While the special law meant to deter mob lynching, as recommended by the Supreme Court, could take a while, the state governments need to step up the vigil against potential perpetrators and nab the culprits. The apex court is right in asking the local authorities to keep a close watch on such activity and increase patrolling in violence-prone areas. Most importantly, the SC has said that any failure on the part of the police or district administration to comply with its directives will be viewed as deliberate negligence and/or misconduct. However, the police can never be efficient unless it has the backing of the bureaucracy, politicians and the judiciary. At the end of the day, the kind of mob violence that we are seeing can’t be contained unless the political class wants to control it, and is willing to work towards that end.
While the police’s job is never easy, and it is hard to control mob fury, it needs to do a better job. Media reports suggest the mob threatened the police in Dhule, Maharashtra, when it was trying to do its job, but this cannot be an excuse. Unconfirmed reports suggest that, in a brutal killing in Assam, where two youngsters Nilotpal Das and Abhijeet Nath were attacked by a mob that suspected they were child-lifters, a policeman was recording the crime, albeit with good intentions. He probably, and justifiably, felt insecure which means the police teams need to be beefed up. The preferred way to contain the violence is of course to prevent it by getting intelligence—this, of course, can work only if the attacks are pre-meditated. For instance, if the Jharkhand police believes the lynching of a Muslim trader in Ramgarh district on June 29 was pre-planned—the deputy superintendent of police told a newspaper the victim had been followed for almost two hours—it should be possible to access some information on such pre-meditated attacks.
Among the biggest challenges that law-enforcers face is fake information video clips; it is virtually impossible to fight this scourge. The recent instance of five persons in Dhule, Maharashtra, who were suspected to be child-lifters and lynched, reportedly took place after “some manipulated video clips” were circulated. One of these showed two men on motorcycles picking up a boy and another featured a boy telling reporters he had been kidnapped from Buldhana. The outrage could be the result of rising racial tensions or a venting of anger for other reasons. Given how deep-rooted some of these prejudices and biases can be, changing mindsets anytime soon doesn’t look to be possible. To begin with, any disruptive voices, even if these are by supposedly less important politicians, need to be countered by the government, with senior leaders speaking out against them.