By: Gopi Maniar
Vigilantism is flourishing in India, unabated.
Mobile footage of civilians beating, kicking, flogging crime suspects, the weak and the vulnerable alike has now become a regular feature on television rundowns.
The latest in the series of horrific lynch-attack videos have emerged from prime minister Narendra Modi’s Gujarat.
A man is bound by his waist with a rope looped through the handlebar of a door. Its other end is held by one of his four attackers. He howls in pain as two men take turns to whip him with a PVC stick.
The clip was shot on a factory compound at Rajkot’s Shapar industrial zone, some seven kilometres from the city.
The captive, identified as a 38-year-old Dalit, Mukesh Vaniya, died. His four attackers have been arrested on charges of murder, kidnapping and anti-Dalit atrocities, said Rajkot’s deputy SP, Shruti Mehta. “We are also trying to investigate the matter with the help of CCTV and FSL reports,” Mehta added.
But Why This Medieval-Age Torture?
“Mukesh Vaniya belonging to a scheduled caste was miserably thrashed and murdered by owners in Rajkot and his wife was brutally beaten up,” wrote Vadgam MLA Jignesh Mevani on his Twitter handle.
The Dalit rights crusader broke the news about this bloodcurdling beating with a hashtag suggesting Gujarat was not safe for low-caste communities.
According to police, the attackers suspected the victim of theft from the factory unit.
The Congress party, meantime, has accused chief minister Vijay Rupani and his government of failure to protect Dalits.
On its part, the state administration announced financial support to Vaniya’s survivors. “We are providing a compensation of Rs 8.25 lakh to the family of the victim,” said Gujarat’s social empowerment minister.
The family, the minister added, would also be given Rs 6,000 every month for the next three years.
State home minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja vowed stringent measures against the suspects to deter future attacks on the Dalits. “The government is providing its fullest support to the family under various state schemes. We will take strict action against the accused so that such incidents against the Dalits do not recur.”
VIGILANTISM A RECIPE FOR ANARCHY
For the victim’s widow, Jayaben Vaniya, justice would only be served if the killers of her husband were beaten up the same way as her husband had been.
Experts have warned that the spike in vigilantism could degenerate the law into a vicious cycle of vengeance.
“Vigilantism is arbitrary use of power. The power is vested in the government and not in individuals, otherwise it will result into anarchy,” said social activist Aruna Roy last year in Jaipur.
“It is an issue to be worried about but definitely it is not against any political party. It is in the larger interest of the country,” she cautioned.
But Gujarat is no stranger to anti-Dalit violence.
Over the past six months, low-caste men have been fatally beaten in the state allegedly for owning and riding a horse and for watching garba.
In 2016, a video of four Dalit tannery workers being stripped and flogged in Una town went viral.
RISING VIGILANTISM ACROSS INDIA
Across India, around three dozen major incidents of vigilante justice were reported between 2015 and 2017, many of them involving deadly assaults.
Here goes the chronology of mob attacks during the two-year period:
July 9: A 30-year-old man, who had allegedly raped a minor girl, was lynched by an angry mob in Shillong.
June 29: A man accused of carrying beef was allegedly beaten to death by a mob in Jharkhand’s Ramgarh district.
June 27: Over a 100-strong mob attacks a Muslim man over suspicions he had slaughtered a cow in Giridih district in Jharkhand. Police rescued the man from the marauding attackers and admitted him to a hospital.
June 26: Three Muslim youth were lynched in Durgapur village, West Bengal, by cow vigilantes over suspicion of cattle theft.
June 22: A 17-year-old was stabbed to death while his brothers were injured by a mob after a dispute over a seat on board a train between Ballabgarh and Mathura stations.
June 11: Around 50 vigilantes targeted officials of the Tamil Nadu government transporting cows from Jaisalmer to their state. Police rescued the officials.
June 6: A man was attacked and severely injured in Jharkhand’s Dhanbad district on allegations of carrying beef to an Iftar party.
May 31: Four people were beaten to death in Jamshedpur’s Seraikela-Kharswan district on suspicion of child kidnapping.
May 26: Three youth were allegedly beaten on suspicion of carrying beef in east Maharashtra’s Rajora village.
May 21: One person was beaten to death in Loharwa village of Rajasthan’s Barmer district when two groups clashed over a land dispute.
May 19: Three cattle traders were beaten to death by a mob in Saraikela district, Jharkhand, on suspicion of child kidnapping.
May 1: A mob allegedly lynched two men in Nagaon district of Assam, accusing them of cattle theft.
April 1: A 55-year-old dairy farmer, Pehlu Khan, died in Alwar, Rajasthan after he was beaten by cow vigilantes.
March 27: Seven members of an alleged cow vigilante group were arrested for attacking and trying to sexually harass women at a house in Tellar village of Karkala, Karnataka.
March 22: Several meat shops torched and vandalised by cow vigilantes in Hathras district of U.P.
September 8: A man in his early thirties was lynched on suspicion of stealing cattle in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal.
September 3: Cow vigilantes set a truck carrying chicken feed on fire, and beat up its owner at Zhora village, 40 km from Bhopal.
September 13: A 25-year-old Muslim man was beaten brutally by cow vigilantes after a road accident. He died later.
August 24: In Mewat, Haryana, ten alleged Gau Rakshaks killed a Muslim couple in their 30s. Two other members of their family were seriously injured.
August 18: A BJP worker in Karnataka, who was transporting cows in a three-wheeler, died after he was attacked by cow vigilantes.
August 5: Two Dalits were assaulted for refusing to remove cow carcasses in Lucknow.
July 31: A man beaten for allegedly slaughtering cows outside Malout, Muktsar district in Punjab.
July 27: A man in Navsari in Gujarat, who was carrying cattle meat in a plastic bag, was beaten up by Gau Rakshaks.
July 26: Two Muslim women beaten at Mandsaur railway station, Madhya Pradesh on suspicion of carrying beef.
July 11: Four Dalits in Una, Gujarat, tied to a car and flogged publicly by cow vigilantes.
July 10: Bajrang Dal members brutally attacked a Dalit family in Koppa in Karnataka, accusing them of possessing beef.
June 10: Gau Rakshaks force-fed two people a cow dung mixture, accusing them of ferrying beef in Faridabad, Haryana.
May 6: Three people beat a 20-year-old in Sohna, Haryana for allegedly carrying beef.
March 28: Truck allegedly carrying buffalo tallow stopped on Rupnagar-Kurali road in Punjab; driver beaten.
March 18: Mar 18: Two cattle traders were beaten, robbed and hanged from a tree in Jhabra village in Latehar district, Jharkhand.
October 16: Mob bludgeons a 22-year-old to death after stopping a truck with more than a dozen cows in Sirmaur district of Himachal Pradesh.
September 28: A mob of villagers attacked the home of a Muslim man, Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh over beef suspicions. Akhlaq died in the assault.
August 29: Residents of Chilla village, near east Delhi’s Mayur Vihar, clashed with four truck drivers reportedly transporting buffaloes to a slaughter house in Ghazipur.
May 30: Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi, 60, was killed in Birloka in Khimsar tehsil of Rajasthan’s Nagaur district after rumours he had killed 200 cows for a feast.