It’s not without reason that the Supreme Court has come down hard on states that were tardy in implementing the detailed guidelines laid down in the court’s directives on action to be taken to prevent lynchings, that have been going on for the past few years. Sheer apathy can be the only reason why there is a distinct lack of enthusiasm in the executive to act to and rein in a phenomenon that has earned the nation a terrible image abroad. It’s just not the sullying of India’s fair name though. Just imagine the fear in a person’s mind if we as a nation can’t guarantee that anyone going about his/her business won’t be lynched for any random reason — whether as the victim of cow vigilantes targeting so-called cattle smugglers or a mob gathering to take on rumoured child kidnappers.
The judges pulled up as many as 19 states for not doing enough by way of preventive measures. On the other hand, there is reason to believe the police in some states is hand-in-glove with cow vigilantes in running a virtual protection racket against those who buy and move cattle from Rajasthan’s fairs to neighbouring places. Any new law contemplated to arm the police with more teeth to handle vigilantes and lynch mobs can’t be a magic wand to stop lynchings. The proclivities of people to take advantage of the state machinery looking the other way if they act in a way detrimental to peace and harmony must be suppressed — and that can happen only if exemplary punishment is meted out to lynch mobs. The lack of clear follow-up action in police and judicial work from the first lynching in 2015 in Dadri, that led to this distressing trend, down to the last one in Alwar, is enough to spook citizens.
Messages condemning such uncivilised practices as gathering in numbers to kill strangers have come most recently from the vice-president. The President and the Prime Minister have also spoken up in this regard, raging against mobs taking the law into their own hands. But if the resolve to stop these unlawful acts is not found in the state’s law enforcement forces, people can only be seen being further emboldened in their destructive and outright inhuman behaviour, more in keeping with medieval times than a modern democracy avowing peace as a fundamental objective. If the Union home ministry and the states were serious about rooting out this evil, a panel to study and submit an action taken report on the 15 to 20 incidents of lynchings in three years would have been set up long ago. Have we become so apathetic as a nation that we can’t see the damage the lynchings are causing to the psyche of our own people?