In the last month, a mob in Mewat area of Gurgaon killed 25-year-old Asif Khan and thrashed two of his cousins while they were out to buy medicines.
In the month of June, seven years back, Mohsin Shaikh was lynched by a mob in Pune. On June 2, 2014, he was returning after offering namaz, when a mob of Hindu Rashtra Sena workers allegedly lynched him to death. The incident took place after a rumour was spread that somebody had maliciously morphed the photo of King Shivaji and Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray.
This incident took place within a week after the first Narendra Modi government came to power. However, nobody would have perhaps imagined that this type of isolated incident will further become a regular news item in Indian polity. The lynching of Mohsin was followed by other infamous mob killings of Mohammed Akhlaq from Dadri and Pehlu Khan from Alwar.
In the majority of these lynching instances, including Mohsin Shaikh’s who lost his life 7 years back, there have been no convictions. In some cases, people from the ruling dispensation have celebrated the lynching accused’s bail by garlanding him, while some even got to fight local body elections.
With clear indication from those in power that such acts will not be dealt toughly, and instead will bring perpetrators political dividends in some cases, it is bound to encourage other people to gather a mob and kill someone over random suspicions.
It is not at all surprising that even when India is fighting the pandemic, with the second wave unfolding harrowing scenes and affecting millions, the lynchings have not stopped.
Asif Khan, Gurgaon
In the last month, a mob in Mewat area of Gurgaon killed 25-year-old Asif Khan and thrashed two of his cousins while they were out to buy medicines and were travelling from Nuh to Sohna.
The said incident took place when Asif Khan, who was a gym trainer, was returning home with his cousin brothers. The three were attacked by a mob and Asif was beaten to death while the two others were left with grievous injuries.
Asif’s family has alleged that the 25-year-old was lynched by the mob that attacked him with sticks, rods and stones. Police have lodged a case and have also nabbed six people for questioning while the family has said more than 12 people were involved in the killing of Asif Khan.
Mohammed Shakir, Moradabad
On May 24, a video emerged on social media of a man being assaulted by a group in the Katghar police station in Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad district. Mohammed Shakir was assaulted by a person, identified as Manoj Thakur, and others. Shakir worked in the business of transporting and selling meat.
In a written complaint, Shakir’s brother said that he was harassed and then beaten up for carrying 50 kilograms of buffalo meat on his scooter. The complaint also mentions that the vigilantes demanded Rs 50,000 from Shakir and then assaulted him.
However, the police have also filed a case against Shakir. There are varying reports on the charges against him. Some reports state that he had been charged for not wearing a face mask, while some have said that the charges also include those related to “causing mischief by killing an animal”.
According to Scroll’s report, four people accused of assaulting Shakir had been arrested. However, two others, including Thakur, were still on the run.
Surat Banjara, Gaurela-Pendra-Marwahi
A 45-year-old man was allegedly beaten to death and five others suffered injuries after a mob of villagers attacked them on the suspicion of cattle theft in Chhattisgarh’s Gaurela-Pendra-Marwahi (GPM) district last month.
An official said that two men from Medhakhar had come to transport four buffaloes procured by someone, from Salheghori to their village.
“The duo was intercepted by locals, who asked them to show the documents to prove that the cattle was owned by them.”
The next day, four relatives of the two men reached Salheghori, where locals quarrelled with them and proceeded to thrash them with sticks, in which one of them died on the spot, he said.
A police team rushed to the spot and shifted the five injured men to a hospital, while the body of the deceased, Surat Banjara, was sent for post-mortem, the police official said.
In August 2020, a group of cow vigilantes chased a pick-up truck for about 8 km and managed to flag it down near Gurgaon. The driver, identified as Lukman, was pulled out and brutally assaulted on the suspicion that he was smuggling cow meat. The assailants were caught on camera savagely beating Lukman with impunity and hammer, while the police and dozens of people do little more than watch.
After being beaten to an inch of his life, Lukman was bundled into the pick-up truck and taken back to Gurgaon’s Badshahpur village where the men started thrashing him again.
The owner of the vehicles said that the meat was buffalo and he has been in the business for 50 years.
One Pradeep Yadav had been arrested while police said that they have identified other attackers too.
Muhammad Alamgir, Patna
A 32-year-old man in Bihar was beaten to death by a mob over suspicion of cattle theft near state capital Patna in December 2020.
The victim, Muhammad Alamgir, was thrashed after he was seen untying a buffalo from a cattle shed at around 3 am. A person who was with Mr Alamgir managed to escape.
Muhammad Alamgir, who was thrashed for several hours, died in hospital. Six people who were named in the complaint have been arrested, the police said.
Seven Christian Tribals, Simdega
In September 2020, seven tribal Christians were allegedly beaten, partially tonsured and forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram” in a Jharkhand village on the unproven allegation that they had slaughtered a cow.
Deepak Kullu, 26, a tribal Christian from Bherikudar in Simdega, about 145km southwest of Ranchi, said a group of more than 25 stick and rod-wielding people had entered the village early on September 16 morning. The men were apparently residents of nearby villages.
Deepak said: “I saw them beating a villager, Raj Singh Kullu, and hurling caste-based expletives at his wife Jacqueline Kullu. When I sought an explanation, they started mouthing caste-based expletives at me too and accused us of slaughtering cows.”
Deepak alleged the mob dragged him and six other Christian tribal men from the village to neighbouring Mahato Tola, about half a kilometre away, all the while slapping and beating them with sticks and forcing them to chant “Jai Shri Ram”.
Prime Minister Modi on lynchings
In 2019, just a month after winning the second term, PM Modi in Rajya Sabhab said the Jharkhand mob-lynching of Tabrez Ansari had pained him. He said the guilty deserved the severest punishment in accordance with law, but took a dig at the opposition for employing different parameters to judge incidents of violence in Jharkhand and in Kerala and West Bengal.
“It has saddened others too. Guilty should get severest punishment but for this the entire state has been pronounced guilty and everyone put in dock, which is not right,” he said, as the BJP ruled Jharkhand back then.
“All kinds of violence whether in Jharkhand or West Bengal or Kerala should be treated as same and law should take its course,” he said. Modi said perpetrators of violence should get a lesson that the entire country is one on this issue.
The Mobs Don’t Stop
Despite PM Modi’s verbal resentment towards the lynching in 2019, there has hardly been any change observed on the ground as mob lynchings continue to the date. It should also be noted that during the Covid-19 pandemic, when the country was facing an “invisible enemy” as quoted by the PM, India still saw cases of unruly mobs throwing law of the land out of the window, and mercilessly beating people over suspicions.
What baffles me more is the unsaid and undeclared impunity to those who commit such crimes.
BJP MP Jayant Sinha in 2018 was seen garlanding men convicted in murder by lynching case who were released on bail. Yogesh Raj, one of the main accused in the 2018 Bulandshahr violence which claimed life of two people, including police inspector Subodh Kumar Singh, won the zila panchayat member election from ward number five in the recently convened panchayat elections in the state.
When the prize of leading a mob to kill someone is political ballooning and can lead to the convicts getting garlanded by an MP or getting to win local body polls, it should not surprise us to see more and more people leading mobs. The reprimanding should come from the top. The mobs need to stop.