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This article is written by Ravit Yadav. The article discussing the laws against lynching in the United States.

“How could they do it, how could they?
I do not know, but they did. They have done it before and they did it tonight and they will do it again.” – To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee

Can you sense the fear in above-given lines? If yes, congratulations, you are still a human. People have lost their senses and the word lynching is the new normal in today’s world. People across the world are lynching each other and India is also not untouched by it.

Defining Lynching

According to Oxford dictionary, the word lynching means the illegal killing of somebody, usually by hanging, by a crowd of people and without a trial.

People have modified this definition and invented various ways to lynch an accused. Lynching includes mob-lynching, attacks by vigilantes, murder, attempt to murder, harassment, assault and gangrape.

History of lynching

Lynching traces its history from the southern part of United States of America where the racial tension between white and slaves was growing severely in the 19th century. Slaves that lived around white people all those years were freed and this became the bone of contention for the white people of America. They blamed them for their financial loses.

From 1882 to 1968, almost 4743 lynching occurred in America in which 3446 were racial in nature. A big reason for this was the end of the Civil War. Once blacks were given their freedom many people felt that the freed blacks were getting away with too much of freedom and felt they needed to be controlled.

From America to Nigeria it spread like fire in the 19th century and thus a need was felt to implement strict laws to eliminate this practice.

Laws against lynching

Dyer anti-lynching law 1918

This bill classified lynching as a federal felony, which could have allowed the US to prosecute such cases. It called for the prosecution of lynchers in federal court and State officials who failed to protect lynching victims or prosecute lynchers could face five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The victim’s heirs could recover up to $10,000 from the county where the crime occurred.

The anti-lynching law of 1928 in Virginia

This bill was a breakthrough in curbing violence against African-American in Virginia. The law gave the state the power to enforce stiff penalties against localities that did not report vigilante murder.

Nigerians anti-lynching bill 2009

All you need to shout “bug-bug” (bug means thief) in Nigeria and a number of people will gather to burn that accused to death. It was very difficult to charge the offenders under the laws that cover murder and assault in Nigeria so it has to pass an anti-lynching bill in 2009 to maintain the rule of law and due process.

What does it change?

It defines lynching as “Three or more persons acting in concert for the purpose of depriving any person of his life without authority of law as a punishment for or to prevent the commission of some actual or supposed public offence”.


A person found guilty of instigating any of these three criminal offences will be punished by imprisonment for life or not less than 25 years.

The bill stipulates that a security officer who fails to make reasonable efforts o prevent an attack, or to apprehend a perpetrator, will be punished by up to five years imprisonment or face a fine of up to N 500,000 (US$1400).

A security officer who takes part in, or conspires to an extrajudicial attack, would be guilty of a capital offence. Those who have failed at prevention would be subject to dismissal and 15 years imprisonment.

Instances of lynching across the globe

• Iraqi citizens killed four American Blackwater security guards in support of coalition provisional authority.

• The Druze minority in Syria has been targeted by jihadist rebels.

• In Afghanistan, a twenty-seven-year-old lady was publically beaten and slain by a mob in Kabul.

• Forty-nine suspected people were tried in the case out of which four sentenced to death and 8 others were given 16 years imprisonment. This trail was noted for its unusual brevity as it lasted for two days only.

• In Bangladesh outrage over the lynching of a 13-year-old boy samiul had been noticed. Police arrested 5 people who tied samiul to a pole and then assaulted him. Samiul was accused of stealing a bike.

• In Srilanka, lynching and violence between Muslims and Buddhists spread so much that president had to impose emergency for ten days.

• Pakistan court recently sentenced one person to death and five others to life imprisonment over the mob lynching of a student who was falsely accused of blasphemy in 2017.

Instances where mob lynching was legalised in Bolivia

• Bolivian president Evo Morales, who was an indigenous Aymara launched Bolivia’s judicial reform to allow “traditional justice” among indigenous communities. As a result of which Bolivia saw the amazing rise of lynching culture in the name of traditional justice.

• About two years ago when Philippines president legalises lynching, he was brutally slammed by United Nations. President of Philippines claimed that the victims slaughtered by hundreds of people were suspected drug dealers and he also warned its media and journalists that they may become the next target.

• The situation is even worst in Malaysia where government associated media engages in public lynching of the individual that dares to challenge the Umno-scripted about the political system, religion and monarchy.

How India is dealing with lynching

India has seen a flood of lynching incidents from 2010 to 2017. was the worst year for such lynching since 2010. In the first six months of 2017, 18 such cases were reported which was almost 75% of the 2016 figure.

These attacks–sometimes collectively referred to as gautankwad, a portmanteau of the Hindi words for cow and terrorism, on social media–were reported from 19 of 29 Indian states, with Uttar Pradesh (9), Haryana (8), Karnataka (6), Gujarat (5), Delhi (5), Rajasthan (5) and Madhya Pradesh (4) reporting the highest number of cases.

Minorities and Dalits are the easy targets for these lynchers. The spate of violent attacks is in no way spontaneous expressions of mob anger. They are the product of systematic incitement to violence by Hindu nationalists.

There are various reasons for such lynching in India and cow protectors and cow eaters are one of them. Besides this organised hate campaign, meat politics, calling for cow protection, hinduisation of public places, the silence of political class are some other reasons for such inhumane incidents in India.

Further, there is no specific punishment for term mob lynching in India. It depends on the fact of the case. For example, if a group of people during lynching commit murder as in case of two Assam boys then it will fall under section 302 of IPC.

In most of the lynching cases, Indian penal code comes Into play. Section 302, 304, 307, 323, 325 should be read with section 34, 141, 149,147, 148 and 120(B) for reaching the conclusion in such cases.
Further, the absence of authentic data allows govt to live in denial. Above mention ned sections of criminal laws are inadequate in deterring the cause of lynching as the hate element in such crimes is not addressed yet.

Recently members of a national campaign against lynching (NCAML) drafted the MaSuKa which is also known as MANAV SURAKSHA KANOON.
It proposes the definition of “lynching”,”mob”, and “offensive material” and makes lynching a Non- bailable offence with a graded level of punishment depending upon the injury caused to the victim.

It also provides the investigation by a senior police officer, designation of judges for trial and appeal at the high court, special rights for victim and witnesses and mandatory compensation by the state government.
Some people also claim that MaSuKa seems to be protecting all human beings but internally it has hidden agendas of minority appeasement.

MaSuKa has good ideas like making police responsible, compensation for victim’s families, and witness protection.
On the other hand, Ambiguities could lead to ineffectiveness and misuse and timeline are too short. Currently, there are no provisions for compensation, rehabilitation of the family, lies and speedy justice in the existing lynching laws so despite MaSuKa’s pros and cons at least good points should at least be incorporated into existing law.

Judicial observations on the human right violation in India

In the case of National Human Rights Commission v. State of Gujrat and others, (2009) 6 SCC 342 The court observed: “Communal harmony is the hallmark of a democracy. No religion teaches hatred. If in the name of religion, people are killed, that is essentially a slur and blot on the society governed by the rule of law. The Constitution of India, in its Preamble, refers to secularism. Religious fanatics really do not belong to any religion. They are’ no better than terrorists who kill innocent people for no rhyme or reason in a society which as noted above is governed by the rule of law.”

Again in the case of S. Krishna sradha vs State of A.P. 2017 it is observed that “right is conferred on a person by the rule of law and if he seeks a remedy through the process meant for establishing the rule of law and it is denied to him, it would never subserve the cause of real justice”.

Is there an ending?

The problem is rooted in the mindset of the people. The most recent case is about Nath, 30, and Das, 29, who had gone to remote Kachari village on Saturday for sightseeing in a black four-wheel drive when they were chased and beaten to death on the suspicion of child kidnapping.

The government should have said clearly that ‘eating habits’ were individual liberty and we as a nation must stop sniffing each other’s refrigerators.

Unless factors like Illiteracy, Religion and casteism, stress, unemployment, intolerance, Political support or indifference and low conviction rate are there in India and the world I don’t see any end to this violence and lynching.

Killing a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Oxford dictionary
Nigerian anti-lynching bill, 2009
India spend database
Aljajeera India
The wire
Hindustan Times
Times of India
The Hindu
The Indian Express
Indian penal code
Code of criminal procedure

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