Photo: Mint
Photo: Mint

Is Indian judiciary the sole saviour from mob frenzy

The same crowd that once gave a sense of security has become a source of fear

Last week, the Supreme Court berated politicians, saying they cannot leave the dispensation of justice to the mob and bring in a new legislation to control mob lynchings and deal strictly with such offences. Little did the honourable judges realise that hundreds of kilometres away, in a nondescript Jharkhand town called Pakur, a different script was being enacted.

A few hours later, we watched on television as 78-year-old Swami Agnivesh was brutally assaulted in public. Those attacking him were shouting provocative slogans. The police later registered a case under stringent provisions of the Indian Penal Code.

There was a hue and cry over this incident in the Jharkhand assembly. Television channels kept debating it for hours, but apart from Union minister Jayant Sinha, no party leader came forward. A day earlier, Congress member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor’s office was similarly vandalized in Thiruvananthapuram.

Not just this, the evening after Swami Agnivesh was brutally assaulted, during an acrimonious debate, a maulana slapped a woman lawyer of the Supreme Court on live television.

Pay attention to these three incidents. These are not mere attacks on a politician’s office or physical assaults on women or senior citizens. In the name of religion and civilization, Indians are becoming irreligious and uncivilized with every passing day. Consider the statement of Nida Khan, who has been fighting triple talaq and nikah halala. She told the Minorities Affairs Commission that she feared for her life. She is most afraid of the crowds that assemble for Friday prayers. Why has the same crowd that once gave a sense of security, become a source of fear?

A few people are consistently trying to tarnish the dignity of our nation.

Even earlier, in the name of security, reservations, and appeasement, politicians had been pandering to their vote banks. The only difference now is that these days, social media has made the flow of currents blowing from the political quarters a round-the-year affair. Those fanning these fires include people of diverse opinions and political beliefs. We Indians appear to be overcome with mob frenzy. This is dangerous.

Had mobs been capable of dispensing justice, they wouldn’t have had to level bizarre allegations on French queen Marie Antoinette that led to her execution. She was accused of having physical relations with her son.

Similarly, while murdering the Russian czar’s family in Yekaterinburg, the mob never thought that among those killed was the helpless teenaged son of Nicholas II. He had nothing to do with the deeds or misdeeds of the royal family. Why was he murdered then?

The common lesson from these examples is that a mob is driven by frenzy, not justice. If we allow it to run amok in every Indian city and town, shameful incidents such as those seen in Pakur and Hapur will be repeated every day.

Please pay attention. The incidents in France and Russia were the result of short-term anarchy triggered by revolutions. They were able to control them. Our country hasn’t passed through a similar tumultuous period. So, the situation in India is relatively more serious.

I feel if the Supreme Court takes suo motu cognizance of the incident at Pakur, the callousness that the authorities display while dealing with such incidents can be tackled. The attackers in Pakur were the first to have violated the Supreme Court’s directions. Here, questions are bound to be asked about the role of the police.

Everybody knew Agnivesh was in town. What was the intelligence wing doing? The police have footage of the incident. What explains the delay in taking action? Isn’t it a violation of the Supreme Court’s directive of dealing “strictly" with such incidents?

Of course, I don’t think I am capable of giving advice to the court, or cast any doubts over the wisdom of the esteemed bench.

Look at the sorry state of affairs. Almost every political party is caught in the quagmire. When the Agnivesh issue was raised in Parliament, home minister Rajnath Singh gave a statement that we have regularly met the chief ministers concerned and “urged" them to take action. In these cases, the centre’s rights are limited to just suggestions and requests. Law and order is an issue that state governments look at. What are they doing? If you look at the list of incidents, it will be clear that this is the state of affairs, whether it is in states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party or in Kerala, ruled by the Left Front. Even West Bengal, governed by Mamata Banerjee, is on the boil.

In such a scenario, what recourse does the common man have than to pin all hope on the judiciary?

Shashi Shekhar is editor in chief, Hindustan. His Twitter handle is @shekharkahin