India Needs A New Act To Prevent Atrocities Against Muslims And Other Minorities

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A young man in his twenties lost his life this week, after sustaining injuries when a mob tied him to a pole and tortured him for hours. His fault? That his name was Tabrez Ansari and he belonged to Muslim community. He begged for his life and pleaded to the mob to show him mercy, but neither the mob, nor the bystanders had any bit of humanity left in their souls. He was made to chant "Jai Shree Ram", humiliated, and beaten up for hours. A couple of days later, his family lost their son to communal violence.

Sadly, this was not a single, isolated act of violence against Muslims in India, which can be treated as a rare incident and forgotten. No, it is just one episode in a long series of systematic and organized violence and atrocities. From Mohammad Akhlaq to Pehlu Khan, from Sheikh Naim to Asgar Ali, there are numerous incidents of gruesome acts of violence perpetrated by mobs on Muslim victims. 

Initially, these acts of violence were justified under the pretense of protecting Hindu culture and being provoked by the acts of beef consumption. The recent incidents, however, have shown us that beef has nothing to do with mob lynchings of Muslims. People are attacked for wearing skull caps, thrown out of trains for not chanting "Jai Shree Ram", are beaten to death on suspicion of theft, are assaulted and killed without any connection with beef. It is very clear that these are organized acts of violence and terrorism by communal forces to scare, subjugate, and displace minorities and have nothing to do with religious sentiments.

The stark increase in the number of lynching incidents in the last few years are worrisome, not only to Indians, but also to people outside India. Human Rights Watch has published articles on mob lynching incidents in India and even warned us about the deteriorating state of law and order in the face of rising mob violence. The US State Department in its "2019 International Religious Freedom Report" talks about the state of minorities and the extremist narrative in India.

The current laws and the state of law enforcement machinery is hardly adequate in dealing with mob lynching incidents and has failed to prevent frequent attacks on Muslims in India. There is no fear of the rule of law, there is increasing negligence on the part of law enforcement, and there is no special mechanism/provision to protect Muslims in India. If this continues, there is nothing to stop India from descending into a mobocracy.

To prevent further attacks on its minorities and to maintain communal harmony, India needs to make new laws to give special protection to Muslims and other minorities. An act, similar to "The SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989" must be drafted and implemented to deal with this issue, where the atrocities committed against Muslims must be elaborately listed and punishments must be severe enough to deter further incidents. It should also have provisions for harsh measures in case of negligence by law enforcement officers. Subsequent convictions must have very harsh punishments and special courts must be set up to deal with lynching and minority attack cases. District Magistrates and Police Officers must be given special permissions to take preventive measures to avoid atrocities against Muslims. Section 438 should not apply if offence is committed under this act.

India desperately needs this new act if we wish to preserve this country's legacy and values, as well as communal harmony. This nation was built on the values of secularism, human rights, and freedom to choose religion. We can't just let it descend it into tyranny of fascism and mobocracy.

Let's make this country a safer place for all minorities. Let's not let more Akhlaq and Tabrez get tortured and die.

Jai Hind!