Known for its distinct tribal identity, Jharkhand is largely in news today for cases of mob lynching. Of the 18 such incidents in the past three years, 11 Muslims, four Hindus, two Christian tribals and one Dalit have been lynched to death. The matter found a mention in Parliament this week after the latest incident where 24-year-old Tabrez Ansari was beaten up by a mob so badly he succumbed to his injuries the following day. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the incident “pained” him but was quick to add that the whole Jharkhand state should not be blamed.
Maximum cases in BJP-dominated areas
Here’s a startling fact: most incidents of mob lynching have taken place in BJP-dominated regions. Of the 18 cases, eight took place in East Singhbhum district. Tabrez Ansari was beaten to death in Saraikela – Kharsawan, adjacent to East Singhbhum, and also a stronghold of top Jharkhand BJP leaders. Chief Minister Raghubar Das and Union minister Arjun Munda belong to the same region.
Now if cases of mob lynchings are a failure of law and order, which is what the BJP leaders want people to see it as, then it is still disappointing and shameful that law and order are openly violated and mobs rule the streets in the chief minister’s own backyard.
Tribals not involved
Jharkhand is a tribal-dominated state. Its tribal identity was also the basis of its formation in 2000. But the group’s share in the state’s population, as per 2011 census, is only 26 per cent. There is a general perception that accused in cases of mob lynching are tribals. But an analysis of these incidents clearly shows that tribals are generally not involved in them. Those arrested for lynching Tabrez Ansari are Bhimsen Mandal, Premchand Mahto, Kamal Mahto, Sonam Pradhan, Satyanarayan Naik, Sonaram Mahli, Chamu Naik, Madan Naik, Mahesh Mahli and Sumant Mahto. Another accused Prakash Mandal alias Pappu Mandal was arrested in the past as well.
The point behind naming the accused is to show the social base involved in incidents of mob lynching. In the Gumla incident, where a tribal Christian was lynched over an ox, the accused were non-tribals.
In Jharkhand, the BJP’s influence and support among the non-tribals has rapidly grown. In the last Lok Sabha election, the non-tribals played an important role in the BJP’s grand victory. The police force is accused of working to deliberately weaken these cases, which means the accused escape without punishment. In one instance where they did get convicted, BJP’s Hazaribagh MP and then Union minister Jayant Sinha garlanded the eight men in Rampur. No tribal was accused in this case, either.
Jharkhand has witnessed two categories of mob lynching cases. One, where people are lynched on charges of theft or child-lifting. Victims in such cases have mostly been Hindus. The other has been communal cases where Muslims have been targeted because of their identity over allegations of smuggling/slaughtering of cows. Although Tabrez Ansari was accosted by the mob on charges of stealing a motorbike but the beating soon turned communal when they learned of his name. He was tied to a pole, thrashed and made to chant Jai Shri Ram and Jai Hanuman.
Stance of BJP govt, police, media
After every mob lynching incident, the media has only debated whether the meat was of cow or buffalo, whether the victim carried out the theft or not. The media’s stance could make one think a mob can lynch anyone on the streets as long as there’s a credible view. They don’t argue or show concern over mobocracy taking over democracy. A mob taking law into its own hands and then pronouncing justice on the spot is the end of law and order.
In Tabrez Ansari’s case, too, the media is largely debating whether he and two of his companions stole the motorbike on the intervening night of 17-18 June. His wife has said Tabrez worked as a welder in Pune. He had come home for Eid, caught and beaten by the mob, and died in police custody.
The police’s role is also under suspicion. They claim that Tabrez was administered first aid and his condition deteriorated on the morning of 22 June after which they took him to the hospital but it was already too late. two police officers have so far been suspended.
The condition in Jharkhand today begs a question: are these incidents of mob lynching taking place against the state government’s will? The state of law and order in Jharkhand has clearly deteriorated if mobs can lynch people with impunity and no one is convicted. If the motive is to communally polarise the state ahead of the assembly elections scheduled this year, then it’s a much bigger concern.
The author has been associated with the JP movement, and has penned a novel ‘Samar Shesh’. Views are personal.
This article has been translated from Hindi. Read the original here.