Whether it’s people being pushed off trains for not hailing Hindu gods or being beaten to death on suspicion of smuggling beef, mob violence and lynchings where certain individuals are targeted and terrorised by a group of people, are a crucial issue in India. And even as a 2018 US state Religious Freedom report said that mob violence against minorities continues in India, Manipur is one of the only states to have taken severe action to prevent and punish it. Now, Uttar Pradesh is following suit, with the State Law Commission taking the initiative to draft a bill to deal with the increasing number of mob lynchings in the state. This 128-page report is termed the Uttar Pradesh Combatting Mob Lynching Bill and also includes a report on the number of mob lynching incidences. Data from 2012 to 2019 indicates that about 50 incidents of mob violence have taken place in Uttar Pradesh, out of which 11 resulted in the victims’ deaths. 25 of the cases were major assaults, many of which were inflicted by cow vigilantes.
The Commission stresses that the current laws are not sufficient to curb cases of lynching and that there needs to be stricter action taken to tackle them. In its list of recommendations, the commission suggests that mob lynching be punishable by a prison term of seven years with a fine of Rs 1 lakh if the person is injured. It wants to bring this number up to 10 years and Rs 3 lakh if the person sustains very serious injuries, and even life imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5 lakh if the victim is killed by the mob. They also pointed out that this law should extend to authority figures in the area like police officers and local magistrates, who will be subjected to one to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5,000 if caught neglecting their duty to keep people safe.
The draft Bill not only includes points on lynching, mob, victim and offensive material but even takes measure against people creating a “hostile environment” for the victim or their family by depriving them of their fundamental rights or forcing them to leave their homes, among other things. The panel behind the bill has also said that the punishment should extend to conspiracy and aiding in such cases, as well as for those who try to obstruct the legal process.
Mob violence, especially the kind that involves cow vigilantes, is pretty messed up and has been rampant since the 2015 Dadri case, where a man was killed based on rumours that his family was secretly eating beef.
Sapna Tripathi, Secretary of the State Law Commission, told The Indian Express, “The commission realised that mob lynching is a global problem faced even by US, countries in Africa etc for long. Thus, the commission thought of undertaking a suo motu study in this regard about six months ago. We also took into account directions of the Supreme Court and High Courts in different cases.”
Follow Shamani Joshi on Instagram .