TNN Bureau. Updated: 7/6/2018 3:53:47 PM Features

Ghastly incidents of lynching are being reported from different parts of the country and over multiple issues. They have assumed the dimensions of a social epidemic. The incidents have become more frequent, and they happen in villages and cities and in places as far apart as Tripura and Maharashtra.

While the victims in most cases used to be single individuals, now even whole groups are being targeted. In the latest incident in Maharashtra’s Dhule district, five persons of a nomadic community were attacked and killed by a mob on suspicion that they were child-lifters. On the same day, a person who was engaged by the Tripura government to spread the message among villagers not to believe rumours was himself killed. In the past one month, 14 lynchings have been reported from different states. Some cases may not have been reported, and there are many who survived the attacks by luck.

There are various explanations about how mob anger and violence are rising in the country. Mob action is increasingly directed against not only suspected child-lifters but also others like cattle traders and even ordinary criminals. There are increasing cases of attacks on people accused in cases even inside court premises. All these are cases of people taking the law into their hands, which is a sign of either their losing faith in the rule of law or sensing impunity.

It should be noted that the government official who had accompanied the Tripura man and the police party that went to the Dhule village to investigate the killings were also attacked. It has been observed that most of the victims are beggars, poor people or outsiders who are attacked for just looking different. The issue goes beyond law and order and is about changing attitudes and perceptions in society. Social violence often arises from a sense of fear and insecurity. The issue needs to be addressed at many levels.

Social media messages and fake news have been a catalyst for mob violence. In most cases of lynchings, it has been seen that messages about child-lifters’ presence in an area have gone viral. Negative news and rumours spread fast by word of mouth also. Methods of curbing the spread of such news on social media should be explored, though this is not easy. But the authorities should always be alert and immediately counter rumours and false information at the local level with effective counter-campaigns. It is also necessary to educate the public on matters that often trigger mob violence. Mischief-mongers and those who facilitate mischief should be strongly dealt with, and a stern and no-nonsense message should go out to the people.

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