This article is written by Shreya Pandey, from Banasthali University. This article deals with the incident of mob lynching that took place at Palghar and analysis of the selective silence by the media.
Table of Contents
An incident of mob lynching of 2 sadhus and a driver by the villagers of Gadchinchale, a village of Palghar District in Maharashtra took place on 16th April, 2020, while the world was fighting with the pandemic, COVID 19. The mob lynching was done in front of the police officers where those 3 persons were lynched to death and the police didn’t take any initiative to stop it. The reason that the vigilante group lynching those 2 sadhus and a driver came out to be a rumour that was spread by the villagers on WhatsApp that there are gangs who are engaged in organ harvesting and kidnapping at night. The villagers mistakenly thought those sadhus and the driver to be the gang members and they punished them to death. This news was not shown by the media but the public got to know about it through viral videos on social networking sites.
Facts of the incident
- Sushilgiri Maharaj and a 70-year-old sadhu were travelling to Surat to attend the funeral of their Guru, Shree Mahant Ramgiri with a driver, Nilesh.
- A forest department sentry stopped their car near Gadchinchale at a checkpoint. So they stopped their car and were having some conversation with the guard.
- Meanwhile, a vigilante group attacked them with sticks and axes.
- The police were party to the incident and were found to be leading the mob and surrendering those sadhus to them in the video.
- The mob lynched those sadhus with fists, axes, sticks, feet, and bricks till death.
- It was not shown by media in the news until a video of the mob lynching went viral on social media and almost three lakh tweets were made by people on this incident.
- It was later reported that the villagers thought them to be organ harvesters and child thieves.
- In a news article, it was stated that the policemen tried stopping the crowd but they failed because the mob beat them as well when they tried stopping the mob due to which four policemen and one senior police officer got injured.
- Maharashtra Home Minister, Anil Deshmukh stated that the police arrested 101 people from the mob within eight hours from the incident.
- The accused were alleged under many sections including Sec 302, 307, 34, and 124B.
- The case was transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for further investigation.
Reactions of the public
This incident raised many questions in the mind of the public like-
- Why couldn’t the police stop the mob?
- Why didn’t the media show this incident to the public before it got viral on social media?
- Why didn’t the media show the news sooner?
- How can the country be called a modern democratic republic when people are attacking others on a mere basis of a rumour and police can do nothing but stand still and watch all the incidents till the victims are murdered brutally?
- What is the role of the media and police in protecting and spreading awareness among the public respectively?
Role of police
The videos that went viral clearly show how the sadhu who was being lynched brutally by the mob, was hoping that the policemen would protect him from the mob but when the police itself gave the sadhus and the driver to the mob, the sadhu lost all hope as he was given false assurance by the police that the police will protect them. In the video, it is clear that the police itself surrendered those sadhus and the driver to the mob and did not take any adequate steps to protect the victims. The public raised several questions including why did the police not stop the mob through force when the mob constituted an unlawful assembly under Sec 141 of IPC, 1860 and the police are authorized to use force under Sec 129 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 still the police did not do anything to protect the sadhus. Two policemen were suspended for their negligence of duty, but only suspending the policemen is not the solution. Police are given the duty of protection of the public but in this incident, the police handed the sadhus and the driver to the crowd to get lynched which questions their credibility of being public servants. Despite having the authority to stop the mob and safeguard the sadhus they did nothing instead led the crowd which raises a serious threat to people’s security. Moreover, when there was such a rumour spreading in the village about organ harvesters and child thieves the police did not do anything to prevent such rumours from spreading. It was clear negligence on part of the police and any excuse that is being made by the police that they tried but they got injured or when they reached the spot the sadhus were already dead is an escape. The videos that went viral are proof that the police did not even try to stop the mob and they were present when the villagers were lynching those three people.
Role of media
Media is considered to be the fourth pillar of democracy but in this case, the media didn’t show it in the news and ignored it. It was only the social media where the video went viral and people got to know about it and the viral video received three lakhs tweets on twitter due to which the media considered it as “news” otherwise it was printed in a small corner of the newspaper giving it no significance. The privilege of selective reporting of the press has given such power to media that the media is used to promote fake news, increase hatred on a religious basis instead of showcasing the actual reality and giving important news about what is happening in the country and worldwide. The media must bring out the truth and make the public aware of the facts of the case, but the story of Palghar wasn’t showcased to the people. The media chose to have selective silence on the topic and therefore didn’t take any step to bring it as news in front of the public. The state of selective silence by media on a case like a mob lynching can create peace for a few moments but the consequences of silence by media on such important news can create doubt about its independence and its reason to be a pillar of democracy.
Under Article 19 of the Constitution of India, the media has been given the freedom of the press to propagate the news to the public without any intervention from any government organ. Media is given the privilege to choose and provide important information to the public but exercising such privilege to hide such information from the public is misusing the right and infringing the right to information of the public.
Role of citizens
The incident of mob lynching represents the mindset of the citizens of the country that how they don’t have any faith in the police or the government as they punished those men themselves having an assumption that those sadhus were thieves or organ harvesters. We as citizens have nothing to do except blame others. Many incidents can be seen on a roadside where a mob lynches a man for any reason and people ignore it until and unless such a big incident happens. It always takes something major to happen to open the eyes of the general public to raise their voice or stand for justice. Those villagers are also citizens of the country and they also have the same thinking because they didn’t trust the police for their protection. This incident happened because of a prolonged culture of the country where there is no trust in authorities but whenever anything of such kind happens then the whole public starts blaming the government or authorities for their neglection but hardly anyone realizes that this incident may not take place if the villagers hadn’t taken the law in their own hands and punished those sadhus assuming them to be thieves. It is considered that the person wearing saffron-hue is symbolizing fascism, hate or terror so they can be child thieves or organ harvesters. Such a thought process that a person wearing a kind of dress represents a certain activity is a thinking of India and people discriminate based on their clothes.
In 2015 a similar incident happened where a Muslim man, Mohammad Akhlaq, was lynched by villagers who assumed him to slaughter a cow in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh. The villagers lynched the man with bricks, sticks, knives till his death. In this incident, Mohammed Akhlaq’s son also got heavily injured. There are similarly many incidents of mob lynching based on assumptions of the mob resulting in the death of the victims. This needs to be stopped and there should be strict laws against such acts because after the death of an innocent punishing the mob is useless. There should be such laws that no one gets mob lynched by the crowd. Proper laws and rules should be followed on any person against whom an allegation is made.
The media is given a right to choose embodied under Article 19 to provide important pieces of information to the public. This right is given to exercise in such a way that the media should show the relevant news to the public. Selective silence is a state where the media chooses to be silent on certain topics where it thinks it is necessary for the country’s peace. Selective silence on crucial topics can bring momentary comfort but it hampers the public faith and trust in the media. This incident of mob lynching on sadhus was a very important news that media should have provided to the public, but the media chose to be silent about such an issue. This raises a doubt among the people that social media is more reliable nowadays than the media as it was through social media only that this news got viral and people got to know about it. It is thus very important for the media to choose wisely when to be silent and when to be showcasing the news that is important for the public at large to know. As media didn’t show this news till the twitter was flooded with lakhs of tweets about the mob lynching and till then the media was silent on this topic, so it took lakhs of tweets to persuade the media to show this information which depicts how media chose to be silent on such a topic where those innocent sadhus were brutally lynched till death by villagers.
Mob lynching is an extrajudicial killing where a group punishes an accused for committing a crime but it is an obnoxious slur on our legal system. It depicts that the citizens don’t trust the laws and they think themselves to be above the law and empower themselves to punish an accused which makes the whole justice system useless and powerless. The group thinking them capable of punishing someone by themselves just on the ground of their assumption is intolerant and there should be strict rules against such acts. The occurrence of such incidents are an infringement of the right to life and liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution. It is high time for the government to take steps to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.
In this case, the sadhus were not even criminals, they were just innocents who were passing by the road where they were stopped on a checkpoint near the village. It is more surprising to the public that such an incident happened in front of the police but they did nothing to stop the mob. Killing off such innocents on basis of a rumor and that too in front of police is a sign of lack of law due to which neither the mob got threatened nor the police took any step. The Protection from Lynching Act, 2017 was enacted to punish acts of lynching but still, this incident occurred. Thus, stricter laws should be made and the offenders shall be punished in a way that sets an example for others who think to commit such acts so the public is protected from such unlawful mob lynching in the future.
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