Many people were lynched over the past couple of months
in the country on suspicion of child lifting and cow smuggling
. Most recently, a group of villagers killed a man allegedly on the suspicion of cow smuggling in Rajasthan's Alwar district.
The insensitiveness shown by the Rajasthan Cops, in this case, is breathtaking as they arranged for vehicles to take the seized cows to a shelter, visited the police station - a stone's throw from the hospital -- and even stopped for tea before getting medical help for the injured man. By the time they did, he was dead!
Earlier when five men in Maharashtra's Dhule district were killed on suspicion of child lifting, the Centre asked all states and Union Territories to look into the cases of mob lynching
fuelled by rumours of child lifting circulating on various social media platforms. But the country comes to a standstill as it is unable to control these malicious mob lynchings
In another case, two incidences of mob lynchings
in Maharashtra and Tripura villages triggered by social media posts inflicted fear in the civil society. Five nomads seeking alms were lynched in a far-off village in Maharashtra whereas, an announcer was killed for delivering a message from the government urging people not to believe in the roumours about child lifters in the state of Tripura.
Yet, irrespective of whether the lynchings are due to fear of abductions or are deliberate acts by cow protection vigilantes, the authorities should not treat the crime of murder and the allegations that infuriate a mob with the same equivalence. The police must make it clear, by word and action, that murder and mob violence will be strictly dealt with.
The administration must also deal with a new challenge: the use of social media, especially WhatsApp groups and forwards, to spread fear and panic. The responses such as investigation and Internet shutdowns are not just possible, that too in a free society. An administration that reaches out to local communities to keep them in the loop in order to check trouble-makers is the need of the hour. It should also convey sufficient good faith so the people will trust it to keep peace and letting them examine real threats, weed out facts from the rumours will be of great help to the community and the other civilians.
However, murder is murder but the killing of another human being by a murderous crowd out to enforce mob justice or prevent an imagined crime takes an extraordinary toll of the courtesies of wider society. It will take determined action by the administration and the political leadership to regain control of the situation. But the way the cops have dealt with the situation is deeply condemnable and outrageous.