In a spate of violence, as many as six people have been lynched in Bihar. This is a worrying situation for the law and order machinery, as people are taking the law into their hands in order to deliver what they seem to believe is ‘instant justice’.
On Tuesday, September 11, a man was assaulted by a mob and died of his injuries after he and two accomplices attempted to rob money from railway employees in the Rohtas district in Bihar. The railway employees were going to deposit Rs. 24 lakh at a bank, when three bike-borne men attempted to take the bag with the money. One of the would-be thieves assaulted one of the railway staff, while another opened fire to scare people away; a woman was wounded. One of the snatchers was captured by people, and then beaten; he died at a hospital.
In another incident, on Sunday, September 9, Rupesh Jha, 24, was lynched by a mob after a pick-up van driver alleged that Jha stole from him. The incident took place near the Ramnagra village within the Riga police station area in Bihar’s Sitamarhi district. Police sources told PTI that the van driver said that Jha had attempted to escape on his motorbike after snatching his money, and that "when he raised an alarm," villagers gathered and assaulted Jha with canes. However, Jha’s relatives claimed that he was assaulted when he attempted to take over the van, the sources told PTI. Jha was taken to the Sadar hospital, and then Patna Medical College; he died a day after being attacked. The police have filed an FIR against 150 people.
Just a day before, on Saturday, September 8, villagers reportedly beat to death a woman, Mala Devi, allegedly because they suspected her of practising ‘witchcraft’. The incident took place near her house at Ambedkar Chowk in Bihar’s Sasaram. Police said that three of the four accused were arrested.
On Friday, September 7, three men who allegedly attempted to kidnap a five-year-old girl from a government school were beaten to death in the Pansalla village in Bihar’s Begusarai district. The men, Shyam Singh, Hira Singh, and Mukesh Manto, forced their way into a classroom and attempted to kidnap the girl. The school principal, Nima Kumari, attempted to fight them off, but was assaulted. However, locals amassed at the school and assaulted the kidnappers. Mahto was attacked with lathis and sticks until he became unconscious; the other two kidnappers who had hidden were also then found and assaulted. Although the police arrived, they were outnumbered and unable to control the crowd. The would-be kidnappers were taken to civil hospital and were declared dead on arrival. An FIR has been filed against six accused and 150 unidentified individuals in the lynching incident. Begusarai SP Aditya Kumar told India Today that police had several mobile videos of the incident, and that more than 5,000 people were there when the lynching took place.
In the neighbouring state of Jharkhand, two separate incidents of mob violence took place. In Dumka, the mob lynched a man they suspected of committing rape on an eight year old girl. While in Ramgarh, close to capital city Ranchi, the mob lynched a man they suspected of carrying ‘banned’ meat.
Adv. Shadab Ansari, the lawyer in the case of lynching of Alimuddin Ansari who was lynched in June 2017 in Jharkhand opined, “The growing incidents of mob violence are definitely a cause for concern. At some level, especially in the case of Bihar and Jharkhand, there is a huge dissatisfaction amongst the people about the course of law. Cases keep festering in courts for years without any outcome. Most of the time, accused of even serious crimes get bails rapidly. This is leading to people taking the course of law in their own hands.” Adv. Ansari also drew attention to the growing pattern of circulation of false information as ‘Gospel truth’ by means of Whatsapp messages. He feels that many such Whatsapp messages are inciting violence and legitimising mob culture.
The NHRC took Suo Motu cognisance of media reports on lynching in Bihar and issued notices to the Chief Secretary, the Director General of Police and the state government, and asked them to take effective measures to control such acts.
Taking note of the September 7 incident, the NHRC asked for a “factual report” including action taken against the guilty and measures taken to stop recurrence of such incidents.
Commenting on the grave issue, RJD minister Tejashwi Yadav tweeted,
Tejashwi YadavVerified account @yadavtejashwi 7h7 hours ago
Six people Lynched in Bihar in last six days. Bihar has become the Hub of Lynching & Epicentre of rapes and sexual exploitation. Nitish Ji’s infamous Conscience is snoring, his Morality and sense of right & wrong is lost.
The incidents of lynching need to be seen in two separate contexts.
One is where the public seems to be increasingly feeling dissatisfied with the law and order situation in the state of Bihar and wants to take the course of law into their own hands. An Indian Express report reported that from August, 2017 to June, 2018, cognizable crimes saw a 20 percent rise in Bihar. The police registered a total of 2.31 lakh criminal offences, of which maximum were murders and rapes.
As per data available with the police, criminal incidences grew by 21 percent after NDA came to power again in July 2017. Rape incidents grew by 23 percent while murders grew by 11 percent.
Though the crime data is still being processed for August is still being processed, the tentative figures show a rise in major crimes. While 236 murders were reported in August 2017, the figure touched 284 in August 2018, a rise of 20.3 per cent. CM Nitish Kumar hasn’t been able to effectively counter this growing trends despite assurances of a strict law and order rule in the state.
Another reason apart from the increasing crime rate in the state, is the politically motivated incidents of cow vigilantism. In both the cases the role of state and Central governments becomes crucial, as also emphasised by the recent Supreme Court ruling. Moreover, one has to take into account the fact that the state and Central governments have not taken a strong stance against mob lynching, effectively condoning the incidents and leading to mob culture being legitimised. PM Modi has been silent on most cases of mob violence and lynching and even after the Supreme Court ruling, various state governments have been unable, rather unwilling to take action.
The legendary VR Krishan Iyer, speaking for himself and CJI PN Bhagwati in Fertilizer Corporation Kamgar Union vs Union of India and Ors. (1981) held, “We have no doubt that in a competition between courts and streets as dispenser of justice, the rule of law must win the aggrieved person for the law court and wean him from the lawless street. In simpler terms locus standi must be liberalised to meet the challenges of the times. “
It is in the hands of the Central government and state governments now to decide if the rule of law will win.