A group of villagers lynched a 28-year-old man in Rajasthan's Alwar district on Friday night allegedly on suspicion of cow smuggling. The victim, Rakbar Khan, and his friend Aslam were taking two cows to their village in Haryana through a forested area near Lalawandi in Alwar when five men attacked them, said Subhash Sharma, station house officer of the Ramgarh Police Station.
The incident took place merely two days after home minister Rajnath Singh said in Parliament that such crimes are a matter of grave concern for the government. It also comes the week the Supreme Court urged the Centre to frame a law against lynching.
Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje condemned the incident, but mentioned that the victim was "transporting bovines". In a statement on Twitter, she said: "The incident of alleged lynching of a person transporting bovines in Alwar district is condemnable. Strictest possible action shall be taken against the perpetrators." She added that she has asked state home minister Gulab Chand Kataria to investigate the matter at the earliest and ensure strict punishment for the guilty.
Opposition lashes out at BJP
Raje's assurance did not assuage the Opposition, which criticised her government for failing to stop such attacks.
Congress national general-secretary Ashok Gehlot called the incident horrific, saying the man was lynched despite the Supreme Court's warnings.
Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot, too, blamed the BJP government, saying that people being killed "on suspicion" was sadly becoming a norm in BJP-ruled states. He said the Union home minister's statement in Parliament on Friday that it was the responsibility of state governments to stop incidents of mob lynching seemed even more hollow now.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi also criticised the BJP because of the lynching. Responding to a statement by the victim's father seeking justice, Owaisi said, "Justice! We will see ruling party members justifying Rakbar's murder and a mantri will garland the killers, saying (he is) following due process as defined in We & Nationhood by Guru of Mitro (sic)."
He was referring to Union minister Jayant Sinha, who had sparked a controversy after pictures of him felicitating eight men convicted of lynching a meat trader in Jharkahand went viral on social media.
Congress leader from Madhya Pradesh Jyotiraditya Scindia, too, made a reference to Singh's statement in Parliament, saying: "I cannot fathom how such heinous crimes can be allowed and ignored in any civilised society. For how long will the home minister brush this off as a state subject? The Centre must own up to its responsibility and take immediate action!"
Rajasthan home minister questions 'lynching' claim
Even as Khan's murder caused a political furore, Kataria was quoted as saying by News18 that it was not a case of mob lynching. He was reported to have said that only five to seven people attacked Khan, not a mob.
Union minister Arjun Ram Meghwal said he condemns mob lynching, but added that this was was not an isolated incident. "You have to trace this back in history to know why this happens and who should stop this. What happened with Sikhs in 1984 was the biggest mob lynching of this nation's history," he said, referring to the anti-Sikh riots that year.
His statement closely echoed that of Singh, who had made a similar reference in Parliament to the 1984 riots on Friday.
Supreme Court has expressed concerns over mob violence
The Centre is learnt to have begun preliminary discussions on the possibility of bringing a new law to curb mob lynching, and one of the options being considered is to amend the Indian Penal Code to define "mob lynching" as a penal offence.
Condemning the rising incidents of lynching in India, the Supreme Court had recently asked the government to enact a law to deal with such cases. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra had called the incidents of lynching "horrendous acts of mobocracy" that cannot be allowed to become the new norm.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Jul 24, 2018 11:52 AM