Understanding Impunity

Aheli Moitra

On March 5, 2015, Dimapur saw a ‘horrendous’ case of ‘mob lynching.’ Thousands of people pulled a man out of jail, paraded him naked, dragging, beating him to death. It was a murder that involved thousands of people. Photographs were taken, videos were made. The Central Bureau of Investigation took up the case for investigation from the Nagaland Police, and then nothing more was heard of it.


On the night of July 20, 2018, a man was brutally beaten by a gang of 7 gau rakshaks on being seen with cows in Alwar, Rajasthan—the Rajasthan police took three hours to admit the cows in a shelter before taking the beaten man to a hospital by which time he died.


Since 2015, at least 68 people in various parts of India have become victims of mob lynching, reported online news portal The Quint. A vast majority of the violence has been for ‘cow protection’ and the most affected have been Dalits and Muslims from across communities. These methods of repressing certain sections by planting fear in their collective hearts has long been coming.


Citizens are a reflection of the State. Since its independence, the Indian State has used muscle power to mutilate and destroy communities that have raised voices contrary to the ‘national narrative.’ State power has been unleashed with complete Impunity, that is, the state has protected its ‘musclemen’ from prosecution for crimes thereby creating vast blocks of injustice wherever these powers have been unleashed. The North East and Kashmir stand as textbook examples of Impunity, with security forces given a free hand to violate on behalf of the State. No justice has ever been done over the years, leading to a sense in these regions that the judiciary, an essential pillar of Indian democracy, does not work at all. Justice does not exist except as a narrative of the powerful.


The caste system in the Indian sub-continent has kept a tradition and value system of Impunity alive by giving upper castes the power to repress and oppress all other castes. Impunity is ingrained in the ‘DNA’ of the Indian ‘civilisation.’


In 21st century India, we should not be surprised by the results of this Impunity oozing out of the country, uniting it in an unprecedented manner. It has led The Quint to term this country ‘Lynchistan.’ Meting out justice to those from the weaker sections of society by mobs or vigilante composed of the majority, or powerful, sections of society is commonplace all over India, including the North East, because the Indian State has allowed democracy to slide.


Families of lynched victims have rarely tasted justice as they should have in a democracy; these families and their communities continue to live under the shadow of fear. The purpose of the countrywide lynchings has been achieved. Even as the Supreme Court of India has raised alarm over “horrendous acts of mobocracy” and the Government of India sets up a high-level committee to design a law to check ‘mob lynching,’ India will be unable to resolve the issue without getting at its heart of Impunity for crimes in the name of a majority backed by several pillars of the so-called constitutional democracy, including legislators in several instances.


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