One of the most vehement statements of the risks of mob violence ever written, Mark Twain saw it as a warning that America was on the verge of becoming “The United States of Lyncherdom.”
More than a century later, the secular republic of India appears to be under the shadow of a similar fear.
According to a recent investigation by IndiaSpend based on content analysis of news reports, “20 cow-terror attacks were reported in the first six months of 2017–more than 75 per cent of the 2016 figure, which was the deadliest year for such violence since 2010.”
Mob lynchings, vigilante attacks, murder and attempted murder, harassment, assault, and gang rape are among the attacks.
The victims were chained, stripped, and beaten in two spells, while the victims were hanged in two others.”
Another Observer Research Examination analysis of mob violence and public disorder between January 2011 and June 2017 shows that cow-related violence has risen drastically from 5% of overall incidences (of Lynching or Public Disorder) to over 20% by the end of June 2017.
Anger at the recent mob violence has been evident across a significant segment of the population.
It has recently sparked a wave of protests and rallies around the country (including the “Not In My Name” movement).
What is the problem if everyone rejects lynchings by mobs?
The death of persons in India by mob lynching has already sparked a flurry of opinion pieces in the mainstream media.
Both the right and the left share the notion that vigilantism and mob lynching have no place in society.
Its presence demonstrates a law and order condition that precludes association from confronting and dealing with other significant development challenges.
It has been eloquently stated that the recent spate of mob lynchings indicates state indifference and majoritarian denial of reality.
That lynching is a majority’s way of telling. However, there is also the dimension of a perceived growth in such mob violence in recent years and its association with the ascendancy of the Right-wing in power, which goes beyond the valid issue of law and order.
This resounds loudly in the aftermath of cattle trade legislation and the now-famous growth of cow vigilantism in India.
Specific segments of the media, on the other hand, reject that such perceptions are based on fact.
They argue that lynching is primarily a law and order issue, citing the heinous history of mob violence and massacres in the past, particularly before the current central authority.
They argue that is only a “narrative” within a politically biassed mainstream media that seeks to hold the central BJP government a the RSS accountable and that as a result of such “selective condemnation and bigotry,” law enforcement is absolved. Moderates are driven away from the debate.
As a result, the question rests on examining current patterns in mob violence and lynchings in India.
Community lynchings are a new type of hate crime.
In the lack of government data on mob violence and lynchings, news material might potentially serve as a valuable source of information.
Any content study on mob violence will undoubtedly reveal some exciting characteristics. Between 2010 and 2017, the authors of this paper conducted a Google news search especially for “mob lynching” in “India.”
The exercise is comparable to one conducted by IndiaSpend, which includes terms like “cow vigilantes,” “gau rakshaks,” “beef,” “lynching,” “cow slaughter,” “cattle thieves,” “beef smuggler,” and “cattle merchant.”
The IndiaSpend article’s findings have not been copied and can be found separately here.
The lynching of persons by a mob acting as an executor of an extrajudicial punishment is the most prominent pattern we found in our data set.
Individuals accused of petty offences, murder and rape, and individuals considered by the mob as deviants have all been lynched.
There have also been several incidents of racial mob violence directed at African and African-American students and tourists.
Apart from the occurrences, we looked at, three more significant issues deserve their arch and haven’t been included here since the number of incidents is too high.
Furthermore, incidents involving these concerns are frequently not recorded. The first is hunting-related lynchings.
According to one source, 2,097 such murders occurred in at least 12 states between 2000 and 2012. These figures are startling in and of themselves.
The second type deals with the topic of caste violence against Dalits in the past. Lynching is a typical kind of caste atrocity, but it is rarely publicized.
Of course, the goal of these public acts of violence is to terrify by setting an example. Surprisingly, one of the first widely documented cases of mob lynching based on bovine issues occurred in 2002, when a frenzied mob killed five Dalits from Haryana in response to a rumour of cow slaughter.
The third category comprises lynchings during riots or catalysts for disturbances (for instance, in Muzzafarnagar and Kokrajhar).
These instances are related to communal violence and screams, but they must be treated separately.
India has a definite history of mob violence and lynching, showing a culture with apparent pre-modern values, the most glaring example being the cruel caste system.
However, when viewed in conjunction with the data given by IndiaSpend (which covers a total of 101 cases), the preceding list of mob violence reveals the emergence of an entirely new category of violence: bovine-related mob lynching murders.
This category has its unique characteristics: the victims are mostly Muslims, and the proximate causes are frequently based on rumours and prejudices against a group.
It’s also noteworthy that the proportion of this sort of lynching among all mob violence cases has risen in the last three years.
Surprisingly, the IndiaSpend analysis reveals that between 2010 and 2017, 97 per cent of all attacks centred on bovine issues were reported in the latter three years.
When 61 of a total of 63 such occurrences are recorded following the establishment of cow protection squads and beef trade restrictions, it is clear that an altogether new trend of mob violence has emerged in India under the current ruling administration (this includes the fact that a majority of the cases have been reported in BJP-governed states).