Saturday, 18 August 2018

Why is the Indian govt. mum on lynch mobs targeting Muslims, Dalits?

The Indian media is full of horrifying reports of lynch gang murders.  Some 69 cases of mob violence have been reported since May 10, resulting in the deaths of 33 people. In all cases, the victims were assaulted on mere suspicion and no evidence of child lifting was found later.

According to analysts, the attacks were provoked by rumours spread via social media—Whatsapp in particular. Rumours related to child kidnapping, thievery, sexual harassment of women, or cow smuggling or slaughter apparently provoked the violence. In most cases, the victims were beaten or stabbed to death.  Sometimes their bodies were hung up by the mob. At times the victims survived severe injuries, but were left unattended or as in the latest case of Rakbar, the victim driven around, kicked and tortured by the police before being “brought dead” to the hospital.

What is worrying is that the majority of the victims have been Muslims or members of minority ethnic groups. A recent investigative article by the independent organization India Spend revealed that 86 percent of those killed in cow-related lynching were Muslims, and 8 percent low-caste Dalits. A recent outbreak of mob killings on rumours of child kidnapping targeted “strangers” mainly migrant workers and mentally disturbed people.

These attacks have created fear and intimidation among the targeted communities. Videos have been posted on social media, many by the attackers themselves, to arouse hatred against the victims. The one question everyone is asking is the audacity with which the perpetrators of these crimes are taking and posting videos of the act, unafraid of being identified and booked for their crime.

Standing by the lynch mobs

An even more worrying fact is the near total silence maintained by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) not much unlike the past when the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP’s other Hindu supremacists allies have whipped up communal violence under the pretext of preventing cow slaughter.

While PM Modi has occasionally issued brief statements, he has maintained that the horrific killings were “isolated or spontaneous” incidents, his senior ministers and parliamentary representatives have frequently openly defended the attackers, accusing the victims of provoking the attacks. Civil Aviation Minister Jayant Sinha garlanded eight men convicted for lynching Alimuddin Ansari, a Muslim beef trader from Ramgarh, last year. In an open reference to incidents of mob lynching, RSS leader Indresh Kumar said “if the practice of eating cow meat was stopped, many crimes of  ‘Satan’ could be curtailed. His view was endorsed by BJP leader and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Giriraj Singh, who had earlier landed in a controversy after a show of support for a set of riots-accused leaders, whom he visited at a jail in Bihar’s Nawada. His meeting with the jailed right-wing leaders came days after his cabinet colleague Jayant Sinha was photographed felicitating eight men held guilty of killing a meat trader in the name of cow protection in neighboring Jharkhand.

Again after a Muslim man was beaten to death in Rajasthan’s Alwar by a mob of cow vigilantes on July 21, T Raja Singh, an MLA belonging to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stated openly that “such lynchings will not stop till cow slaughtering ends” and called for a law against it.

Rise in mob lynchings since 2014

Statistics unveil the systematic and organized attacks which are a direct result of provocations by Hindu extremist groups, backed by the BJP government. Cases of Cow vigilantism have escalated ever since the Modi government came to power in 2014, promoting Hindu chauvinism and right-wing groups. Organizations like “Gau Raksha Dal,” which was formed to protect cows, a Hindu sacred symbol, provoked gangs to launch attacks on Muslim beef sellers and cattle traders last year. It was only after the murder of 20 people that PM Modi made a statement which merely said: “Killing people in the name of Gau Bhakti (cow worship) is not acceptable.”

Last year, the Hindustan Times reported that 97 percent of the cow-related violence from 2010 to 2017 was reported after Modi’s government took office and 86 percent of the victims were Muslims.

These attacks are not isolated, but the result of systematic incitement by the government-backed communal groups, which are using social media to spread communal hysteria.

The government has backed the murders by honoring convicted killers, especially when the victims are Muslims.

On June 9 audio engineer Nilotpal Das and friend Abhijeet Nath on a picnic to Karbi Anglong were beaten to death on the suspicion of being child lifters, despite both pleading to the mob that they were Assamese. In another case, the police arrested two youth, Sanjay Sobor and his colleague, who belonged to a minor tribal community and worked as migrant labourers in Arunachal Pradesh. When the news of their arrest spread, a mob barged into the police station, dragged the prisoners to the main road and lynched them in the presence of police. The mob then disappeared without anyone being apprehended by the police.

The police invariably label those who are killed as cow thieves or cow smugglers, abductors of children or other criminals, echoing government representatives, even when the allegations against the victims have not been proved.

You can see all incidents of mob lynchings mapped in India map here

Mob Violence Based On Rumours Of Child Lifting – https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1D6-3M17zyvaFgvdcmacOFhKmS7nQom5o&usp=sharing

WhatsApp and the Government

Of the 69 mob violence cases related to rumours of child lifting that have been reported, 77 percent  were eventually attributed to fake news spread through social media. Mobile messenger application Whatsapp, in particular, featured as the rumour source in 28 percent or 19 of the cases. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on 2 July, 2018, issued a warning to Whatsapp, observing that “instances of the lynching of innocent people because of a large number of irresponsible and explosive messages filled with rumours and provocation are being circulated on WhatsApp”.

“Such a platform cannot evade accountability and responsibility especially when good technological inventions are abused by some miscreants who resort to provocative messages which lead to the spread of violence,” the ministry said subsequently in a press release on 3 July, 2018, stating clearly that “WhatsApp must take immediate action to end this menace and ensure that their platform is not used for such mala fide activities”.

Internet Usage and Shutdowns:

About 13 percent or 200 million of WhatsApp’s 1.5 billion users are Indian as per a report in The Financial Express (dated:  February 1, 2018.)  This is 42 percent of India’s 481 million internet users as of December 2017.

In a letter to the ministry shared with the press the WhatsApp management said it was “horrified by these terrible acts of violence” and listed out the steps it has taken to curb the spread of fake news but emphasized that the challenge “requires government, civil society and technology companies to work together”.

It maintained, however, that messages would continue to have end-to-end encryption to protect users’ privacy and security, the encryption being key to WhatsApp’s messaging service. It added that no more than a quarter of WhatsApp users are part of groups; that the majority of groups are small (with fewer than 10 members); and nine in 10 messages are sent from just one person to another.

In many cases where such violence has been witnessed, the government’s tried and tested method to control the situation is by shutting down the internet in the area.

Supreme Court for stricter laws:

While the Supreme Court has recommended that Parliament create a new penal provision to punish the offenders, media has reported a senior BJP member stating: “There is already a law and no such requirement for a separate law.”

The government and its allies have sought to shrug away the outcry against the lynchings claiming this is not a one-off thing peculiar to the Modi government and that lynchings had taken place in previous governments as well, pointing fingers at the 1984 riots and killings of Sikhs after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

While justifying the brutal attacks on minorities, Modi’s BJP government is strengthening an oppressive state machine against the working people as a whole. Communalism is being heightened and lynch mobs set in motion to divide and intimidate the working class. All this in the run-up to the General Elections 2019 seem ominous portents of the country being divided once again on communal lines and the stage all set to counter the still to align Third front with what could be India’s bloodiest election ever.

 

MOB-LYNCHING OVER CHILD LIFTING RUMOURS AND

OFFICIAL DATA ON CHILD ABDUCTIONS

State Mob Violence Related To Child-Lifting Rumours Deaths In Mob Lynchings Related To Child-Lifting Rumours Ranked As Per Number Of Child Abductions Recorded In NCRB Data
West Bengal  4  3  5
Tripura  3  3 24
Telangana  4  4 15
Tamil Nadu  12 4 18
Rajasthan 1 1 10
Odisha 15 1 13
Manipur 1 0 27
Maharashtra 4 5 2
Madhya Pradesh 1 0 4
Kerala 1 0 22
Karnataka 6 1 8
Jharkhand 2 7 19
Gujarat 3 1 7
Chattisgarh 1 0 9
Assam 6 3 11
Andhra Pradesh 5 0 16
Grand Total 69 33

Data Courtesy: India Spends

Dr. Shirin Abbas is the Bureau Chief "TheIndiaObserver.Com". She is a world-renowned journalist, winner of several national and international awards for her contribution to Media Research.The first recipient of the prestigious British Chevening Scholarship for Print Journalism in 1999 from her state of Uttar Pradesh. Under the same, she studied at the School of Media, Communication, and Design at the University Of Westminster, London and interned with The Irish Times, Dublin. She has been a journalist for over three decades, working at several national English dailies in North India. She completed her PhD. in Mass Communication in 2016.

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