Lynching, Mob violence & Judiciary fiat

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    Lynching, Mob violence & Judiciary fiat

    Syllabus: GS3/Extremism, Challenges to Internal Security, Various Security Agencies; GS2/ Government Policies & Interventions. 

    In News

    • The Supreme Court has recently reminded the Union and several State governments of their “consistent failure” to act against the lynching and mob violence. 
      • The Court has asked the Ministry of Home Affairs, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana to respond

    What is Mob Lynching?

    • About: It is a form of violence in which a mob, under the pretext of administering justice without trial, punishes and inflicts torture on a presumed offender, sometimes even resulting in murders.
    • Origin: The word lynching in fact originated in the United States in the mid-18th century. 
      • Historians believe that the term was first used by planter Charles Lynch to describe extra-judicial authority assumed by private individuals like him.
      • It came to be applied over time to extra-judicial killings by crowds, most commonly of African-Americans in the late 19th century.
    • Impacts: The spate of incidents of lynching over the past few years has led to a heightened sense of insecurity among the marginalised communities.

    Reasons

    • Combined effect of various factors: A combined effect of political, socio-economic, and psychological factors have led to a situation of hyper-reactivity among large populations even in rural areas and small towns. 
      • These factors which instigated the people include deep discontent and anger in rural youth populations due to the worsened crisis of agriculture and bleak employment opportunities.
    • Poor Law and order: Most lynchings have occurred in remote areas, on highways, or in the countryside. 
      • The network of law and order is generally lax in these areas and even a set of enthusiastic police personnel might not reach the location on time to prevent violence.
    • Role of social media: Smartphones and cheap internet have become a common phenomenon only after 2010. 
      • Lynchings are often fuelled by rumors spread on social media platforms.
    • Religion-based: There have been dozens of killings on the name of religion in the last few years.
      • The lynching of and mob violence against Muslims and marginalised sections by “cow vigilantes” in particular.
    • Witch-hunting: Witch-hunting was one of the reasons for mob violence, where 2000 mentally challenged women were lynched for rumours that put an allegation upon them of stealing and murdering children.

    2018 Judgment – Tehseen S. Poonawalla Case

    • In 2018, the Court, in Tehseen S. Poonawalla vs Union of India, had held that it was the “sacrosanct duty” of the state to protect the lives of its citizens and that the authorities have the “principal obligation” to prevent “vigilantism” of any kind. 
    • It had come up with guidelines that included 
      • The designation of a nodal [police] officer in each district, who, with the identification of districts/blocks/villages where mob violence and lynching have occurred in recent years, and 
      • The help of police intelligence, would work towards tackling such incidence in coordination with other government agencies. 
    • They were also to be aided by the initiative of the Home Ministry and State governments in sensitising law enforcement officials and warning the public about the consequences of engaging in mob violence or vigilantism, among other measures.

    Government initiatives to deal such mob actions

    • Creation of Nodal Officers: Central government has asked states to appoint a nodal officer in each district to prevent the incidents of mob violence and lynching.
      • As per advisory from the Home Ministry, the nodal officer should be a superintendent of police-level officers.
      • It has also asked to set up a special task force to procure intelligence reports about the people who are likely to commit such crimes or who are involved in spreading hate speeches, provocative statements and fake news.
    • Creation of Two High Level Committees: Two high-level committees were constituted by the Central government to suggest ways and legal framework to effectively deal with incidents of mob violence and lynching.
    • Awareness generation: The government through audio-visual media has also generated public awareness to curb the menace of mob lynching. 
      • The government has also sensitized the service providers to take steps to check the propagation of false news and rumours having the potential to incite mob violence and lynching.
    • Jharkhand’s Law: The Jharkhand Assembly passed the Prevention of Mob Violence and Mob Lynching Bill, 2021, which aims at providing “effective protection” of constitutional rights and the prevention of mob violence in the state.
      • The Bill defines lynching as “any act or series of acts of violence or death or aiding, abetting or attempting an act of violence or death, whether spontaneous or planned, by a mob on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, language, dietary practices, sexual orientation, political affiliation, ethnicity or any other ground”.

    Issues & challenges

    • Lynching, mob violence and “cow vigilantism” — an incorrect euphemism for criminals engaging in wanton violence against minorities for the purported reason of transporting cattle for slaughter or cattle meat.
      • Such activities still happen since the judgment and little has been done by the Union government or the States in question, especially in north India.
    • Besides vigilantism, social and economic boycott of the minority community have also taken root in States where they receive political patronage. 
    • The Court is right in issuing orders to agencies of the state in holding them to account for the non-implementation of the guidelines in the 2018 judgment. 

    Way Ahead

    • It requires no less than concerted civil society action to tackle the menace of mob violence and “vigilantism” by sensitising people towards fraternal relations with other communities and avoiding typecasting them as the “other”. 
    • In Tamil Nadu, for example, where, historically, secular and rational movements were active, such incidents are rare. 
      • And if they do occur, dominant political representatives face outrage from civil society. 
    • Preventing atrocities of the kind that mob violence wreaks on ordinary citizens cannot be left to just judicial fiat.

    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] What is the role of civil society & authorities in tackling the menace of mob violence and “vigilantism”? Enumerate the guidelines of the Supreme Court to prevent mob violence and lynching.