By Elton Gomes
Faced with increasing incidents of mob violence, the Manipur government has decided to bring about a law that seeks to curb mob violence in the state. The Manipur government plans to table a legislation called the Manipur Mob Violence Control and Prohibition Bill in the next session of the state assembly.
The decision to table the anti-mob violence law was taken during a cabinet meeting held on Wednesday. State government spokesperson Thongam Biswajit Singh denounced the increasing incidents of people being killed by mobs in the state.
Why is the bill being introduced?
The Manipur government’s decision comes after the state saw several protests condemning the lynching of Farooque Khan on September 13 for allegedly trying to steal a vehicle.
The lynching of Farooque Khan
26-year-old Khan was lynched in Manipur’s Imphal West district on Thursday after local residents accused him of stealing a vehicle. Five persons, including a personnel of India Reserve Battalion, have been arrested in relation to the case.
Khan belonged to Lilong Haoreibi in Thoubal district. The mob attacked him at Tharoijam and also destroyed a car in which Khan and two others were travelling. The accused have been booked under IPC sections 302 (murder), 117 (abetting commission of offence by public or by more than 10 people) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention). They were kept in police custody for four days by a city court.
“Thirteen people were involved in the lynching of the youth and all of them have been identified. We have arrested five people and the rest will be nabbed soon,” Jogeschandra Haobijam, Imphal West Superintendent of Police, said, the Indian Express reported.
Supreme Court tells Parliament to enact a law to stop lynchings
Taking note of the surge in lynching-related deaths in the country, the Supreme Court in July urged the Parliament to enact a separate law to deal with mob lynchings so that “fear of law and veneration for the command of law constitute the foundation of a civilized society”.
“The horrendous acts of mobocracy cannot be permitted to inundate the law of the land. Earnest action and concrete steps have to be taken to protect the citizens from the recurrent pattern of violence, which cannot be allowed to become ‘the new normal’,” Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra observed in the apex court’s order, Live Mint reported.
A three-judge bench headed by the CJI delivered several directions for preventive, remedial, and punitive action to keep violent mobs in check.
Government forms panel to enact the law on lynchings
After the Supreme Court denounced the “sweeping” incidents of lynching as “an affront to the rule of law,” the Centre told Lok Sabha that it had formed a Group of Ministers (GoM) under Home Minister Rajnath Singh and a high-level committee under Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba to “deliberate” and “make recommendations” for a separate penal provision on incidents of mob violence.
The committee led by Gauba was supposed to submit its recommendations to the GoM within four weeeks. Consisting of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, and Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot, the GoM was to examine the recommendations and submit its report to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Mob lynchings in India
Rumours spread across social media resulted in the deaths of five persons in July. The deaths were the latest in a string of lynchings connected with fake messages that have spread rapidly through WhatsApp and social media platforms.
Since May, more than a dozen people have been killed across India due to violence fueled mainly by messages on WhatsApp. The cases have been largely reported in villages, where it is possible that villagers have been carried away by misinformation received via WhatsApp messages. Inflamed by rumours of people being alleged kidnappers or organ harvesters, villagers have been known to attack innocent people and have beaten them to death.
Does India need an anti-lynching law?
An increase in cases of deaths due to mob violence has called for an anti-lynching law. However, there seems to be adequate provision in the Indian Penal Code (IPC). As pointed out by an editorial in the Hindustan Times, the IPC is equipped with Sections 302 (murder), 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 307 (attempt to murder), 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) to tackle issues of mob violence. In fact, what India needs is a strong and effective implementation of the law.
Misinformation seems to be the larger evil in mob violence. In addition to the law, people need to be educated about misinformation and how to identify it. People should be encouraged to abstain from mindlessly forwarding WhatsApp messages. States should leverage social media platforms and be vigilant in flagging rumours. The police and the authorities need to be well-versed with technology and the problem of fake news.
The editorial in Hindustan Times noted that Telangana police officer, Rema Rajeshwari, has trained a team of 500 police officers to tackle the fake news menace. These officers visit villages to spread awareness about misinformation and fake news. Death related to mob-violence will reduce only when people are aware of spotting misinformation and stopping it in its tracks.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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