Now a Law Against Lynching

Few will fail to notice the subtle irony in the fact that the day the Supreme Court asked the Parliament to enact a separate law against lynching, the octogenarian social activist Swami Agnivesh was beaten up and sent to hospital in the BJP-ruled Jharkhand by the foot soldiers of the Hindutva brigade. The Swami was going to Litipara in Pakur district to attend a meeting organized by the Pahariya tribal community. He had invited the agitators to come and talk to him but they were in no mood for talks because their ‘mission’ was different – to make an example of the Swami. Can another law, one against lynching, change the ground reality and protect the citizens from medieval barbarism of those enjoying the protection of the powers that be?
In fact there is hardly any necessity of passing a separate law against lynching as the  Indian Penal Code has all the provisions necessary to take action against lynching: Section 302 (murder), Secs.. 351 and 355 (assault), Sec. 108 (abetment of a crime) and Sec. 120B (criminal conspiracy). The law is in the statute book, giving enough powers to the police. Despite this, citizens are being lynched to death with impunity because the criminals know they enjoy the tacit support of those in power. Enactment of another law will not change the ground reality just as the POCSO Act has not been able to stop rape of children or the amended IPC after the NIrbhaya murder, providing for sterner punishment for rape has failed to stop rape and gang rape. The social milieu encourages the rapists and lynchers. The root of the problem lies there. The problem has to be tackled at the root.
A climate of hatred is building up against the Muslims, the dalits and the tribals. The victims of lynching in most cases are these people. Those responsible for creating this climate are doing so as part of their larger political objective. It is this politics that has to be combated at the political and ideological levels – a task the secular parties have neglected for long. The targeting of Swami Agnivesh shows that the hate mongers will spare none who, they think, are obstacles in their path. As the countdown to the general elections begin, physical attacks on political leaders who oppose the hate mongers and their brand of politics are likely to rise. No law can prevent this. Only strong public opinion can.

Wednesday, 18 July, 2018