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How Mobs and Lynchings become handmaiden to anarchy?

By M A Mufazzal

The outdated culture of vigilantism or mob lynching, newly imported from America is now being practiced in an epidemic proportion in modern India. The tradition of mob lynching is generally associated with the killing of African Americans including women by white men in the course of Civil War and World War II, particularly between 1889 and 1918.

By exploiting this terrorizing lunacy, lynchers hanged blacks, burned them alive, or hacked them to death on the pretext of casual social transgressions such as, stealing a cow, arguing with a white man, or attempting to register to vote. While the findings of most accounts of time suggest that, in almost eighty percent of the cases there were no sexual charges alleged, let alone be proven.

At times when mobs were on rampage and lynchings became common in America, in his open letter “mobs and lynchings are the handmaidens of anarchy” President Roosevelt noted that “Mob violence is one form of anarchy and that anarchy is a forerunner of tyranny”

Now by and large, through organized slaughter of a particular community or the other, the same model in addition with other traditional forms of brutalities came into practice in modern India, probably to elude law enforcement as mobs possess no identity. In recent past, the cases of lynchings with no further proper handling imply a steady inching towards ochlocracy that has much often been equated with tyranny of the majority.

Hardly proven justifications for lynchings in India, are also so nearly the same as were in the case of African-Americans, such as stealing children in the case of Jharkhand, eating beef in Dadri lynching, smuggling cows in Alwar lynching, a merely 16 years teen Junaid was initially abused with religious slurs and ultimately stabbed to death in Haryana and in the most recent Hapur incident, just after a 45-year-old man Qasim was lynched to death, a 65-year-old was brutally assaulted by lynchers and forced to confess to having slaughtered a cow. Theoretically analyzing the lynching tragedy in his book “Popular Injustice: Violence, Community, and Law in Latin America” Angelina Snodgrass Godoy points out that lynch violence often erupts in response to non-criminal acts, suggests that it is not crime or criminality per se that are at its root.

Lynching culture in India has been internalized through a complex dimensions involving religio-political and socio-economic, to which populism seems to be instrumental. Economic frustration and alarming rise in youth unemployment lead a large flock united into the hands of populists, to be used for their political ambitions. At times, this religiously or otherwise radicalized on the bench flock turns into an excited mob, where individuality loses itself in the unity of all and consequently a serious drama of death and pain takes place.

Religious fervor and divine retribution intertwined with economic frustration and further aggravated by right wing populist the culture of mob lynching is increasingly becoming a new normal in our land. Much to the disappointment of believers in law and order all these high-handling and disregarding of law and order are done in the presence of police and authorities whether be it the case of Jharkhand lynching where police remained merely a mute spectator or Hapur incident, a picture went viral where a group of policemen were seen escorting men dragging the body of lynch victim. In the Indian context, the most ironic aspect of this deadly play is administrative mal activism as the police books the victims instead, as was in the case of Alwar lynching. For lynchers, thus law and order by no means a check on them, but instead a helpful and inadvertent permissibility of vigilantism. Adverten or inadvertent permissibility of mob violence is by all means a compromise with criminal justice system that might in turn, by further brutalizing the youths apparently involved in mob criminalities, give way to anarchism.

All stakeholders and authorities must be well convinced that lynching is rather a potential threat to the safety and security of a society and lethal blow to any thriving system or institution.


The author is a Research Fellow at Jawaharlal Nehru University he can be reached at Email:

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