Lynching means to illegally kill a person suspected of an offense without a trial, often by a public mob. In the past few years, incidents of mob lynching rose in India. Religious polarization and fake social media news are the two main drivers of increased lynching in India. This article explores nine facts about lynching in India and provides measures to prevent it.
9 Facts About Lynching in India
- Data on Lynching in India: The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) collects and publishes data on the crime incidents happening in India within a year. The NCRB does not collect or publish any data on lynching incidents although there is a distinct category in the report for the same. The NCRB reports these incidents as murder. Media sources claim that incidents of lynching are on a sharp rise under the current right-wing government of India. Journalists reported 20 incidents between May and June 2018 alone.
- Causes of Lynching in India: Most of the lynching in India occurred in response to the Indian government’s cow protection and beef ban. The cow is a sacred animal for Hindus who venerate it. The Muslim population carries the beef trade in India and is generally the victim of this mob fury. Although beef comes from buffalo and not cows in India, the mobs attack and beat the drivers carrying dead animals (to death in many cases) or others involved in the trade. The recent mob lynching in India is an example of religious intolerance. The spread of fake news through social media about child abduction is another important cause of mob violence against any suspicious people.
- Lynching and Economy: An important fact about lynching in India is its effect on the economy of the country. The greatest number of attacks have been on drivers carrying dead animals, traders of beef and owners of slaughterhouses; as a result, they will tend to abandon these jobs due to fear of suffering lynching. This is sure to affect the trade and economy, especially since India is one of the largest exporters of beef in the world. The lynching will also lead to job loss and increase the rate of unemployment in India where unemployment is already at its highest.
- Lynching and Health: Lynching incidents are an issue of public health. In the short-term, lynching leads to death and injury for the victims whereas in the long-term it can lead to psychological and physiological effects on present and future generations. Studies show that higher rates of lynching in an area lead to increased rates of mortality for those communities.
- Enactment and Enforcement of Strict Anti-lynching Laws: In India, there are currently no laws dictating punishment for lynching. Therefore, the first and foremost step is for the government to introduce and pass an anti-lynching law and strictly enforce it. Given the distinct nature of the crime, it is important to make separate laws for this and not merge these incidents with other kinds of murder. The United States passed its first anti-lynching law in 2018 and India should follow the lead.
- Collection and Maintenance of Data Independent of the Government: To put control over such incidents, NCRB should make lynching a distinct category and record the number of incidents. This will give visibility to the lynching episodes and create an urgency to act. When there is no separate category for lynching, people see these incidents as unimportant and rare.
- Improve Economic Conditions and Employment Rates: Research says that there is a link between hate crimes such as mob lynching and economy. Socioeconomic status and education determine participation in such criminal acts. People living in poverty and with low educational status are more prone to both participating in lynching and becoming a victim of such incidents. Therefore, creating more jobs for the unemployed young of the country, skill development and improving their financial circumstances will divert their attention away from such heinous acts and protect them from being a victim or a perpetrator of it.
- Campaigns and Awareness: The success of Ida B. Wells (who started the anti-lynching crusade in the United States in the 1890s) and The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) movement against lynching of African-Americans in 1909 are examples to learn from and the people of India can start similar awareness campaigns against current increase in lynching incidents. Such campaigns can end religious polarization and create cultural sensitization towards mob violence.
- Control the Spread of Fake News Through Social Media: Apart from the cow protection groups, the second most important cause of lynching in India is the spread of fake news over social media regarding child abduction. People in rural areas and with low education easily believe the news they read on social media platforms and act in anger and frustration. Therefore, the Indian government needs to restrain the spread of such fake news by collaborating with social media companies and run awareness campaigns about the pros and cons of social media.
– Navjot Buttar