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24 Jul 2018

Govt stirs on lynchings, finally

Imran Ahmed Siddiqui, TT, Jul 24, 2018, New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government stirred on the subject of lynchings for the first time on Monday, after at least 48 lynchings in three years and a Supreme Court nudge last week, forming two high-level committees to suggest "measures".

The mandate to the committees - one of bureaucrats and the other of ministers headed by Rajnath Singh - does not explicitly mention new legislation although the apex court had suggested a separate law against lynchings and the "horrendous acts of mobocracy".

Home ministry sources, however, suggested a legislative route was very much an option although it wasn't clear whether the committees would opt for amendments to the existing criminal law or recommend a separate law.

Lynchings, over largely unsubstantiated allegations of cow smuggling or child kidnapping, have mounted since Mohammed Akhlaque was dragged from his home in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, in September 2015 and murdered by a mob on suspicion of beef-eating. The latest happened in Alwar, Rajasthan, on July 20.

But the government's standard response has been silence, apart from a few instances of open support to the accused or convicts by some ministers.

Sources in the National Crime Records Bureau said that between May 2014 and April this year, 48 people had been lynched in 41 mob attacks in nine states, while data from the rest of the states was not available. They said child-kidnapping allegations accounted for 29 of these deaths.

A July 19 report by the website IndiaSpend said 98 per cent of all cow-related violence since 2010 had taken place after the Modi government came to power in May 2014. It said 33 people were lynched in 86 attacks, 29 of them Muslims, mostly in BJP-ruled states.

The committee of bureaucrats, chaired by home secretary Rajiv Gauba, has been given four weeks to "formulate appropriate measures to address the situation". The ministerial panel will consider the recommendations and send the final suggestions to the Prime Minister. No deadline has been set for this panel.

Rajnath's panel includes foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, highway minister Nitin Gadkari, law minister R.S. Prasad and social justice minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot.

The nine states for which the bureau has lynching records are Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Telangana, Maharashtra, Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka. Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, where several cow-related lynchings have happened, are not on the list.

A senior National Crime Records Bureau official said: "We wrote to the home ministry last year seeking its approval to include lynching in the format (for recording crimes), so we could send it to all the states to collect lynching figures. We are still waiting for a response.'

The apex court has suggested fast-tracked trials, compensation to victims, deterrent punishment for the guilty and lax law-keepers.

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