The world’s largest democracy is having to cope with problems that would be deemed to belong to quite another time and clime. A major crime that has fuelled widespread fear and lynchings in several parts of the country is child lifting. According to reports, more than 20 people have been lynched over the last two months on suspicion of child lifting, the latest being the killing of five men in Maharashtra’s Dhule district. The killing of two innocent persons in Karbi-Anglong last month on the mere suspicion of their being kidnappers of children is still fresh in public memory. We also have the case of two persons being lynched in Tripura on June 28.
What is beginning to cause legitimate fear in the minds of people is the kind of undesirable moral policing that has begun to play a major role in a land where the crime rate is alarmingly high and the number of policemen required to maintain law and order extremely small. This is kind of situation where the duties of the duly appointed police force can be forcibly taken over by a section of youths presuming to be competent to take over their duties. This is a development that must not be countenanced under any circumstances because we cannot permit a legally constituted force for the maintenance of law and order to be replaced by one where the incumbents choose themselves. What is somewhat amusing is that the Centre has had to ask the States and Union Territories to check mob lynching. The States and Union Territories have been asked to direct district administrations to identify vulnerable areas and conduct community outreach programmes for creating awareness and building confidence. This is a rather belated effort at controlling what should have been controlled years ago. There is a misplaced kind of importance attached to such directives. However, this is not in the least surprising, because more often than not people tend to be suspicious even of someone trying to help a child to cross a busy street.