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Will there be an end to mob killings?

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Will there be an end to mob killings?
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The Supreme Court's three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra has asked the parliament to make special legislation that can prevent the mob killings in the name of cow vigilantism. The bench has reminded the states that they are bound to prevent violence such as the mob lynchings and ensure law and order.

The apex court has also directed the Central Government to inform the position within four weeks, pointing out inter alia that mob cannot be allowed to take law into their hands and it is for the states to stem the tide of anarchy in the society.

Senior lawyer Indira Jaising submitted to the court that mob murders are aimed at specific caste and religion, and it will fall within the purview of Article 15 of the Constitution which prohibits discrimination based on religion, caste and sex. The Supreme Court had asked the state governments earlier on July 3rd that they should strictly put an end to the organized attacks by cow vigilantes. Even as far back as last September, the apex court had issued directives in this regard including about appointment of nodal officers. But there was no evidence that came before the court showing their implementation, and thence the new stern order from the court.

In all states of the country excluding Kerala, West Bengal and the North-eastern states, there are laws that strictly ban cow's meat and rules that prescribe extreme punishment to violators. Although the cow does not have any distinction that animals like buffalo and goat - which people kill for meat and hide and fur - do not have, it is a clear fact that beef ban was introduced by majority of the states only in view of worship of the cow by upper castes. Perhaps ours may be the only country on the planet to have banned cow slaughter solely in the name of faith.

There are states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, UP, Gujarat and Maharashtra which not only banned cow slaughter, but also declared the transfer, transport and sale of beef serious crimes and enforced severe punishment. In some parts, the National Security Act is also enforced by which people can be arrested on mere suspicion and can be put in jail for up to a year. It is when such laws incompatible with democracy, human rights and basic justice are already in place, and as if they were not adequate, that extreme Hindu outfits of different hue and colour round up innocent Muslim and Dalit groups and murder them in heinous manner, alleging that they transported, ate, sold or killed cow. If at first they were, as pointed out in the Supreme Court, isolated mob killings, now they have increased alarmingly. This has to be called mobocracy, not democracy.

In spite of the consistent protests by humanists and the secular society of the country, and international human rights movements, there seems to be no end to the mob murders. The situation is such that the state governments and the police are protecting the cow vigilante goons. Not only that, for some there seems to be no qualms about justifying such cruelty on the basis of allegation about violation of beef ban. This is nothing but a spectacle of collapse of rule of law. Even if a crowd of people see somebody shipping or killing cows, who has given them the right to take law into their hands? It is worthwhile to note that except in a few of such extreme communal issues, these cow vigilantes have no compunction to gaze in silence at human beings being slain in broad day light.

Reports have been coming in from different parts of incidents in which people gather, gang rape girls and escape to safety. That being so, what inspire these criminal gangs is not basic humanism or the moral rage to stop violation of law, but extreme communalism, and religious and caste hatred. The Supreme Court has, albeit late, made a pertinent intervention when it drew the attention of state and central government with a call for urgent action.

We have to wait and see how seriously governments treat and implement the court order. With the general election drawing near, we will be seeing within four weeks, whether the BJP governments will give priority to Hindutva appeasement or to fulfillment of constitutional obligations. The question arising above all is, apart from a show of some exercises to make it appear that the court order is respected, whether they will take practical steps reflecting the real spirit of the Supreme Court order with a sense of responsibility and commitment.

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