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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 23 July 2024

Easy violence: Editorial on the shocking count of lynching in West Bengal

The instigating rumours seem directed against weaker individuals — women, even a woman with a child, disabled persons, boys, or people from less privileged communities or professions

The Editorial Board Published 10.07.24, 07:39 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File Photo

Outbursts of collective cruelty seem to be increasing in West Bengal. Within one fortnight in June, four people were killed and 10 severely injured in 13 incidents of lynching, each time on the basis of rumour or suspicion that these individuals were thieves, mobile stealers or child snatchers. This is a shocking count, but not enough to stop the crime in spite of the attention it is drawing: a recent alleged incident in Bhangar demonstrated this. So far the lynchings have been concentrated in five districts towards the south of the state, including Burdwan and West Midnapore with some occurring in or close to Calcutta. What is important is the open defiance of law that the public violence implies; it demands exemplary action by the police — swift and unrelenting — wherever it occurs. The incidence of this crime was sufficient for the government to have passed the West Bengal (prevention of lynching) bill in 2019. It is a different matter that two successive governors sat on the bill and that it is still awaiting the present governor’s approval. But a law alone cannot change social aggression, although the government is setting great store by it. Meanwhile, the government has initiated awareness campaigns and the police have been instructed to be vigilant in prevention and arrest. Over 50 people were arrested in June. An observant and responsive public is also necessary to report a developing situation.

The ruthlessness of the beatings is remarkable; one young man died after being beaten throughout the night while he was tied to a tree. His killers were local persons who knew him. In certain cases, the police have had to use force to rescue the victims. The instigating rumours seem mostly directed against weaker individuals — women, even a woman with a child, disabled persons, boys, or people from less privileged communities or professions. What is the source of these rumours? Why do strangers band together so easily to beat helpless individuals if not to death then to within an inch of their lives? The cruelty and hatred manifested in a lynching can hardly be explained just by the urge to take the law into one’s own hands at a genuine grievance. But socio-psychological issues cannot be addressed in a short time. Only strict and unfailing penalties may be an immediate deterrent.

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