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The lynching of Tabrez Ansari in Jharkhand for the alleged theft of a motorcycle is yet another grim reminder of an air of impunity that prevails in some parts of India, an atmosphere in which mob violence, especially against minorities, has become common news. Ansari, 24, who worked as a welder in Pune, was visiting his village ahead of his wedding. On 17 June, he was tethered to a pole and brutalized through the night, with a few of his tormentors forcing him to chant “Jai Shri Ram" and “Jai Hanuman", Hindu religious invocations doubtlessly aimed at humiliating a Muslim. On 22 June, Ansari died. While a series of arrests have belatedly been made and a probe ordered, media reports lay bare the shameful indifference—if not outright complicity—of those in authority, ranging from police personnel to a government doctor who conducted the initial medical examination on Ansari, but found him “fit" to be lodged in jail instead of a hospital.

It’s hard to escape the irony of the murder. It comes only days after India lashed out against a report by the US that pointed out the country’s troubling 2018 record on safeguarding minorities from such crowd violence in public places. The graph of hate crimes in preceding years has not gone unnoticed either.

Ansari’s death has duly rocked parliament, with senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Ghulam Nabi Azad rhetorically asking the BJP government to return us to the “old India, where there was no hatred, anger, or lynching". Outrage in the House appears to have had the effect of drawing national attention to the incident. The BJP-run state government of Jharkhand has initiated action—the arrests and probe mentioned earlier. These are welcome steps, but what the country needs is an authoritatively worded ultimatum that could deter vigilante groups from committing such heinous crimes. The message that lynchings are evil and have no religious sanction can never be overstated.

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