence to identify every individual, how will you punish someone? Everyone will plead innocence in such a situation,” says Anowar Hussain, a Guwahati-based lawyer.
In India, every accused is given equal treatment as stated by the constitution, ‘every person has the right to equality.
A person has the right to prove his innocence in court. If a lower court passes an order stating that he has been found guilty, he can appeal to a higher court.
Similarly, even criminals are given this right to equality to prove their innocence.
Sometimes judgement can take years to come. This system of the slow process of final judgement by the judiciary is done to make a careful statement about judging a person.
It is for the benefit of all people, but some fail to understand the system.
In some cases, it leads to the anger of the people enraging them to protest and take the law into their hands, as we observed in the Dimapur lynching case in 2015.
It is not the duty of a layman to take the law into their hands and punish the criminal in the most brutal of ways.
Suppose the people are not satisfied with the functioning of the judiciary. In that case, they should approach the judiciary in another manner without violence.
Suppose individuals come together and suggest ways to mend the loopholes in the judicial system. In that case, we can have a faster and better judicial system.
But we don’t think it this way and resort to violence without thinking.
With lynching rising in India, there should be no objection to bringing in a law relating to lynching.
Lawmakers should not stand idle and place ignorance on the matter of lynching.
Under the Indian Penal Code, we have various subjects of offences spread through the list of acts by a person, such as offences against abetment, offences against murder, offences relating to religion and so on; we should also include offences against lynching as it perfectly qualifies to be included in the Indian Penal Code along with the other offences.
Studies reveal that, over the past half a decade, cases relating to mob lynching in India have drastically increased. The question is, why?
Why have people taken the law into their hands to punish the accused? Is it because the Government has not done their part in taking action against these criminals, or do the close relatives of the victims of these criminals want to take revenge by themselves?
Is there no rule of law in the nation today? The act of lynching is not the right way to deal with an accused because the accused may be an innocent person.
If this trend continues, innocent lives are the threat, as well as the behaviour of the wicked ones.
The end of the world is nearing, and if scientists are to be believed, then some 1000 years from now, there will be no earth and no humans.
They have also said that the way we are (ab)using our natural resources and making the world a concrete jungle, the end due in 1000 years may just become a reality in the next 500 years.
Brilliant, I would say. Brilliant because once everything ends, the process of evolution will restart, and again there will be an amoeba, which will undergo fission reactions, and gradually new species will evolve.
Intelligence will grow, and soon the earth will have new beasts and their new beastly attitudes.
But I hope that when humans walk again, they remain humane and do not follow their inherent animal instincts.
Too much of everything is bad, and there should always be segregation. The world is a beautiful place, and only our deeds have made it an ugly hell.
When we have evolved so much over the centuries, it is sad that we have not been able to tame our beastly and uncivilised nature.
I hope the new dawn is scripted soon, and the lynching stops once and for all.
Partha Prawal (Goswami) is a Guwahati-based journalist who loves to write about entertainment, sports, and social and civic issues among others. He is also a published author.