DC Edit | Uphold rule of law as mob lynching, hate crimes rise

India woke up to a new legal regime on July 1 that will cover the administration of criminal justice in its entirety, consigning the Raj-era laws to history in the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling the last general elections as the sign of Indian people’s unwavering faith in the country’s Constitution and democratic process. The newfound optimism about the Constitution and the new set of laws notwithstanding, a series of events in the preceding weeks have dealt a body blow to the idea of the rule of law in the country, if the reports about mob lynching and moral policing across the country offer a clue.

The latest bout started in the last week of May in Gujarat when a man was lynched for ferrying buffaloes in Gujarat. It was followed by the more gruesome one in which two cattle transporters from Uttar Pradesh were killed, and a third was critically injured on June 7 in Raipur in Chhattisgarh. Two weeks later, a 30-year-old man was killed in Aligarh on suspicion that he was an armed robber. Houses of 11 people who kept beef were demolished at government’s behest saying they were built on government land in Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh. Clashes erupted over the alleged transportation of cows for slaughter ahead of the Bakrid festival on June 15 in Medak in Telangana. Similar incidents were reported from Odisha and Himachal Pradesh.

If these were hate crimes, and the victims of murderous attacks were Muslims, the reports that have emanated from West Bengal are reflective of a breakdown of rule of law in the state. While one person was killed by a lynch mob on suspicion of theft in Jhargram district last week, more than a dozen cases of mob attack were reported from various parts of the state. And the most worrisome among them was the surfacing of a video of a man, allegedly a leader of the ruling Trinamul Congress, assaulting a couple for their ‘illicit relationship’ in Uttar Dinajpur district. The lynching of a transgender in Telangana in February this year alleging him to be a child lifter was reflective of the liberties people take with transgender people in our country for long.

Cow vigilante groups that would chase people who make a living by trading in cattle sprouted with unprecedented frequency after the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014. Several instances followed, forcing the Prime Minister to warn people against taking law into their hands. Mr Modi’s words were disregarded not only by the lynch mobs; a member of his council of ministers received and even garlanded a gang at his home when its members were released from jail on bail.

India cannot afford a repeat of the same sequence of criminal acts anymore. This nation, as Mr Modi reiterated, is bound to its Constitution. It is the job of the governments at the centre and in states to ensure that the people, irrespective of their caste, creed or religion, enjoy the fundamental rights including the right to life the statute book guarantees.

The government claims that the intent of the new set of criminal laws is to ensure justice though even well-meaning people fear it would substantially deplete people’s right vis a vis the state. A government which swears by the Constitution and the law must ensure that the law-breakers are dealt with the strongest possible way and that the arms of the state must protect the innocent citizens.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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