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Sociology of mob lynching

Since last few years, India is witnessing an unusual rising trend in crimes related to mob violence in the name of religion caste or color etc. It spread in the form of vigilantism against cow slaughter, taking a communal color with members of minority community attacked and lynched based on rumors and false propaganda through social media. According to unofficial estimates so far around 120 people have been killed through the country.

If we look up the definition of lynching (Britannica.com), it is a form of violence in which a mob, under the pretext of administering justice without trial, executes a presumed offender, often after inflicting torture and corporal mutilation. The term lynch law refers to a self-constituted court that imposes sentence on a person without due process of law.

The imposition of ban on the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter at animal markets across India, under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals statutes (26th May 2017) by Government of India sparked a new wave of cow vigilante in the country. Even after Supreme Court, suspended the ban on the sale of cattle in its judgment in July 2017, giving relief to the multi-billion dollar beef and leather industries and several states where beef is one among the primary foods, there was a rise in attacks on Muslims accusing them as cow smugglers. Several dozen innocent Muslims were killed in such mob attack just on suspicion of possessing beef.

In a common pattern, mob lynching is being instigated by some organizations or group of vicious individuals to communalize the society. These incidents are usually appearing to be sporadic in nature and often a spontaneous response from the some people who are furious over the reports of cow smuggling and slaughter. But it is misleading as it shows planned attacks just before the 2019 general elections.

The political class and bureaucracy continued to be silent spectator in spite of the fact that mob violence can seriously threaten the peace. The present political class seems to be behind the rise in the mob lynching since there is virtual inaction against the perpetrators of these crimes. Either they are let off or no cases are booked against them. They seem to have tacit approval from the ruling class making the mobs feel emboldened and strong. The political class avoids visiting the victims or their surviving families so as not to hurt their core vote bank. There is total apathy and insensitivity shown towards victims of mob lynching.

Rumors of child kidnappers proved to be another source of mob violence, where false social media posts were circulated in several states such as Odisha, Tamilnadu, Gujarat, Karnataka, Telangana, Tripura and West Bengal. This again claimed several innocent lives through numerous mob attacks. According to newspaper reports, at least 20 persons have been killed and several injured in incidents of mob violence sparked by rumors of child kidnapping in 10 states for the past few months.

The incidents of mob violence about child lifters are result of lack of public confidence in the police. Common man feels that police lack the ability and will to track down the criminals and recover the kidnapped children. According to home ministry figures there were 54,723 child-kidnapping cases in 2016, 41,893 cases in 2015, 37,854 cases in 2014. It was found that the police filed charges against the kidnappers in only 40 per cent cases in 2016 and around 23 per cent of the cases decided in 2016.

The incidents of mob lynching due to whatever reasons show that society is showing reduced sensitivity and tolerance. They are prone to false propaganda and fail to see reason backed by political class who again have ulterior motives. People lack empathy and feeling of ‘they’ versus ‘us’ is replacing the social cohesion that keeps the community together.

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