No one knows more about lynching than United States. Since the days of Klu Klux Klan lynching was used for targeted killings by white supremacists and as a tool to crush the identity of people of color. It is estimated that more than 4000 people were lynched in United States from 1877 t0 1950. Lynching is not just a murder but spectacle leading to mass euphoria. Tickets were sold in past and families made picnic out of lynching incidents.
Today when a black politician (Rep. Al Green) is threatened with lynching because he dares to call for impeachment of president or a white state representative (Karl Oliver) calls for lynching of politicians who support removing confederate statues in Louisiana, it echoes the same threat. As majority groups continue to assert their dominance, the minorities are forced to worry about their existence. It is the case of the majority telling the minorities that the law and the government can’t protect them from cowardly social justice.
Recently I was called out for drawing parallels between issues facing United States and India. I agree that it is not always good to compare the two different nations but when the issues threaten the core of democracy I think it warrants the attention of world’s two largest democracies.
The lynching of Pehlu Khan in April was not only brutal and scaring the souls but it was also filmed and circulated widely for entertainment. The mob of 200 in Rajasthan accused Khan and his colleagues transporting cows for slaughter and fatally beat them. The police filed cases of cattle smuggling and no one from the mob got punished. The lynching of three in Jharkhand last month was triggered by child-lifting rumors. Although the Jharkhand case has resulted in 26 arrests associated with the incident, the fundamental question remains.
The usually outspoken majority political class chose to stay silent on this issue rather than condemn the act. In some cases the overwhelming evidence pointed to premeditated plan and not something that happened in the spur of the moment.
In my opinion the acts and threat of acts are cases of domestic terrorism. People who are on the receiving end of this social justice are terrorized for their life and live in constant fear. This is not a sign of healthy democracy and governance. From trolling online to picking up a stick often the vigilante justice is misguided and results in irreparable damage to psyche. And rather than address the issue, we are burying our heads in the sand hoping that it will go away on its own.
We must acknowledge the threat for what it is and take steps to counter it. First, the leaders should denounce the heinous acts and ask their followers to not participate in such incidents. Second, law enforcement should be empowered to tackle the violence with support from the political class. The institutions of education should educate people, teach tolerance and reject the mob mentality. Finally, as responsible citizens, we should not only condemn the violence but seek help when the situation warrants. Don’t try to be a lone hero and save the day but work with like minded people to stop the violence and prevent lynching from becoming the new normal.