On 06/26/2017, Hafiz Junaid (16) from Khandavali, Haryana, was lynched to death by a mob of cow vigilantes who accused him and his brothers of being anti national Pakistanis eating beef. This happened when they were returning home after shopping. This happened in New Delhi en route to Mathura in Uttar Pradesh. His village observed mourning instead of celebrations on Eid over his death and consoled his family.
But is this the first time cow vigilantes, or gau rakshaks, have indulged in such acts of violence? Cow vigilantes have been active since the lynching of an old man at Dadri, UP over beef rumors. PM Modi called them out in 2016 after a group of Dalits were whipped in Una, Gujarat (which happens to be the PM’s home state) by a group of cow vigilantes for skinning a dead cow which caused a nationwide furor and culminated in the “Not in My Name” protests throughout India.
On 06/28/2017, Secretary of the Maharashtra Congress Shehzad Poonawalla and his brother Tehseen Poonawalla drafted a bill called Manav Suraksha Kanoon(MASUKA) to protect people from being lynched by mobs. It seeks to bring amends and specific provisions to the existing Article 21 of the constitution to address crimes related to mob violence by adding mob lynching, rumor mongering and hate mongering as punishable crimes.
Tehseen Poonawalla said to News18 that this bill would also hold the Station House Officer (SHO) culpable if a mob of, say, a 100 people enters his area and indulges in acts of violence and suspended till a time-bound judicial probe absolves him of all crimes.
At present, lynching cases are handled under IPC (Indian Penal Code) sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 323 (causing voluntary hurt), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapons) and 149 (unlawful assembly). However the MASUKA bill also aims at providing relief and rehabilitation to the victims and their families.
This proposed law is garnering positive reactions and support, especially in the light of PM Narendra Modi speaking out against it during the centenary of the Sabarmati Ashram and the 150th birth anniversary of Srimath Rajchandraji, Mahatma Gandhi’s guru. PM Modi said it went against the ideals of Gandhi to attack innocent people.
Action from the government on this issue is awaited. In the meantime, Tehseen Poonawalla tweeted that top political authorities have been contacted to bring this law to effect in both the parliament and the state assemblies.