India is on a lynching spree these days. News of horrendous killings by violent mobs seem to be occupying more space on our national channels and dailies. More so than perhaps Prime Minister’s foreign visits or the widely anticipated 2018 Football World Cup in Russia. Week after week, images and videos of mindless murders have been surfacing from across the country. Thus, confirming the belief that intolerance in undoubtedly ingrained in the Indian Society.
While the list of the so-called vigilante killings is long. They provide enough room for a one-by-one detailed analysis. The ones in Jharkhand and Assam recently have evoked maximum outrage on social media. An incident in Jharkhand was like another classic case of cow-vigilantism. A mob killed two men on a mere suspicion of stealing buffaloes.
As per the local police, the locals found the men stealing and then beat them to death. The family members of the victims have strongly refuted the allegations. The incident has clear communal connotations. Men seen with bovine or cattle with their distinguishable Muslim identities like skull caps and beard have been easy prey for the so-called cow protection groups.
But the incident in Assam presents a very disturbing picture. Two young men, Nilotpal Das and Abhijeet Nath had set out towards the picturesque Karbi Anglong district. What they did not know was that their love for nature would result in a grisly end to their lives. The two men were attacked by machetes after a rumour surfaced on Whatsapp accusing them of being “Child Abductors”.
A chilling video clip of the lynching has emerged on social media. It showed Das pleading to the mob with folded hands: “Don’t kill me. Please don’t beat me. I am an Assamese. Please let me go.” But the unruly mob in a blatant display of depravity,teared off their bodies with the weapons in hand. A hoax shared between misguided people resulted in the end of two innocent lives. This particular incident is not an aberration. Similar killings have been reported from other areas in Assam accusing the victims as sorcerers and cannibals over Whatsapp.
And this is where social media has shown one of its ugliest faces to the civilization. Of late, it has become a factory, churning out one fake news after another. Whatsapp, especially is the hub of all misinformation doing rounds in India. “What we are witnessing is mass hysteria. Social media videos and messages are encouraging mobs to target innocent people,” Prakash Singh, a former police official said. “Social media is fueling panic and anarchy in the country. The need right now is to form special security units for cyber monitoring to prevent rumors,” added Singh
However, the threat is not only from technology. The spate of lynchings accentuate more thing than one. It is complete breakdown of law and order, diminishing faith in institutions known for delivering justice and growing intolerance. While the Jharkhand lynching was orchestrated by communal bigots, the one in Assam is equally sickening, if not more. As evident from the video of Nilotpal is seen begging for his life and his reiterations that he is an Assamese; highlights the outsider problem in that area.
The malicious message which was circulalated through Whatsapp termed “Biharis” as child lifters. Significant number of Biharis have settled down in Assam as labourers and workers. A rapid influx has thus led to a glaring demographic tension between outsiders and the original inhabitants. The fact that Nilotpal and Abhijeet were Assamese and the consequences which they met, sends shivers down the spine. Imagine the fate of a non-Assamese person in that situation.
Another aspect is the vigilante nature of such attacks. Suspicion and doubts are very much part of human nature and are unavoidable. But has our faith in institutions shrunk so much that we do not bother taking the legal or constitutional routes to avail justice? Or is it still the toxic nature of the hate sown in our hearts that makes us impatient and transforms us into blood-thirsty animals?
India is a democracy but is slowly turning into a mobocracy. Rise of fake news coupled with increasing hate is resulting in all disputesbeing settled on the streets. This comes with a good amount of blood shed in the process. But it sets a dangerous precedent for the future. Innocent lives will be getting affected unless the system reins in rioters and anti-social elements. There can not be a draconian justice-system allowed to flourish like this.