BJP President Amit Shah
BJP President Amit Shah [Picture: May 23, 2019] Image Credit: REUTERS

Dubai: Home minister of India and the ruling BJP President Amit Shah will now head a group of ministers to combat lynching in India. However, Indian Twitterati are not sure if he’s the right choice for the job.

On Tuesday, Indian newspaper, The Hindu reported: “An empowered Group of Ministers (GoM) constituted last year to suggest measures to combat lynchings will continue functioning. It will be headed by Home Minister Amit Shah, said a senior government official.”

Lynching, a new norm

Mob lynching, violence and cow vigilantism are one of the main challenges the country and its leaders are currently facing on a daily basis.

On July 23, a group of 49 eminent Indian personalities, including filmmakers, authors and actors, wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing concerns over the recent instances of mob violence and lynching.

The signatories also said that they regretted that “Jai Shri Ram” (praise the deity Ram) was being reduced to a “provocative war cry that leads to law and order problems, and lynchings take place in its name”.

Just last month, Tabrez Ansari, a victim of a recent mob lynching in India, died on June 22 after he allegedly succumbed to his injuries.

Disturbing viral videos showed Ansari with his hands behind his back, being forced to say Hindu phrases like “Jai Shri Ram” and “Jai Hanuman” (hail the deity Hanuman).

How it all began

In September 2015, Mohammad Akhlaq was beaten to death in the state of Uttar Pradesh, following rumours that he and his family had killed a calf and eaten beef during Eid festivities. Since then, several incidents of mobs lynching accusing people of eating beef or transporting cows for slaughter have been reported from across the country.

But the perpetrators of mob lynching crimes enjoy impunity, to the extent that they upload videos of the crime.

Leaders are silent

Bharatiya Janata Party leaders including India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi have not said or done enough to address the issue.

Analysts and Twitter users have constantly said that the party seems to send out signals approving mob violence and vigilantism.

According to Indian media reports, on July 6, 2018, the then Civil Aviation Minister Jayant Sinha was photographed greeting and giving garlands to eight men convicted of lynching a Muslim cattle trader in 2017.

This was probably the reason why the news made a sudden wave on Twitter and tweeps started questioning if the BJP President was the right person to head such an important team.

Sharing the news story, Twitter user @NoormohammedFeb posted: “Hypocrisy just died forever.”

And, @Advaidism tweeted: “Amit Shah to head group to combat lynching. Reminds me of the 1993 news article of The Independent which described Osama bin Laden as the warrior of Peace.”

@kvijayiyer tagged two Indian journalists and sarcastically asked: “While you are at it, please also find out who is this Amit Shah who is heading a group on lynching and women harassment because the one we all know doesn’t fit the bill at all.”

But, not everyone was against this choice. Some said it was time to keep political agendas and hate aside and let the leader do his job.

@ShivaaniKTalwar tweeted: “#Lynching Victims are both Hindus and Muslims! So #SelectiveOutrage is not the solution. The Solution is to combat it for all victims! Whether you like it or not @AmitShah is the best man to bring the perpetrators to book! Keep your hate aside and let him do the job!”

Supreme Court directive

The Supreme Court had issued a judgment in July 2018, and issued a slew of directions to provide “preventive, remedial and punitive measures” to deal with mob violence and cow vigilantism. It had also asked the legislature to consider the possibility of enacting a new penal provision to deal with mob violence.

On Friday, India’s top court issued a notice to the Centre and ten state governments, seeking their response to an allegation that the directives it had issued last year to prevent mob lynchings were not implemented.

The Wire reported that: “Two days before the apex court’s order, Minister of state for Home G. Kishan Reddy told the Rajya Sabha that there was ‘no common pattern of mob lynching in the country’. He also reportedly said that the government had constituted a GoM to deliberate on incidents of lynching and make recommendations to tackle the crime.”

Other members of the committee

According to media reports, the members of the GoM are India’s external affairs minister S. Jaishankar, transport minister Nitin Gadkari, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and social justice and empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot.

Tweeps are not sure what the GOM will achieve. Tweep @kaphybreak posted: “And soon lynching will get a clean chit... We will hear that most victims committed suicide, rest died of medical ailments like common cold....”