Rough and ready justice by Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam (March 11, 2015)

Nobody sympathises with a rapist. All of us wish the worst to befall him: let him come under the wheels of a big truck. Or, even worse: let him be run over by a huge goods train and die a horrible death. Or, if we can be patient and wait for a while, let the law award him a life sentence. Better still: let the law hang him.

In civilised life, where the law of jungle does not rule, things are different, though. In civilised life there is no rough and ready justice, no lynch mob. A person accused of the most heinous crimes is given access to due process of law. Mere allegation does not make somebody a criminal. His crime has to be proven beyond doubt for him to get an appropriate punishment.

The lynching of Syed Sharif Khan last week in Dimapur (Nagaland) jail is a worrisome development that indicates it is not the judiciary that decides the nature of somebody’s guilt and an appropriate punishment, but a volatile mob of students, bikers, pedestrians, all kinds of ruffians and law breakers. Also, people responsible for the safe custody of inmates–jail staff–turn tail and run away to safety at the sight of a mob, leaving inmates at the mercy of killer mobs.

Strangely, about 650 policemen accompanying the mob chose to look the other way as they forced their way into the jail, combed through every cell, caught hold of Khan (accused of rape), stripped and killed him before dragging him out of the jail without any resistance from warders and policemen. This shows the state of law in Nagaland.

Sentiments other than desire for justice (even of a wild type) seemed to be at work behind the lynching. First, it was made to appear as if Khan was a Bangladeshi. That did not turn out to be the case. He was a local and two of his brothers had served in the army.

This could also be like the lynching of five Dalit men at Jhjjhar near Delhi in 2003 by a Hindutva mob. These people, who carried a license to skin dead animals and dispose of the carcass, would not possibly have been killed if the mob had not mistakenly thought that they were Muslims.

The killers confessed later that they would not have killed them if they knew that they were Dalits. The Dimapur lynching does seem to have, at least partially, been motivated by such subliminal feelings. After all, mobs know that there is no punishment for the killing of a Muslim. We would be happy to be proven wrong. Let the law take its course.


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