The torture and killing of Tabrez Ansari in Jharkhand last week is the latest instance of the lynching culture that has taken hold in the country. The young man, who was working as a welder in Pune, had returned home for the Eid holidays. He was accused by a mob of stealing a bike and was tied to a pole, thrashed and made to shout ‘Jai Sri Ram’ and ‘Jai Hanuman’. The thrashing continued for a whole night and finally he was handed over to the police. The man died in hospital after four days. Video clips of the thrashing have been triumphantly uploaded in the social media, and that shows that someone was proud of what was done to the young man and wanted the world to see it. This is perversion, but not just the perversion of an individual or a small group but of our whole society.
Lynching is a defiance of and challenge to the rule of law, and its violation. It is against the norms of civilised conduct. But the lynching culture is spreading in the country and there is unfortunately a social and political milieu conducive to it. There have been 11 lynchings reported from different parts of the country this year. Ever since Mohammed Akhlaq was killed by a mob in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh in 2015, many others have been attacked and lynched in many states, most of them ruled by the BJP. The victims are mostly Muslims or Dalits. The reasons have been suspicions of cow slaughter, storing of beef, theft or other petty crimes. Whatever the reason, no one has the authority to take the law into their hands and dispense justice. There are established procedures to deal with crimes, but they are being given the go-by all too frequently these days.
Tabrez Ansari may not have been caught and dealt the first blow because he was a Muslim. But he was forced to chant ‘Jai Sri Ram’ because he was a Muslim. That was a violation of his right to practice his religion and hurting of his faith by imposition of the majority creed on him. This happens because the majoritarian ideology has official sanction. When the victims of vigilante actions are Muslims, condemnations by authorities are delayed or half-hearted. The offenders are sometimes even honoured and rewarded. The police are often on the side of the attackers and sometimes raise charges against the victims. The injured Tabrez was actually booked for theft and kept in custody for four days, his attackers were arrested only much later. It is the pervasive spread of intolerance and hatred in society that is at the root of this descent into barbarism, and it thrives in the current political climate.