Checking the new abnormal

The U.S. experience shows that anti-lynching laws are not enough — this must be a political battle Dismayed by the increasing number of cases of lynching across the country, the Supreme Court observed last month that “it is the responsibility of the States to prevent untoward incidents and to prevent crime.”

The preventive guidelines require every State to designate a senior police officer, not below the rank of Superintendent of Police, as the Nodal Officer in each district. This officer will constitute a special task force to collect intelligence on persons likely to commit such crimes or who are involved in spreading hate speech, provocative statements and fake news. Nodal Officers, upon being designated, have been directed to “take steps to prohibit instances of dissemination of offensive material through different social media platforms or any other means.” Additionally, both the Central and State governments have been directed to broadcast public notifications on radio, television and other media platforms informing the public of the consequences of taking the law into their hands.

As a nation, India cannot wait that long. The executive must immediately implement the directions of the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, barely a few days after the verdict, Rakbar Khan was lynched to death in Alwar. In this case, it is not just the attackers who must be brought to justice; the role of the police in Khan’s death must be investigated with reports stating that the cops on duty delayed getting him medical attention that may have saved his life. What this incident tells us is that we need more than just laws to deal with the deep-rooted hate which appears to have set in below the surface, and is corroding our moral fibre. Most cases of lynching have the appearance of premeditated acts of violence. There appears to be an attempt to change the social and cultural fabric of India forever, deepening the divide between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Deep-seated insecurities are being stoked, especially among young people frustrated by the lack of employment opportunities, to spread a fundamentalist agenda. This agenda cannot be fought by court directives, legislation and police procedures alone. It must be fought politically.

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