“Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice”
~ Henry Louis gates
We as citizens of this democratic country have always been told about the power and unity that a group holds which a single person cannot ever think of. But the question that pops up in my mind and which we tend to ignore is what if the power is destructive? In whose hands this destructive power lies with? Is this power is directed to achieve the bigger goals stated by Grundnorm; the Constitution? Now it’s the time to have a look into the disruptive character of the „mob and have some deep insights regarding the same.
Our society is gradually developing to become the superpower which is rather physical than mentally developed society. The destructive superpower: Mob Lynching has gathered a lot of public attention in the past few years. In layman terms, it can be defined as 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; hereby negating the concept of Rule of Law which is indirectly been highlighted by our Constitution. Incidents in which a rape accused lynched in Assam to the 2015 Dadri Lynching we observe that this brutal power is skyrocketing which is adversely affecting our society.
In the absence of any law on lynching in India, I will try to take you to its historical roots. In the year 1896, the State of Ohio, became the first governmental body which threw light on the definition of “lynching” They ruled that “any act of violence exercised by a mob upon the body of any person shall constitute lynching.” The lynching period was seen from 1880 to 1930 in the United States. This was considered as a period of subjugation of blacks by whites led Mark Twain to remark “The United States of Lyncherdom”. Around 2500 Blacks were brutally assassinated - a rate of roughly one mob killing every week for five decades.
In order to understand more about mob lynching, it is imperative to throw light on the psychology of individuals. According to Le Bon, the earliest and main exponent of “crowd behaviour” explained that an individual under the garb of mob acts like a hypnotized person who is no longer conscious of his act and his acts are not guided by his own free will, but by the sum total of group minds which he defines as “crowd behaviour.”
Constitutionally speaking, Mob lynching is certainly the erosion of our right to life defined under Article 21 of the Constitution. It is playing effectively role by preventing the citizens from presenting their point of view as protected by the Constitution. Lynching is sometimes used interchangeably with mobocracy but lynching is not mobocracy as it is a collective hate crime. Lynching takes place because of some vested interests of those people who create an atmosphere of hatred and violence amongst the nations. They tend to take law and justice in their own hands due to their loss of faith in the judicial system as it has remained silent where it was imperative to take some actions. But it is important to understand that the rule of law cannot be sullied just because some people want to take law in their own hand and mold it in the way they like.
Some people try to justify mob lynching through the concept of utilitarianismgiven by Bentham, which works on the principle “greatest happiness for greatest number”. Then mob lynching would be justified, but this is again a flawed argument. If this is assumed as correct approach then the whole concept of living a free and individual life would be in abyss. India is a country with unity in diversity, but it may be concluded that some people are not satisfied with their golden bird being united.
There are some reasons which cause mob lynching in India, some are given under:
Mob lynching has no face; their impunity is what leads them to take extreme steps.
Political mobilization which uses mob for its own benefits and gains.
A culture of hatred, indifferent attitude towards one another culture and religions , causes rise in mob lynching
Rumors, hate speeches communicated through social media and their influence on the people have caused a big rise in the crime of mobilizing people.
After all this, some questions are still left unanswered. “Has human life become so cheap that a mob sees no wrong in killing human beings over a rumor?” Do people need to interfere for effective delivery of the justice?
The need of the hour is for the enactment of robust laws by the Parliament to control the menace of Mob Lynching which is acting as a deterrent in the development of the country. Also there is a requirement of better implementation of the existing laws on Mob Lynching. We have to understand that Mob can do great work if proper direction and goal is given to them. The great revolution in the history was of course done by mob but with proper set of goals and like-minded thinking not for some racial or political agenda of others to fulfil.
We call India as land of diverse people but I think that these diverse people in the hunger for satisfying themselves are taking law in their hands. They have made our federal country as a land of barbarians mentioned by Hobbes in his social contract theory. Mob lynching is not the crime only against an individual but it is the federal crime which is being done against the Constitution of our country.
Mob violence has spread like an epidemic in Indian society. The challenge, ultimately, is not of law only, but of our collective conscience and to humanity, at large. In the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Gautama Buddha, the preachers and practitioners of non-violence, it is agonising to see the innocent people falling prey to the death-plots laid down by vultures.
Fourth pillar of our democracy: Media has become the messenger of deaths. Fake news has taken lives of many. Now the time has come for the Indians to stop the rise of mob lynching and upholding the rights and dignity of an individual as protected by the Grundnorm of India.
The Indian government for the very first time has come up with the NCAML's draft Protection from Lynching Act, 2017, for the first time in Indian legal history which defines the terms "lynching", "mob" and "victim" of mob lynching. It makes lynching a non-bailable offence, criminalises dereliction of duty by a policeman, criminalises incitement on social media, and stipulates that adequate compensation be paid, within a definite time frame, to victims and survivors.
“It cannot be denied that lynching killings are a major menace which being done on the basis of religion, race, caste, creed, historical and other bias, it has destroyed too many lives to be ignored. Around 2000 people have lost their lives in the last decade due to mob
lynching. It affects the public‟s confidence and faith in the judiciary; upholding law and order. Therefore, we cannot ignore it anymore. Reforms in law and administration are needed on a large scale to counter them. There is a need for a specialised law- on the lines of MASUKA complemented with reviving the Anti-Communal Violence Bill. There is also a need promote social inclusiveness via laws, as seen in The Maharashtra Protection of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016.There is also an urgent need to usher in police reforms. It will ensure better tackling of this menace in the future.”
Since the role of the government has been changed from the police state to a welfare state, the current government needs to take further steps and take pre-emptive action against such evils.
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Manmeet Singh Monga,
Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab.
(Images used for representative purpose only)