By Alison Saldanha
Mumbai: "The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) does not maintain specific data with respect to lynching incidents in the country," Union minister of state for home affairs Hansraj Ahir told the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) on 18 July, when asked whether the government "keeps record of incidents of lynching by mobs which are increasing across several parts of the country".
In its March 2018 response to the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament), the home ministry did furnish some data on mob lynchings recorded by states.
Between 2014 and 3 March, 2018, 45 persons were killed in 40 cases of mob lynching across nine states, and at least 217 persons had been arrested, data compiled by the home ministry show. Details on the motive – whether cow vigilantism, communal or caste hatred, or rumours of child-lifting, etc, the location of the attack, identity of the attacker, and victim, were not available.
Fourteen states – Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Odisha, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Delhi, and Puducherry – had not provided data.
In contrast, during the same period, IndiaSpend's two databases on mob violence – due to child-lifting rumours and bovine-related hate violence – recorded 80 cases where attackers outnumbered the victims and 41 deaths by such lynchings. This is without counting other instances of mob violence related to issues such as caste and moral policing.
The NCRB was planning to collect data on mob lynchings across the country, the Indian Express quoted a Bureau official as saying in its 9 July, 2017, report. More than a year later, and more than half-way through 2018, the Bureau has yet to put out its annual report on crime statistics in India for 2017.
Since 2010 – the starting point of IndiaSpend's bovine-related hate violence database – to-date, 86 attacks fuelled by the suspicion of cow slaughter or beef consumption, have been reported in English media across the country. About 98 percent of these attacks occurred post-May 2014, after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed power.
At least 33 persons were killed in these attacks – 29 or 88 percent of whom were Muslim. Over 56 percent of all attacks occurred in states run by BJP governments. The IndiaSpend database of bovine-related hate crime was quoted by senior advocate Indira Jaisingh in her written submission to the Supreme Court for the petition to crackdown on cow vigilantes
"The violence started with cow-related vigilantism but is now building up more violent behaviour – from small to big reasons – anything could be the trigger," Upneet Lalli, deputy director, Institute of Correctional Administration, had told IndiaSpend on 9 July.
Since the start of 2018, 27 persons have been reported killed in 66 cases of mob violence sparked specifically by rumours of child-lifting circulated on social media, an IndiaSpend analysis of news reports from across India showed. This is eight times as many attacks and thrice the number of deaths as were reported in 2017, when nine were killed in eight such mob attacks.
Overall, since January 2017 to-date, 74 mob attacks over suspected child kidnapping killed 36 persons, the IndiaSpend database showed. Prior to 2017, only one incident was reported in 2012, in Bihar.
On 19 July, 2017, Union home minister Rajnath Singh made a statement to the Lok Sabha indicting misinformation and fake news for the spate of mob violence. Adding that it is the state governments' responsibility to maintain public order, Singh said social media operators have been requested to be vigilant of the spread of fake news on their platforms.
Currently, 18 of 29 states have governments run by the BJP.
— HMO India (@HMOIndia) July 19, 2018
A day prior to MHA's response to the Rajya Sabha, the Supreme Court on 17 July, 2018, had urged the Parliament to enact a new law to deal with the offence of lynching.
"Citizens cannot take the law into their hands or become the law unto themselves," said the apex court, stressing that "horrendous acts of mobocracy" cannot become the new norm.
The author is an assistant editor with IndiaSpend and FactChecker.
Updated Date: Jul 20, 2018 15:33 PM