As reported by NDTV, on Friday morning Self-proclaimed group of cow vigilantes bludgeoned a 25-year-old pick-up the driver, Lukaman, on suspicion of smuggling cow meat. The incident was captured on Video where Policemen can be seen observing from a distance as Lukman is being mercilessly beaten to a pulp. The perpetrators managed to chase down his truck which they had been following for 8 km. Despite the entire incident being on Video, the police registered a complaint against “unidentified individuals” and managed to arrest only one of the culprits named Pradeep.
The horrific incident brings to mind unpleasant memories of the Dadri Lynching case from 2015 where Mohammad Iqlakh was lynched to death amidst rumors of storing and consuming beef. In both the incidents, Police officials seemed more focused on sending the meat sample for testing. The owner of the transport which Lukman was driving said the meat was Buffalo and he has been in the business for over 50 years, reported NDTV.
India has witnessed a steady increase in lynchings related to cow slaughter, possession, and consumption since 2014. Cow slaughter is banned in 20 out of 28 states in India as cows are considered to be sacred animals in Hinduism. However, Vigilante groups take in upon themselves to enforce the law violently.
Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comments on how killing people in the name of Cow devotion was unacceptable BJP’s soft spot for cow vigilantes and lynching convicts is well documented. In July 2018, Union minister Jayant Sinha garlanded 8 men convicted in a lynching murder case. Vishal Tyagi, one of the prime accused in the Dadri lynching case was seen sitting and cheering at Yogi Adityanath’s Biswada rally. The BJP is now in its second ruling term but has failed to devise or enact a central law against mob lynching.
After cases of mob lynching or vigilantism is bought to notice there is short-lived public outcry for justice and stringent laws but in reality, the current provisions of IPC are sufficient to punish the culprits harshly. It is accountability and implementation on part of enforcement agencies and ruling governments that are found missing. State machinery like law enforcement and investigation departments have been biased in delivering justice to the victims of lynching and such similar hate crimes.
While pronouncing its judgment in the case of Tahseen s. Poonawala v. UOI (WP(C) No. 754/2016) the supreme court directed state governments to set up fast track courts dealing with mob lynchings, victim compensation schemes. It also suggested setting up a special task force to collect intelligence on people spreading provocative statements, rumors, and hate speeches but in vain. As of April 2020, only the states of Manipur, West Bengal, and Rajasthan have enacted laws against Mob lynching.
There is also a perception among mob-lynchers that ‘culprits’ – i.e. religious minorities who consume beef – will go unpunished and scot-free and place cow slaughter in the same line with heinous crimes like rape, murder etc. The principle of secularism is well enshrined in the Indian constitution but this is being taken for granted; the need of the hour is of intolerant secularism. As remarked by Dipankar Gupta, Secularism can only be strengthened if we insist upon some inflexible principles when it comes to citizen’s rights and due process of law. It is only then can we expect to create pressure on people who target minorities.
Until there is a realization, along with accountability, that punishing the culprit, no matter how serious the alleged crime, is not the duty of the citizens and the mob at large and in general, there won’t be a halt to lynching cases. In fact, citizens have to understand that their “benevolent” act of delivering ‘instant justice’ is nothing but in itself a serious crime and a crime cannot be and should not be committed in answer to another.