In yet another case of lynching on suspicion of cow-smuggling, a young Akbar Khan of 28 years was brutally killed. This comes just a few days after the Supreme Court of India condemned the unprecedented rise in cow vigilantism and lynch mobs across India. Post-2014 vandalism from political vigilante groups is on a rise at an ever increasing rate, against a few targeted sections of the society. A wave of political impunity has spread over the country for quite a long time now and it seems that it is getting stronger and widespread. With rapists and so called vigilantes or “gau-rakshaks” enjoying political backing, they seem fearless and unstoppable. The State, which should ideally act as non-partisan, selectively enforces the law – especially in cases of lynching. Here, the survivors are charged for the crime committed against them, while the perpetrators thrive and flourish in an environment of political impunity.
While the incidents of mob lynching have been on the rise, particularly those related to the cow, in which 84% of those killed were Muslims, what is it that the government wants to show by honouring the perpetrators? While most cases of mob violence are related to cow vigilantism, the other triggers have been rumours of child lifting and allegation of being a witch. In the latter case, victims are women. The BJP, not surprisingly but brazenly, emboldens the convicts in such cases. In the case of lynching of Alimuddin Ansari, BJP MP and union minister Jayant Sinha felicitated the eight men who were convicted by the trial court while they were out on bail. This move is not an isolated event but one among the politically motivated ones which aim to further the strategy of polarisation and strengthen the political narrative.
This open and fearless support from BJP ministers and members has also sent an encouraging signal to the police, which has increasingly been an accomplice in the wake of these targeted hate crimes. While it is expected that the law and order agency will seriously investigate and prosecute such crimes, it comes down heavily on the victims, sometimes even threatening them. In the recent Hapur lynching case, where a cattle trader was killed while the other, the elderly one, was brutally beaten by a mob, the family alleged that the police deliberately tried to file the FIR for a case of road rage rather than one of lynching. To add to the high-handedness of the police, the victim was dragged by the locals in the presence of police instead of being taken in a vehicle! The surviving – victim, accused the police of submitting a concocted witness statement.
Like ‘cow vigilantes’ there is another brand of rakshaks called the Hindu Ekta Manch, who unashamedly and with full political support, contended for the accused in the infamous Kathua rape case. The prominent faces of this group were Chaudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, both members of the BJP. Not only this, Aseem Sawhney, the lawyer of one of the accused in this case, was appointed as an Additional Advocate General of the State.
Next in line is another equally infamous Unnao case, in which BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar was accused of raping a 17-year-old girl in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district. The family levelled rape charges against the MLA in addition to police inaction and brutality, which led to the father’s death in judicial custody. It was only after the intervention of the court that he was arrested and removed.
These two cases are the prime examples of political impunity for rapists which have created a vicious scenario for rape cases in India. How do we suppose justice will be served when alleged rapists enjoy political patronage and take out rallies in favour of the accused? Who would dare to go the police when, the law enforcement agency itself hounds the victims and perpetuates hostility.
It is true that a political party form the government but it must be noted that the very moment the government is formed the responsibility shifts from protecting the interests of party faithfuls to protecting the interest all citizens irrespective of the political affiliations. Whether the rapist or the murderer is a citizen or a custodian of the State, it is the relish for power that forces such brutality which is now on the rise.
From the constable to minister, power and authority are shielded at every level in this country. This is what enforces impunity which keeps gender and class imbalances intact. How it is then possible that perpetual violence has been unleashed against a selected few groups and no one objects to it? What we are witnessing everyday is a normalisation of political impunity. The repeated pre-mediated attacks on minorities are nothing but a step towards alienating them from the mainstream and driving them to the edges of societal consciousness.
the very moment the government is formed, its responsibility shifts from protecting the party to protecting all citizens irrespective of the political affiliations.
The Prime Minister’s vision of ‘Beti Bachao’ appears hollow when rapes across the country make headlines every day. What about the daughters of the victims killed in lynching cases? Do they not qualify for the State’s relief? Does their father’s alleged act of ‘smuggling and slaughtering cows’ deprive them of the natural right of life and healthy living as guaranteed by the Constitution? This shared complicity of the State and its agencies has set the tone across the country that justice is hard to come by! The inaction and lackadaisical attitude of the police and the political motivation from sitting members of the ruling party, the BJP, have set a dangerous precedent already.
Featured Image Credit: Nissar Ahmed – The Hindu