Skip to main content

New danger of fascism in India: Public violence, often leading to lynching, is becoming random, spontaneous

Mohammad Naeem, lynched to death in a Jharkhand village in May 2017
on suspicion of child trafficking
By Battini Rao*
The seven-day period from June 13 to June 20, 2018 saw four Muslim men lynched at Hapur (Uttar Pradesh) and at Godda and Ramgarh in Jharkhand. The last four years of BJP rule at center have seen steep rise in the numbers communally motivated lynching, with cow protection being the most common excuse.
Lynching, which means killing of individuals by mobs, is a public crime. However, it is not listed as a separate crime under the IPC. Hence, information about it can be gained only from media and fact finding reports.
According to an analysis of media reports by web portal "India Spend", 25 Indians were killed in 60 cow related violent incidences between 2010 and 2017. Ninety seven percent of these incidences were reported after Modi govt came to power in 2014, and 84% percent of those killed were Muslim. A July 2017 report by the Observer Research Foundation found a sharp increase in cow-related violent incidences among total cases of mob violence. These incidences rose from less than 5% of cases of mob violence in 2012, to more than 20% by June 2017.
During 2018 so far, besides lynching of Muslims mentioned above, one person was killed by villagers near Satna (Madhay Pradesh) on May17, and another went into coma following serious injuries suffered during the attack. Both were accused of killing cows.
In this hideously dark scenario of threat to the life of Muslim citizens, perhaps the only bright spot was Sub Inspector Gagandeep Singh of Ramnagar, Uttarakhand,who at grave risk to his own life saved a young Muslim man on May 22 this year from a crowd baying for his blood and shouting slogans against love jihad.
Lynching has become an important tool of Hindutva popular politics. In many cases of lynching, locally-organized cow protection groups take the lead and incite mob violence against hapless victims. Hate filled messages fabricated with lies are spread on social media to gather crowds. Police is a passive accomplice, and in most cases criminal cases are filed against victims themselves under cow protection laws.
The increased lynching of minorities in the last four years is closely related to local level Hindutva bodies organizing these incidents, backed by a supportive state power. However, it needs to be underlined that, even without these two factors, individuals and communities in India face lot of violence which enjoys passive or active public approval.
Dalits have been facing caste violence for thousands of years. Even now, despite constitutional provisions many of them face every day public humiliation. Massacre of Dalits by gangs of caste Hindus at Kilevenmani, Bathani Tola, Laxmanpur Bathe, and Khairlanji are among the darkest spots in post-Independence Indian history. More recently, at Una in 2016 four Dalit youth skinning dead cattle were publicly beaten by a cow protection gang, and the video recording of the beating was widely shared as a proof of just punishment.
Brutal ethnic violence against outsiders is prevalent in many parts of the country. In March 2015, a large crowd broke open the central prison in Dimapur, Nagaland, dragged out a non-Naga man accused of raping a local woman, killed him and put his body in the town center. Indian youth face violence from their families due to choices they make in their personal life. Reply to a question in Parliament in the monsoon session of 2017 mentioned 288 cases of honour killing between 2014 and 2016.
While the lynching of minorities is largely political, and caste and ethnic violence and honour killings are social systemic, another kind of public violence, often leading to lynching, appears random and spontaneous. Since the beginning of the year incidences of such lynching have taken place in states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Asom, which otherwise show little evidence of communal lynching.
The most common excuse is suspicion of child abduction. Allegations of petty theft, witch craft, etc. are other reasons cited. Adivasis, mentally disturbed persons, migrant workers, single women and even tourists have been targeted. One media report (boomlive.in) lists 13 dead due lynching in such cases in the first half of 2018.Such violence is treated as a simple crime by state authorities. In reality, its prevalence all over India is a symptom of a deep social malaise. It indicates a very low level of opposition to violence per se in our society.
All decent human beings feel revulsion against lynching of a fellow being. However, an appropriate social corrective and a political response are also important. Democracy is not possible in a society which accepts mass violence as a norm. The first condition of democracy is respect for basic rights of all citizens, which involve no bodily harm to anyone, except in special circumstances, and after a due process.
On the other hand, a society which accepts different kinds of social systemic and random violence as routine, can become an easy prey to fascism. Fascism is anti-democratic precisely because it does not accept the first condition of democracy, and uses violence as a political tool against selected social and political groups. If fascism is made easy by mass acceptance of violence, its success legitimizes violence and further lowers the threshold level of acceptance of violence. Hence, societies under fascism can get sucked into a vicious cycle of increasing public violence.
Since the political successes of BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is witnessing not only a degradation of institutions of democratic governance, but also degradation of public morals. The more people show acceptance of Modi-style aggressive bravado and blatant use of lies and abuse in public discourse, more they become insensitive to others; and then they also become more likely to turn into brutes at any opportunity of lynching. People of India need to be vigilant against the deadly embrace of communal fascist politics and a lynching culture.
There is a need for all Indians to stand up against any attempt at lynching and mass violence. Political parties and social organisations should make special efforts to prevent incidences of public violence. Mass campaigns, especially involving youth and students should be started against culture of violence.
All ‘cow protection’ gangs involved in terrorizing and lynching citizens belonging to minority communities and Dalits should be banned. Cow protection laws which give a legal fig leaf to such gangs should be repealed all over India. Police and courts should take an unambiguous stand against lynching and perpetrators punished at the earliest.
State should recognize specific threat to public safety from lynching and mass violence against individuals. As in the case of sexual violence, a special law should be made against lynching and given wide publicity to make people aware of legal punishments.
---
*Convenor, Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS). Contact: battini.rao@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

Young environmentalist's arrest 'sinister', even parents not told of her whereabouts

By Our Representative  The Coalition for Environmental Justice in India (CEJI), a civil society network, has said that it is “highly disturbing” that Disha Ravi, a young woman climate activist from Bengaluru was “picked up” in what is referred to as a “closely guarded operation” of the Delhi police. Disha, 21, has been remanded to police custody for five days after she was taken from Bengaluru to Delhi.

Mukesh Ambani's earnings during Covid 'can lift' 40% informal workers out of poverty

By Dr Gian Singh*  The Inequality Virus Report released by Oxfam, a non-profit organization, on January 25, 2021 on the growing inequalities in different parts of the world, sheds light on the growing economic, educational, healthcare and gender inequalities in India. The report has revealed that the wealth of billionaires has increased by 35 per cent during the lockdown period in the country.

US forensic revelation enough evidence to release Sudha Bharadwaj, others: Civicus

Counterview Desk  Civicus, a Johannesburg-based global alliance of civil society organisations and activists claiming to have presence in 175 countries with 9,000 members and working for strengthening citizen action, has sought immediate release of Sudha Bharadwaj, arrested in 2018 under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and accused of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”

Evolution of Sardar Patel's understanding of those 'involved' in Gandhi's assassination

By Shamsul Islam*  As the world mourns the 73rd anniversary of MK Gandhi's assassination by Hindutva terrorists on January 30, 1948, RSS, the most prominent flag-bearer of Hindutva politics, whose cadres rule India today, is found reacting angrily to the reality – that the criminals who assassinated Gandhiji were not only part of the ideological world-view of Hindu Mahasabha (led by VD Savarkar) and RSS brand of Hindu nationalism but were also connected with these. 

No Election Commission safeguard against electromagnetic hacking of EVM: Study

Counterview Desk  Releasing a new study simultaneously in Chennai and Kolkata in view of the forthcoming elections in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the Citizens’ Commission on Elections (CCE) – a civil society initiative – has regretted “lack of integrity of EVM voting”, pointing out, the Election Commission of India (ECI) does not appear to safeguard against the possibilities of ‘side-channel attacks’, i.e, hacking electronic devices through electromagnetic and other methods.

20% of FIRs against journalists in 2020 alone, targeted attacks in 2021 'too many to count'

Counterview Desk  Condemning what it calls “alarming rise in state repression and clampdown on news outlets and journalists” that “expose” the anti-people nature of the establishment, India's top civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has demanded “immediate release of arrested journalists, withdrawal of arbitrary charges and protection of media persons facing threats.”

'Viability' of agricultural cooperatives vs govt proposed pro-corporate economic model

Dr Gian Singh* The farmer struggle started from Punjab against the promulgation of three agricultural ordinances by the Union government in June 2020 and the enactment of three bills by Parliament in September 2020 to replace these ordinances is unique in many respects. There is no other example of such a peaceful and democratic farmer struggle.

Whither right to food? Social security scheme allocation for woman, child 'reduced'

Counterview Desk Pointing out that women and children have been ignored in the Union Budget 2021-22, the advocacy group Right to Food Campaign (RtFC) has said that the Government of India should have taken into account the fact that even after the lockdown was lifted, distress among marginalized communities continues, with people having lower incomes and reduced food consumption.